Holi and Thandai. So finally this week I decided to shrug off the lazy spell I was under. The entire weekend was spent in my little kitchen experimenting and trying out recipes; most of which I’m happy to say were successful, just need to work on the pastry creme a little.
Every year as we step into March and feel the winters recede giving way to spring, the excitement of Holi, the festival of colours is palpable. I have to admit, growing up I don’t recall Holi being synonymous with thandai; at least that wasn’t the case in our home. My memories of this festival are all about the colours, from the palest of pinks and peaches to the really strong and dark purples and greens, everyone dressed in their ‘definitely not new’ clothes playing with a myriad of colours and water. This was of course followed by lots of food, sweet and savoury which you ate in all your multi coloured glory. It was always a simple affair, only two things determined if you would have to host Holi; the availability of space, preferably a large garden and the availability of water, enough to fill all the numerous pichkaris and water balloons the kids had and buckets full that the adults would throw on each other, and if you were lucky there would be enough water left over to clean out all the colours, from your person and your home. In all my memories of this festival, the spiced milky thandai doesn’t figure; maybe my memories aren’t as clear as I thought or maybe it just wasn’t a thing where I come from, either way I have never had thandai.
Holi nowadays of course isn’t what it used to be, these days everything has become a grand affair, including this simple festival. Now there are elaborately decorated and even more elaborately catered venues for Holi parties where everyone is dressed in their ‘definitely new’ clothes (and more importantly sunglasses) and where thandai (spiked or otherwise) is a must. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this new avatar, I just mourn the loss of simpler times, where it was only about the colours and the food.
So coming back to thandai; like most food, everyone has their own version of it, how it’s made and what ingredients go into it and in what quantity, or if your go to is the commercially sold syrups and mixes. I don’t like milk in any form so of course I don’t feel the excitement for thandai every time Holi comes around but this time I had thandai stuck in my head. Ever had a song stuck in your head, playing on an endless loop? That’s exactly what it feels like when an ingredient or dish refuses to get out of my mind.
So I thought about the ingredients I would like in my thandai and decided to incorporate it into a cupcake. This cupcake recipe isn’t going to make you feel like you’re sipping on a thandai, that wasn’t my goal, it is a cupcake after all; I wanted to make a cupcake, that no matter what time of the year you make it, once you took a bite of, it would remind you of something familiar, something festive, something like Holi. No cupcake is complete without a frosting, so for this desi cupcake I thought of topping it with a shrikhand frosting. I’m Gujju and partial to shrikhand and I absolutely loved it. It has the slight tartness of shrikhand which makes it lighter than most butter and cream based frosting. At this point I feel it’s only fair to warn you that in the near future you will have to put up with a lot more shrikhand recipes from me, it really is that good.
I made the shrikhand or hung curd a day before; it will easily stay refrigerated for up to a week. Depending on the tartness of your yogurt and how sweet you like your shrikhand, you can increase the quantity of sugar.
So whether your Holi is a grand affair or simple one, these cupcakes are sure to impress.
We won’t be celebrating this year, we decided to go trekking instead; so our Holi will be spent trying to traverse the slopes of Mount Kinabalu; you will ofcourse hear all about it once we get back, complete with plenty of pictures, unless altitude sickness strikes and then I’ll have no idea what I’m doing. Oh well, we’ll see and whatever happens, I promise to tell all.
Happy Holi everyone, have fun and stay safe.
For the cake
- Milk- 250 ml
- Sugar- 160 grams
- All purpose flour/maida- 200 grams
- Cornflour/cornstarch- 60 grams
- Unsalted Butter- 120 gm
- Baking powder- 2 tsp
- Baking soda-1/4 tsp
For the Thandai mix
- Almond flour/ground almonds- 4 tbsp
- Almonds (roughly chopped)- 4-5
- Cardamom powder/elaichi powder- 1 ¼ tsp
- Fennel seeds/saunf- 1 ½ tsp
- Poppy seeds/khus-khus- 2 ½ tsp
- Ground white pepper- ¼ tsp
- Saffron/kesar- a good pinch
For the shrikhand frosting
- Yogurt/curd- 1kg
- Powdered sugar(sifted)- 2/3 cup
- Cardamom powder- 1 ½ tsp
- White chocolate- 200 gm
- Chopped almonds and fennel seeds- for garnish (optional)
- In a saucepan, add milk, sugar and all the ingredients for the thandai mix. Put the saucepan to heat, stirring till the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat once the sugar has dissolved and keep aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 170C. Line a 12 cup, cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Keep aside.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix and keep aside. Melt the butter and keep aside.
- Once the milk cools to room temperature, add the cornflour and whisk it well to combine. Then add the butter and mix again.
- Add the flour mixture to the liquid mix and whisk well to remove lumps. Fill cupcake moulds till ¾ full and bake for 15 minutes (start checking at 12 minutes). It’s done if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
For the frosting
- To make the shrikhand; tie the yogurt/ curd in a muslin cloth/cheesecloth and give it a good squeeze to remove the whey; put it in a strainer and put the strainer over a deep bowl. Put some weight on the yogurt and leave it to strain overnight in the refrigerator. From 1 kg yogurt, you should be left with 500 gm of hung curd, i.e after the whey has been drained.
- Finely chop the white chocolate and gently melt it either in the microwave or over a double boiler.
- Add the ½ kg hung curd, cardamom powder and powdered sugar in a bowl. Beat it well with a whisk or an electric beater. Add the melted white chocolate and beat to combine.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes with shrikhand. Garnish with chopped almonds and fennel seeds.
*The spice notes were just right for me, if you prefer a more pronounced flavour, you can slightly increase the quantities of the thandai mix.
*The hung curd can made a day or two ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator.
*Increase the quantity of powdered sugar if you’d like your frosting to be sweeter.