One “Hal-a-vah” Cupcake!

As a presenter at Kosherfest for the Israel pavilion this year, I had to come up with my spin on an Israeli brunch.  I decided to focus on dessert first.  What would I create that no one else has ever done before?  As I was pondering the many delicacies I could put into action, I kept having this image of halvah (a sweet sesame confection) in my head.  That sweet, melt in your mouth, yet dry dessert I tasted in the Jerusalem market place (shuk) so many times!  I couldn’t make halvah though…that would be way to intricate for my demonstration of 5 different dishes in my meager 45 minute time slot.  
Had I ever eaten halvah in any other way than in its pure form?  Yes! Yes I had!
In Israel, around Hannukah, the streets are FILLED with the smell and aroma of sufganiyot (donuts).  They are traditionally made with jelly inside, but there is one special shop in the middle of the city that has the most unusual flavors and fillings one could ever imagine.  I happened upon it one day in the early morning (we’re talking 5 am) on the way to the Western Wall.  The sun was just starting to rise and I smelled something so amazing coming from one of the bakeries.  I peaked my head in and looked at the crazy assortment of unique flavored donuts, one of theme being halvah.  I picked the donut up, paid for it and after one bite I. Was. In. Heaven.  It was silky and sweet and totally worth waking up that early.   
That was my inspiration for this Israeli dessert!  Cupcakes are in no way, shape or form an Israeli dessert, but after all, this was MY take on an Israeli Brunch.  The addition of figs in the vanilla cupcake compliment the halvah nicely and adds a bite of texture.  I also added a bit more halvah to the top and a drizzle of silan (date honey), which happens to be the “honey” when referencing Israel as the “land of milk and honey”.  The halvah frosting is a bit heavy as a filling for the donut, but was great on top of the donut 🙂   


Dried Fig Cupcakes with Halvah Cream Cheese Frosting
(can be made parve or dairy)

Makes 24 mini cupcakes


½ C. Unsalted Butter or Earth Balance,  room temperature
2/3 C. Sugar
3 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 ½ C. Flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ C. Milk or Almond Milk
½ C. Dried Figs, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy,  using electric beaters.   Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture to incorporate each egg before adding the next.  Beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and the milk to the egg/butter mixture alternating in three additions (add in some flour, then some milk, then some flour, then some milk, then the rest of the flour) until combined. Fold in your figs and pour into the muffin cups.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean.

Halvah Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 C. Butter or Earth Balance, room temperature
1/2 C. Cream Cheese or Tofutti Cream Cheese
1 C. Halvah
2-3 C. Powdered Sugar

Pinch of Salt

1 Tbs. Milk or Almond Milk
1 Tbs. Vanilla Extract

Whip the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.  Mix in the halvah.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until just combined.   Add more  or less depending on desired consistency of icing. Add the salt and  continue to beat until the mixture is smooth.

Mix in the cream and vanilla on medium speed until just incorporated, and then increase to high speed until the icing is soft and fluffy.
Garnish with pistachios, candied pecans, candied walnuts, silan, figs or halva pieces

Sufganiyot (Basic Donut Recipe)
Makes about 20 donuts

1 Packet (1/4 Oz.) Yeast
1 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 C. Warm Water

3/4 C. Almond Milk or Milk
4 C. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
1/4 C. Sugar
1/3 C. Earth Balance or Butter, melted

Combine the yeast, sugar and water.  Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl add the flour, salt, almond milk yeast mixture, egg, egg yolks, sugar and earth balance.  Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Transfer to a clean and floured surface.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You may add more flour if too sticky.  Let the dough rest in an oiled bowl for 1 hour, covered.  Punch dough down and divide in half.

Lightly flour the clean counter and roll the dough about ½ inch thick.  Cut with a drinking glass or cookie cutter and place on parchment paper.  Let rise for 45 minutes. 

Add 3 inches of oil to deep fryer and heat oil to 350 – 365 degrees F. over medium heat.

Cooking in small batches, carefully add donuts to hot oil. Fry 1 minute per side until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer donuts to wire rack or paper towel to cool.  Fill or ice the top with desired filling.

Enjoying the original halvah sufganiyot!

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