Filled with ube halaya in the center, these Ube Muffins even have a Cheese Crumb Topping for the best eating experience. Don’t forget to pair with Ube Milk Tea!
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A little life update
March was a terrible month for me. Allow me just a few paragraphs to vent here.
You see, I went through a very traumatizing incident that created a lot of sleepless nights for me last March. Food tasted like sand in my mouth. The worst part was the feeling of helplessness that permeated every aspect of my life for a while. For over a week, I literally could not do anything properly aside from dwell and replay the traumatic experience in my head. I also couldn’t help but feel more jaded. This incident serves as a painful confirmation that it’s very difficult to turn to people with actual authority and power for help once you encounter something you actually need help for. I bounced from being on the edge of a psychological breakdown to being utterly frustrated, all while trying to drag myself through “The Stages of Grief and Trauma” as fast as I could.
“Moving on” is definitely a conscious and intentional effort requiring a lot of pushing and willpower, which is why it can be quite difficult most times. But it helped that after a while I became sick and tired of losing my sense of self. I knew that I did not want to be defeated by this incident; that I am MUCH BIGGER than this one nightmare. And if I wanted to win against all of the elements that conspired to create this trauma for me, I needed to move forward with my life and focus on the many good things within it. Vengeance belongs to the Lord now.
As of this writing, I’m still on my way toward the recovery stage. As usual, it’s much easier said than done. But I cannot deny that lately I’ve been feeling this newfound motivation to work harder and focus more on the things that make me happy. Maybe this is my way of wrestling back control over this terrible event that took over my life for a time. I’ve mentioned before that I had been battling blogging burnout, but for the first time in a while I feel a bit of that old fire that used to push me to just create. The familiar feelings of passion seem to be resurfacing little by little, so I’m trying my best to hold on to it. I feel like I owe it to myself especially after what I just went through, you know?
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed that I gave my blog a new look recently. This is something I find I always do when I have a new surge of blogging energy: I give my blog a facelift. Unfortunately, there’s only so much I am able to do because I’m not an expert on websites. I feel like designing my blog has been something I’ve struggled with from the very beginning. Recently though, someone from Strikingly.com reached out to me and opened my eyes to the possible ways I could improve my blog down the road. Strikingly is a great platform because it allows pretty much anybody– even those like myself who have no website-building know-how– to make a site. You only need to pick one of their templates to start, and you can even register your domain with them.
I’ve been talking to some of their Happiness Officers via chat and seeking advice on how I can improve my site, and they’re super active and helpful over there. They’re also really patient, taking time to respond with specific solutions to specific questions. Commitment to customer service is incredibly important, and I can’t help but feel that statement more intensely after I encountered my recent trauma.
Having an actual person to talk to 24/7 is something I greatly appreciate because I know what it’s like to be intentionally left to the mercy of bots and automated replies during times of trouble. Not all companies are willing to allot resources for customer service, because fact is not all companies actually care about the well-being of their clientele. Clearly, Strikingly are taking the better route.
If you’ve always wanted to try making a site by yourself, you might want to give Strikingly a try because it has a FREE plan compared to other website builders. This allows you more flexibility to test your websites before committing to paid plans. I think this is really generous of them. If you’re feeling generous as well, you could use my affiliate link to sign up to Strikingly at no extra cost to you. This just means Strikingly will give me a little bit of commission, and that would help greatly in keeping this little passion of mine alive.
Let’s talk about the Ube Muffins now
Ube is one of those things people are now learning to appreciate the world over, and as a longtime fan, that makes me really happy! Personally, I try to make as many different ube things as I can whenever we buy a container of ube halaya from Tagaytay. These Ube Muffins were one of my top picks to try, mostly because I wanted to eat an ube cake with some sort of cheese topping.
The main inspiration for these muffins is the recipe from The Unlikely Baker. In fact I used her recipe for the cake base without changing anything. However she used a coconut crumb topping, and I wanted one with cheese. After looking around, I ended up using Riverten Kitchen blog’s recipe for the cheese crumb. And no surprise, it worked out beautifully! As if we didn’t already know the ube and cheese flavor combo is a winner. The fact that cheese-filled ube pandesal is still a thing up to this day is a testament to that. (Just ate a couple this morning in fact.)
The muffin itself only uses ube extract in the batter so the halaya heart is what makes this a true blue (true purple?) treat. The unsuspecting will get an ube surprise in the center, and based on my experience, the look of delight they give after taking a bite is a joy to see! That’s why you have to make sure you’re generous with the ube jam here. At least 1/2 Tablespoon, but preferably an entire Tablespoon should go in there. The cheese crumb is a good element that cuts through what could’ve been a monotonous ube flavor. I recommend using a salty rather than a mild cheese for a nicer flavor contrast.
The muffins came out quite tender, though I think I over-baked mine a little bit. The topping browned a little more than I wanted. The cheese crumb topping was kind of crunchy warm, but it hardened a little as it cooled down. The muffins themselves stayed soft at room temp, and frankly they didn’t last long in our household.
Truth be told, I consider these Ube Muffins, with Cheese Crumb Topping and all, one of my favorite ube treats to date. It’s certainly one of the best ube recipes that I have ever tested in my kitchen because of how much legitimate ube-ness it brings. And just for good measure, I ate them with a cold glass of Ube Milk Tea. The experience was just ube satisfaction!
The Ube Milk Tea is a recipe I adapted from my favorite IG drink content creator Caffeinated with Chi. It has lots of ube halaya elements as well. You mix some with the tea itself, and you can spread as much ube halaya as you want on the inside of your serving glass before you pour the drink in. If you love ube, I guarantee this pairing will make you fall head over heels!
Some notes on this recipe
- Use good quality ube halaya for this recipe. My personal preference is the halaya from Bahay Pastulan in Tagaytay. It’s the counterpart of Good Shepherd in the South so I imagine their ube jams taste almost the same. You’ll be using the ube jam for the center of the muffins as well as the drink if you’re making them together. The sweetness will therefore be decided by the jam/halaya you use. Make sure to use your favorite!
- Be generous with the ube halaya. The thing that really elevates the ube-ness of this recipe is that jam. Do not scrimp on it! I would suggest using AT LEAST a heaping 1/2 Tablespoon. I think at most you want to use 1 Tablespoon halaya per muffin. If you use a bit more there might not be enough room for the cake lol.
- Do not over-mix the batter! Time and time again, I put this under recipe reminders but I think it’s really worth repeating. You want to maintain the tenderness of your muffins, and over-mixing the flour with the wet ingredients will encourage gluten to form, which we DO NOT want in our cakes.
- Fill the muffin liners to the brim, or at least very close to the brim. This will encourage a nicer dome.
- Use salty rather than mild cheese for the topping. I used cheddar in this instance. I think aged cheddar would taste better as it is a little saltier. The only reason I’m encouraging the use of a salty cheese for the topping is because I think a little flavor contrast from the cheese does wonders to these Ube Muffins overall.
- If the cheese crumble is browning too quickly to your liking, tent with foil. If you notice one tray is browning more than the other you can also reverse the position of your pans. I baked my muffins at the same time using 2 racks but did not switch positions so some of the muffin tops did brown a little more.
- Make sure to check for muffin doneness properly. When poking your muffins with a toothpick/tester to check if they’re cooked at the center, just make sure it’s not the jam you see stuck to the tester. You don’t want to over-bake these muffins.
Ube Muffins with Cheese Crumble Topping
For the ube muffins
- 1½ cups milk, whole or low-fat or skim are all okay, at room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup canola oil or vegetable oil, or other neutral-tasting oil
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons ube extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ube halaya/ube jam
For the cheese crumble topping
- 50 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and kept in fridge until needed
- ¾ cup grated salty cheese
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
Make the ube muffins
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 20 cavities of two standard-sized cupcake pans with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, oil, eggs, and ube extract until well combined. Add in flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until blended and the last streak of flour has disappeared. DO NOT over-mix. The batter will be lumpy.
- Using a scoop, add batter into each lined cavity of the muffin pan just until 1/4 to 1/3 of the way full. Add in 1/2 to 1 heaping Tablespoon of ube halaya into the center. Scoop more batter over the halaya until the muffin liners are filled nearly all the way to the top. (It’s okay if some of the ube halaya is peeking out.)
Make the cheese crumble
- Once you’ve finished filling the muffin tins, take out the cold butter from the fridge. Using cold butter will make the crumble easier to sprinkle.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour and sugar. Add in the cold butter and use a fork or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the grated cheese and toss with a fork.
Finish the cupcakes
- Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of the cheese crumble on top of the filled muffin liners. If desired, gently press into the batter to make sure it adheres.
- Bake muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out with barely a few crumbs. (Take note that it’s not the ube halaya that's stuck on your toothpick and throwing you off on the doneness of the muffins.) Start checking muffins for doneness at the 25 minute mark to avoid over-baking. If at any point the crumble starts browning too much to your liking, loosely tent with foil.
- Cool muffins in the tin for about 20 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool further. These muffins can be eaten warm or at room temperature with a delicious glass of Ube Milk Tea (recipe below).
- Muffins keep fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If moving to the fridge, I highly recommend allowing it to come to room temperature before eating.
Watch how it's made
- Brew your tea according to strong you like it. I used Assam black tea for this recipe and used only 2 teaspoons because I wanted the ube to come through more. After tasting it however, I think 3 teaspoons should be fine if you like a stronger tea flavor. The ube will still be apparent in the drink.
- Your ube jam will determine how sweet this drink will be. Similar to the muffins, if you use an ube jam that’s more sugar than ube, then the drink will likely be sweeter. Adjust your sweetener according to your ube.
Ube Milk Tea
- 2 to 3 teaspoons or teabags of black tea, depending on how strong you like it
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 heaping Tablespoons ube halaya, plus more for the glass
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or other sweetener
- ½ to ¾ cup milk
- Steep tea in hot water for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the extra ube halaya liberally around the lower half of your serving glass. Gently add in the ice.
- After 2 minutes, strain out tea leaves or discard teabags. Mix the ube halaya and sweetener into the tea until smooth and well combined. Pour the ube tea into the serving glass, then top with milk. Mix and enjoy!
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