Red Bean Cupcakes with Tahini Frosting

Happy February!  Only one month into the new year and I can’t believe how fast time is flying already.

Once, a friend offered an interesting perspective on the relativity of time.  He philosophized that in order to make time move slower, you need to create as many memorable memories as you can.  It’s a bit counter-intuitive, considering the usual adage of “time flies when you’re having fun” – but after a while I figured out what he was saying.  When you look back on the year before, if you don’t have that many distinct memorable moments, then it all sort of blurs together and you say, “that year went by very fast.”  But if you can go through your year and remember all these individual moments from each season, month, week – then you can say, “wow, so much as happened this past year!”

Cupcake 101 at Butter Lane

With this in mind, I hope to create a year stuffed full of memories – for example, signing up for a “Cupcake 101” class at Butter Lane this weekend.  To be completely honest I didn’t learn much…clearly, the class was designed for people who have literally never baked a cupcake before in their life.  But I still had a ton of fun meeting new people, and we each got to take home a box of the cupcakes we made and frosted.  One new thing I did learn was how Butter Lane frosts their cupcake!  Basically you pile on about a tablespoon of frosting then make a swirl with a knife.  I now actually prefer this method to piping, mostly because piping bags are annoying to wash but also because of its sweetly simple aesthetic. 🙂

Red Bean Cupcakes with Tahini Frosting

So armed with this new knowledge, I thought it fitting to create a new cupcake recipe in honor of Chinese (Lunar) New Year, which this year falls on February 8th.  Next lunar year will be the year of the Monkey – my year!  I hope it will be a good omen as I take the next step in my personal growth and career path.

For people not used to Asian sweets, red bean might sound like a funny thing to put in a dessert.  My mom used to call it “Chinese chocolate” to encourage me to give it a try.  It’s a bit of an acquired taste – very beany, rich and sweet but not too sweet.  I love it on top of some ice cream or shaved ice!


An extensive Google or Pinterest search didn’t provide any red bean cake recipes that I was happy with, so I set out to make my own recipe.  Also since beans naturally can take the place of some flour, I challenged myself to make this the first gluten free recipe on this blog!  Which made my life a lot harder than I thought.  Without any flour at all, my first experiments all came out much too dense and gloopy.  Gluten free flours can be expensive and hard to find for some people, and I wanted to find a way around that to keep the recipe more accessible to all audiences.  Finally, I borrowed the idea from this white bean coconut cake recipe from Chef in Disguise to use finely ground coconut flakes (much cheaper than coconut flour)!  Finally, a gluten free red bean cupcake using all easily-obtainable ingredients that I was happy with.

Red Bean Cupcakes with Tahini Frosting

Since the cupcake itself is so full of red bean flavor, I wanted to mix it up and make a different flavor frosting.  Enter this tahini (sesame) flavored buttercream from one of my favorite bloggers, my name is yeh.  Subtly salty-nutty flavor perfectly compliments the rich, moist red bean cupcake below.  I finished the frosting off with Butter Lane’s signature swirl and a garnish of red-dyed sesame seeds.

Happy Year of the Monkey everyone!  It’s going to be a good one!

Red Bean Cupcakes with Tahini Frosting

Red Bean Cupcakes with Tahini Frosting

makes around 8-10 cupcakes
gluten free
dairy free/egg free/vegan options available

red bean cupcakes – my own recipe

  • 1 cup red bean paste (if all you can find is “mashed” red beans, then puree well in blender or food processor)
  • 2 eggs or suitable vegan replacement such as 2 tbsp flaxseed + 6 tbsp water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes – sweetened will also work if that’s all you can find

tahini frosting – from my name is yeh (guest post on a brown table)

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened or vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • dash of salt
  • dash of cinnamon
  • teeny splash of almond extract
  • 3/8 cups (6 tablespoons) confectionery sugar
  • ideas for garnishing: drizzle of honey, plop of sweetened red beans, toasted sesame seeds (white, black, dyed red, etc), whatever you want!
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and prepare cupcake tray with liners.
  2. Using a mini chopper or blender (or if you want go all caveman, chop very finely with a knife), finely grind up the coconut flakes until it resembles the texture of wet sand.
  3. Using an electric hand mixer (or again caveman version: whisk VERY hard), mix together the smooth bean paste, eggs and extracts until well blended.  The bean paste mixture should look considerably lighter in color.  Add in oil, sugar, baking powder, and ground up coconut flakes and again blend well.
  4. Scoop about three tablespoons of cupcake batter into each cupcake liner – each should be filled about 2/3-3/4 full.  You should get about 8 – 10 cupcakes total.
  5. Place cupcakes in oven and turn heat down to 350 F.  Bake for 22-24 minutes, until the centers are well set (the usual toothpick test does not work here).  Cool cupcakes to room temperature or cooler.
  6. While waiting for cupcakes to bake and cool, make the frosting.  Use an electric hand mixer to blend the butter, tahini, salt, cinnamon, and almond extract.  Add in confectionery sugar a couple tablespoons at a time and blend in, to avoid a giant cloud of sugar poofing into the air and on your face.  Blend until light and fluffy – again, the color should look significantly paler than what you started with which basically means that air has been beaten in.  Add more salt to taste if you prefer a saltier frosting.
  7. Frost the cooled cupcakes with about a tablespoon of frosting each, whatever style or garnish you like!  (If you prefer piping on a ton of frosting, then perhaps make another half batch of frosting more).  Enjoy immediately or store at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days.

Nutritional description: yes, it’s still a dessert with fat and sugar and whatnot.  But nutritionally it’s a lot better than those butter-laden sugar-dumped cupcakes from a commercial bakery!  The beans substitute the flour for a lower calorie higher fiber treat, while tahini replacing some of the butter in the frosting cuts down some of the saturated fat.

Nutritional information (calculated without vegan substitutions): Calories 200, Total Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 5g, Cholesterol 49mg, Carbs 23.8g, Fiber 1.8g, Sugars 18.8g, Protein 3g, Sodium 62.8mg



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