Shake had a jar of this lovely Spiced Tomato Jam from Monkeypod Jam. What to do with it...? Oh, cupcakes. Sure, that makes sense. © 2013 Sugar + Shake“Here, taste this!” says Shake, rummaging in my office coffee supplies for plastic spoons. “I thought you could make something out of it!”

And that, boys and girls, is love. When your guy knows that swiping the oddball items from a photo shoot so you can make strange kitchen concoctions will make you happy.

What Shake had scored for me were two jars of Monkeypod Jam. A Caracara Orange Marmalade and a Spiced Tomato Jam. It was the latter that he thought I could come up with an inventive plan to use.

Alas, as with love, the road from, “Hm, this is interesting…I could make something out of this!” to “Hey, this just came out of the oven — try it!” never runs smooth. Or quickly. The jam hung out in our fridge for a while until I happened to see a post by Kita Roberts of Pass the Sushi.

I love Kita’s photography, design skills and sense of humor. And she makes lots of yummy things. This particular recipe comes from the Baked Explorations cookbook, which is one of my favorites. When I saw Kita’s Pass the Sushi photos of her cupcakes, I knew this was what I should do with the Monkeypod Spiced Tomato Jam, and thus the Love Apple Cupcakes were conceived.

My biggest concern — and the only change I made to the recipe, so get the book and just follow the instructions — was substituting the two cans of condensed tomato soup with some combination of jam and soup.

More like chutney than jam, really. It has a wonderful Christmas-spice taste. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

The Monkeypod Spiced Tomato Jam isn’t very jam-y; it’s more like chutney. It’s not liquid-y at all, and I only had one 7-ounce jar while the Baked Explorations recipe requires two 10¾-ounce cans of soup. The theme of the cookbook is “Classic American Desserts Reinvented” so I know there’s a whole nostalgic flavor profile that goes along with using canned condensed soup, but I opted to use one of my go-to kitchen supplies, Pomì Strained Tomatoes instead. (It’s the key ingredient in my Garlic Tomato Soup.)

Substitution Instructions to turn BAKED’s Tomato Soup Cupcakes into Sugar’s Love Apple Cupcakes: Transfer all the jam into a four-cup measuring cup. Add Pomì Strained Tomatoes until you reach the 21 – 22-ounce mark. Stir together thoroughly. Use in place of the condensed tomato soup.

The recipe directs you to sprinkle baking soda on the soup before making the batter. I don’t know what that’s all about, but it fizzed alarmingly and reminded me of elementary school when we had to build replicas of the Hawaiian islands (my group got Maui) and make them erupt.

The BAKED recipe calls for two cans of condensed tomato soup, here replaced by a jar of Monkeypod Spiced Tomato Jam and Pomi Strained Tomatoes. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Once the jam/strained tomato mix calmed down, it was pretty straightforward.

It’s a weird sensory experience — the house smells like pizza sauce and Christmas cookies at the same time! © 2013 Sugar + Shake

The batter ends up a pretty, pale orange color.

A tasty, pretty, orange batter. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

© 2013 Sugar + Shake

The baking process is somewhat disconcerting, as the house begins to smell simultaneously like pizza sauce and Christmas cookies. Weird. But tasty. I helped myself to a fingerful of batter, and it tasted slightly sweet and Christmas cookie-ish (like gingerbread and Moravian spice wafers) but also slightly vegetable-y. Although tomatoes are fruits, aren’t they?!

© 2013 Sugar + Shake

Incidentally, tomatoes have also been called “love apples,” hence the title of this post and my name for these cupcakes. The origin of this name possibly traces back to the first mentions of tomatoes as “pomi d’oro” (apple of gold) by the Italians, and “pomi dei mori” (apple of the Moors) by the Moroccans. The French later called them “pommes d’amour” (apples of love), but it’s uncertain whether this was because of an association of the plant with love or a bastardization of the Italian or Moroccan names — both sound similar to “pommes d’amour.” At any rate, there you go, linguistics lesson over, tomatoes are love apples.

A “Love Apple” Cupcake for your sweetheart. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Since I was on this whole “love apple” Valentine-ish kick, I thought I’d go whole hog and dress these cupcakes up. For the garnish, I cut sundried tomatoes into heart shapes (get the type in the raisin-like snack pack, NOT the jarred kind with oil). I gave them a quick dunking in brown sugar simple syrup and coated with more brown sugar. Finally, I baked them for about 10 minutes and dusted with more brown sugar and let them cool.

Hand-cut sundried tomato hearts. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

A sweet-savory-tart garnish. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

The cupcakes were a hit at Shake’s office, although everyone seemed to eye them with deep suspicion when they were told they were made with tomatoes. “Oh, that sounds…interesting…!” I suppose it’s a testament to the fact that I’ve never sent in anything his co-workers haven’t liked that they were willing to try these.

“Love Apple” Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting and Brown Sugar Sundried Tomato Heart © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Still, if you’re serving these to non-adventurous eaters, you might want to hold off on revealing the secret ingredient until after they’ve stuffed their faces. Of course, anyone who eats carrot cake ought to like these — they have a similar savory-sweet-vegetable-y quality about them.

“Love Apple” Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting and Brown Sugar Sundried Tomato Heart © 2013 Sugar + Shake “Love Apple” Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting and Brown Sugar Sundried Tomato Heart © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Plus, carrots are disgusting and tomatoes are delightful — carrot cake is made with dingy old roots, and these, my friend, are little frosting-covered cakes made with LOVE APPLES!