Vanilla Cupcakes with Honey-Ricotta Frosting and Toasted Walnuts

Mariel here. Never one to waste a morsel of food – let alone a scrap of tinfoil or a twice-used plastic baggie – I’ve assembled my fair share of “compost” meals: a random amalgam of alien ingredients thrown together so as to stave off a trip to the trash bin. True, this sometimes entails eating things that have a weird spot or a stronger-than-usual odor, but I have a stomach of steel so I’m usually willing to take big bets on Food Inc. fudging the sell-by dates.

In that same spirit, I’d recently bought a tub of ricotta to make Pumpkin Ricotta Lasagna but was left with a straggling cup’s-worth just taking up space in my mini fridge. I contemplated blending it with honey and serving it over a baguette, but decided to stretch its abilities even farther and beat it into a frosting. I have a serious sweet-tooth so I’ll take any excuse to whip out the refined sugar. I hadn’t planned on posting these treats when I first got started, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. First off, if you hate the idea of adding cheese to your icing, then at least poach the vanilla cupcake recipe. Fluffy and moist, these are my best cuppies yet; I could eat them un-frosted, which says a lot, given that I’m mildly addicted to confectioners sugar.

Creamy, milky and vaguely reminiscent of an Italian cheesecake, the icing itself was sophisticated – as in pipe-smoking, cravat-wearing sophisticated – and I seasoned the pot with a little bit of honey to coax out the earthy sweetness of the ricotta. I sprinkled the finished product with crunchy toasted walnuts and acted real elegant-like, eating straight from the muffin tin while watching Real Housewives of Orange County. I’d make these again in a heartbeat, and maybe next time I’ll even spring for the fancy cheese-shop ricotta.

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Honey-Ricotta Frosting and Toasted Walnuts
Makes 10

Note: Don’t garnish the cupcakes with the toasted walnuts until you’re ready to serve them, otherwise they won’t be crunchy

Equipment note: You’ll need a muffin tin and paper liners

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
1 cup of sifted cake-flour, not self-rising – $2.99
½ cup + 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar – stock
1/3 cup + ¼ cup low-fat milk – stock
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened – stock
1 large egg – stock
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract – stock
1 teaspoon baking powder – stock
¼ teaspoon salt – stock

Ingredients for the Frosting:
1 cup part-skim ricotta – $3.99
2 Tablespoons honey – stock
3 Tablespoons confectioner sugar – stock
1 Tablespoon low-fat milk – stock

Ingredients for the Walnut Garnish:
1/3 cup chopped walnuts – stock
1 teaspoon brown sugar – stock
¼ teaspoon salt
Thin pat of butter – stock
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $6.98
Cost per cupcake: $0.69

Directions for the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In the two empty slots, fill halfway with water (this ensures your cuppies cook evenly).

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla, also set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until creamy and pale, about 2 minutes on med-high speed. Add the egg and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low and add the milk and flour, alternating until just fully incorporated.

4. Portion out the batter into the prepared muffin liners and bake for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack, remove from tin and cool completely.

Directions for the Frosting:
1. In the bowl of a clean mixer, cream the ricotta, honey, milk and confectioners sugar. Frost the cupcakes only when they’re completely cool.

Directions for the Walnut Garnish:
1. In a medium saute pan over a medium flame, combine the butter, walnuts, salt and brown sugar. Stir constantly until walnuts become fragrant and toasted. Set aside to cool before sprinkling on top of the frosted cupcakes.


  1. Carolina Santos-Neves says

    I will take ANY excuse to include ricotta in my diet. I’m convinced with this recipe! Can’t wait!!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Thanks Mandy! And as for your question: Since most standard muffin tins hold 12 muffins/cupcakes and this recipe only makes about 10 cupcakes, you’ll have 2 empty muffin tin slots. Fill those about 1/2 way with water and it’ll ensure the treats cook evenly. Sorry if that wasn’t clear – but i’m glad you asked since I’m sure others were also scratching their heads!

  2. says

    Ricotta icing? That’s genius! My mind is spinning with ideas now. And I am always on the lookout for a good vanilla cake recipe, too.

  3. says

    This is a great use of the ingredients you have at home. I tend to experiment with my leftovers that would ordinarily go to waste, some are successful and some aren’t. :-)

    Your cupcakes look like winners for sure!

  4. Taylor says

    These were delicious! Although I have to say, I found my icing to be much thinner than what the picture appears to be. Any suggestions as to how I can thicken it up a bit?? Tried sticking it in the fridge, but that didn’t work very well…… A fabulous recipe all the same! I am in love with ricotta and honey now!

    • feastonthecheap says

      So glad you liked the combo! My suggestion re: thin icing is to simply whisk in more confectioners sugar. That should thicken it right up!


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