The Contents of This Cupcake Will Alarm, Surprise & Delight You

August  8, 2016

You might be thinking Zucchini Cupcakes with Dill Frosting is too weird. Stay with me—at least read the story!

People are forever asking where the inspiration for new recipes comes from. Among other things, I always mention happenstance, mistakes, and dumb luck—and The Universe.

I was never planning on making zucchini cupcakes with dill, much less a vibrantly beautiful dilly-lemon frosting. I was thinking of a nice lemon-basil zucchini cupcake with basil frosting.

Photo by James Ransom

Unfortunately, nothing I did could make the cupcakes taste good with basil in them, so then I thought I’d just put the basil in the frosting. My first crack at basil frosting was almost delicious but sooo ugly. My second was not much better. I had one more trick up my sleeve, but no more basil on hand or bush—and no desire to run to the grocery store. But I happened to have fresh dill sprigs in the fridge leftover from recent tzatziki-making and passing thoughts about making gravlax again for the first time in decades.

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I decided to use the dill—as a stand-in for the basil—just to test my frosting method. The results were gorgeously bright green and so unusual AND delicious! Who needs basil frosting, anyway? Circling back, I found that dill was also lovely in the tender little cupcakes (which, did I mention, are gluten-free? Not that anyone would guess from eating them). Come on, give these a try.

Alice Medrich is a Berkeley, California-based pastry chef, chocolatier, and cookbook author. You can read more about what she's up to here.

How else do you use herbs—especially unexpected ones—in baking? Tell us about your trials in the comments!

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  • Nancy
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Nancy August 9, 2016
reactions, in order:
1) laugh
2) ah, just in time for the zucchini-glut season
3) tasting on my mental or imaginary palate, these might be good
Caroline L. August 9, 2016
I was the lucky recipient of one of these the day we shot them in the office—and they are very, very good! Less dilly and more fragrant-herby than you might expect.