Ube (Purple Yam) Cupcakes (and a little rant about ube vs. taro)

Pretty in purple. I love all things purple, so when I was first introduced to ube, I liked all these ube flavored foods because of the vivid purple color. Ube is the filipino name for purple yam and is often seen in filipino cuisine, especially in various desserts.

So here's my little rant. Ube and taro are often mixed up, which irks me to no end. Mainly because I have a special fondness for taro. Taro and ube are two completely different things! I don't really know who to blame for the mix-up. I've seen many filipino food blogs that translate ube as "taro" instead of "purple yam." I've even seen things in the grocery store saying ube/taro.

Ube = purple yam. Taro is a root that isn't actually very purple. There are small taros which are usually white. And the big taros have a light purplish to it. But it's very light. If you cook with taro, it'll usually be almost a greyish hue. Only if you steam it, does the purple come out and even then, it's a very light purple. As a result, when you see taro flavored desserts or drinks, you'll often see food coloring added to it that makes them look light purple. Ube is a much darker purple. When you cut it open, you see the dark purple. The two plants also look different from the outside. And of course, they taste different too. So that's my rant. They are not the same thing people!

Burnt Lumpia had some ube cupcakes on his blog that I was interested to try. I went out and bought some frozen grated ube which I found in the freezer section at Ranch 99. They've been sitting in my freezer for a while.

The cupcakes were easy to make. I love how vivid the color of the raw and cooked ube is. It's a bit sad that the color gets diluted in the cupcakes. The cupcake batter turned a pinkish purple. It reminded me of mixed berries yogurt. I was tempted to keep adding ube to the batter to deepen the purple color, but I didn't want to mess with the recipe.

When the cupcakes were first baked, I couldn't resist eating one. The outside was pink, but the inside was a light purple. So pretty. My cupcakes was moist and sweet. However, after they had cooled, I tried one the next morning. The batter was a bit more dense now and slightly dry. I think I might play around with this recipe slightly to get a fluffier/moist cupcake. It wasn't too dry though. And with the frosting, it gave it the moisture it needed.

I was debating what kind of frosting I wanted to put on. Ube is often mixed with coconut. I thought about a coconut frosting, an ube and coconut frosting, a marscapone cheese frosting. Finally, I ended up with a whipped cream frosting flavored with ube. I used a bottle of ube flavoring I had picked up at Seafood City. It made the frosting delicious and added a beautiful purple to the frosting. Of course, with the purple frosting, the cupcakes looked more pink. Oh well. The ube flavored whipped cream frosting was really tasty and somehow very different from a regular whipped cream frosting. I thought it was the perfect complement to these cupcakes.

Ube cupcakes (adapted from Burnt Lumpia)


1 cup grated ube yam (can be found frozen in Asian markets)
cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 Tablespoons butter (1.5
sticks), softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
4 Tablespoons
vegetable oil
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Thaw and drain ube yam. Place ube on a small sheet of foil, place
foil in steamer basket and steam for 15-20 minutes until ube is soft.
Remove ube from heat, place in small bowl, and mash ube with a spoon.
Allow ube to come to room temperature, then add milk and vanilla to ube
and mix well. Set aside.

3. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter and
sugar together on medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, one at a
time, until blended after each addition. Add oil and mix to combine.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda,
and salt.

5. Add a portion of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix on low
speed until just combined. Then add a portion of the ube mixture to the
egg mixture, continuing to alternate between the flour and ube until
everything is just combined.

6. Place paper baking cups into muffin pans and spoon batter into cups
until 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes until
a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes
from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

41 comments on “Ube (Purple Yam) Cupcakes (and a little rant about ube vs. taro)”

  1. Therse are beautiful! I actually like the pink against the purple frosting, very complimentary and gorgeous. Maybe it’s just me but I think ube and taro taste different. Ube tends to be more sweet for me.
    You know, I’ve had cupcakes that tasted drier the next day too. I used the same recipe each time so I figure it must be something I did during the mixing process. Could be I overmixed, which can lead to a more tough and drier cake. But I still don’t know exactly why it happens sometimes. I found that if I keep the cupcakes in an airtight container, it usually keeps the cupcakes moister longer.

  2. These look delicious! I had UBE icecream for the first time a couple months ago at a small artisan icecream shop. I have been a fan ever since. Can’t wait to try and make these. Thanks for sharing…

  3. yummmmmmmm if you are ever in the la area, you should visit the oinkster in eagle rock – they have ube milkshakes!!! they are pretty good, and their horchata milkshake is even better!

  4. Yumm! I’ve been searching for a ube cupcake recipe! There’s a Filipino truck here in la called “The Manila Machine” that serves the best ube cupcakes ever! They’re so moist and amazing. Can’t wait to try these.

  5. hi kirbie
    re: @Michelle – yes, i agree. the ube milkshare at oinkster is pretty good!!!
    and thanks for clarifying about ube and taro. it kinda bugged me too. they are SO not the same.
    ube is one of my fave flavors of magnolia brand ice cream.
    i will eat anything ube or anything purple!!!!

  6. Thanks Carol! I agree, they definitely don’t taste the same. I didn’t really know how to describe the tastes though.
    Hmm, yeah I don’t know what I did to make the cupcakes taste dry the next day. Next time I’ll try putting them in an airtight container.

  7. I love ube ice cream! I hope you like these.

  8. Actually, Burnt Lumpia, whom I got this recipe from, is one of the owners of Manila Machine. I haven’t had a chance to check them out since they are in LA and I’m in SD. I don’t know if this is the same recipe he follows for his ube cupcakes that he sells on the truck, but I’ve heard amazing things about his ube cupcakes. I definitely want to try them.

  9. Hi CC- I need to go to oinkster!! I’ve never had a ube milkshake, but it sounds so good. I’ve only had magnolia brand ube ice cream. I definitely like it. There’s a place in Alhambra that has ube ice cream, Fosselman’s. But they only sell it big quantities so I didn’t get to taste it.
    OH yeah, magnolia is one of the things that label it “ube/taro.” It really irked me when they did that. heh.

  10. hi kirbie
    yes, wandering chopsticks (of the blog wandering chopsticks) highly recommends fosselman’s. she lives in alhamra. 🙂 next time i visit her we are going to go to fosselman’s.
    there’s some cheapo brand of filipino ice cream (forgot the name but it was a wanna be magnolia’s) that labels their ube ice cream as taro. aargh! i tried it once and it wasn’t the same.
    i need to try that filipino food truck too. i want to meet marvin!!! have you seen his other ube recipes? he’s quite creative.

  11. They look sooo delicious in my favourite colour!

  12. Ube milkshakes sound delicious. I definitely will have to try it out.

  13. Yes, I’ve looked through his recipes. I want to try the ube pancakes next. I also found some other ube recipes I hope to try out.

  14. I love purple too!

  15. Wow! These look delicious! I’ll have to try this out. Can I get the recipe for your ube whipped cream frosting? Thanks! 🙂

  16. I used about 2 cups of cold heavy cream and about 1/4 cup sugar. You might want more or less sugar depending on preference. Whip on high speed until peaks form. Then add about 1 tsp ube extract and mix on high speed until frosting is thoroughly purple.

  17. mmmmm…ube. this is amazing! i’m glad i stumbled upon this! thanks : )

  18. I hope you like this. That reminds me that I wanted to play with this recipe some more.

  19. I made this cupcakes with my sister and added a coconut custard filling. I wanted to make purple cupcakes and pink cupcakes for a friend’s baby shower. We decided on your recipe and strawberry white chocolate cupcakes. She’s having a girl.=)The only thing that we used differently was fresh purple yam instead of frozen. I don’t know if that might be the reason why our cupcakes turned blue. =/ Still, they were really delicious and a hit with everyone. The purple whipped ube frosting made up for the color of the cupcakes. Thank you so much for sharing! =)

  20. I’m glad you liked it. I think the fresh yam might have caused the color problem. I’ve definitely had issues using fresh purple yams. Sometimes I get green, blue, gray. I think it’s the chemical reaction with the egg yolk.

  21. Hey there! These look delicious and I’m really keen on making them! Problem is I don’t think I’d be able to find any yam extract for the icing.. Do you think I’d be able to add grated yam into the cream icing to make it purple? Cheers

    • Hmm, I haven’t tried it but I think it can work. If you grate it though it will probably be spots of purple. It’s probably best to add some puree of yam into the frosting.

  22. this was nice and i’ve just finished making them. the ube flavor did not show well. i think i’ll add another cup next time. or add a teaspoon of mccormick ube flavor and oh yeah i used the ube jam my mom made last week. thanks.

    • I think adding ube flavoring to it should boost the ube flavor. If you add another cup, you will also have to adjust the other ingredients as well.

  23. Hi Kirbie,

    Will try this tomorrow, ever since baby Maya (well she’s 3 now) I have been baking cupcakes, breads and what not. Off topic though have you ever tried an Ube/Jackfruit combo cake. Delicious, I tried it once and could never find it again :(.

    • I have not yet but I know they go well together. I actually only tried jackfruit for the first time earlier this year. I like it a lot.

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  26. can i use ube halaya

  27. can i use ube halaya instead of grated ube

    • I’m not familiar with ube halaya. When I looked it up, it looks like it is already in dessert form, so I don’t think that would work in this. I’m not sure how you would mix it in. You would also likely have to change the ratio of other ingredients too

  28. If i am making the mini ones instead of the regular sized cupcakes, will cooking time vary? Thanks in advance, really appreciate it…

    • Yes! you will have to reduce cooking time. I’m not sure how much because I haven’t done minis and I also don’t know the size of your mini ones

  29. I know this one’s an old post, but I’m here to add some info between purple yam and taro. (Although it’s actually trivial.)

    In the Filipino language, purple yam is ‘ube’ while taro is ‘gabi’. (The Filipino word for taro, though it’s the same as the Filipino word for night in spelling, has a different pronunciation.)

  30. Thank you for the rant section!

    I kept buying taro by accident because I’d ask at the grocery store about purple yam and they gave me taro instead! I like both but I needed purple yam for the Filipino for a filipino recipe. I gave up after two mix ups. I will search again!

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  32. Hi! I was wondering if you’ve ever thought of adding spices to ube as a cupcake flavor? Cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg perhaps? Like what you’d use in a sweet potato or pumpkin pie? I’m thinking of combining flavors but don’t really have the courage to do it. I feel like ube is not that versatile.
    I’m from the philippines, btw, and i know halaya. You’re correct about it being a complete desert in itself already. It’s got a lot of condensed milk (at least according to my family’s recipe) so in a cupcake i think it’ll only be good as a filling or a topping. I’m thinking it can be used in buttercream too, but may need some tweaking.
    We love jackfruit here made into a compote with pandan leaves, brown sugar and saba bananas (starchy but flavorful bananas). If made thick enough, i think the concoction can go into a cupcake as a filling or topping too.

    • I have not tried adding spices. I always feel like it’s strange to mix traditional Asian desserts with spices like cinnamon.

  33. Hi, every time I have made ube cake using the McCormicks flavouring it always turns out with green swirls in it even though I use a deep purple gel paste colouring. Although it looks pretty how can I stop this from happening and is there something else I can use instead like maybe mixing ube powder and frozen ube? Would this combat the problem of the pretty green swirls?

    Salamat po

    • Hmm, I’ve never had problems with green swirls. are you only using flavoring and not any actual ube? Or are you doing both? As you can see this recipe isn’t using any flavor, just the frozen ube, and it comes out a pretty pink. I’ve had issues using purple sweet potatoes, which turn green when they mix with egg. But usually with gel pastes I haven’t had this issue. Also perhaps you should try another brand of ube paste.

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