Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries. I had absolutely no idea what they were until I saw them at a farmers market here in Boston. When I walked by them I said, “Aww, baby tomatillos!” The sign said “ground cherries” so I asked the woman more about them.  She carefully unwrapped one from it’s papery husk and handed it to me.

Wow, so weird. And so good.

They’re the size of cherry tomatoes. The ripe ones are a pale golden yellow. They have a hint (just a hint) of tomato, but are much sweeter. They smell like fresh strawberries, have the sweetness of grapes, and have a vaguely pineapple flavor. And a little vanilla, too. Weird. But good.

I picked up two little cartons and then let them sit on my counter for four days. I couldn’t figure out what to do with them, and I thought the point would be moot since they were probably spoiled. But nope! They store extremely well in the fridge, and as it turns out, pretty well on your counter top, too.

Ground Cherries

The most traditional way to use them is in pie. I been thinking about a way to make miniature pies in cupcake tins, so here was my chance to try it out. The upshot is that you can use the technique with whatever fruit you can find, should ground cherries not be available.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies
Makes Six

Pate Brisee (pie dough)
1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 Cup Cubed, Chilled Earth Balance Margarine
2 Tbs – 1/4 Cup Ice Water

1 1/3 Cup Ground Cherries, de-husked and washed
1/4 Cup Sugar + 1/2 tsp Flour

Begin by making the pie dough. For a step-by-step, see this recipe.

Line a cupcake tin with cupcake papers. Spray lightly with oil. Place a scant tablespoon of dough into the bottom of each cup. Using a small glass dipped in water (one that has the same diameter of the bottom of the cupcake cup), press the dough to form a bottom crust.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Take small pieces of dough and build up the sides of the cup with dough, making sure the walls aren’t too thick.

Cupcake Pie Shells

At this point, you can use the glass again, dipped in water so it won’t stick, to neaten everything up if you want.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Your finished pie shells should look something like this. Place the shells in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up.

Cupcake Pie Shells

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Remove the shells from the fridge and fill to the top, slightly overflowing, with ground cherries (or whatever fruit you’re using).

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of the sugar/flour mixture to each cup, depending on how sweet you want your pies. 1/2 tsp was sweet enough for me, allowing the flavor of the fruit to show through.  If you’re using something tangier or less sweet, you’ll want more sugar.

Cover the back of a cookie sheet with a sheet of plastic wrap. Add the rest of the pie dough, and cover with a second sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4-1/8″ thick. Using a glass that has a slightly larger diameter than the openings of the cupcake cups, stamp out six pie crust tops. Place this in the freezer for a few minutes, or into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Pie Tops

Once chilled, you should be able to easily peel out the tops and place them over your pies. Pinch the edges down, slash a X in the top with a sharp knife, and sprinkle with sugar. You can do other types of tops, such as lattice work, if desired.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pies

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for several minutes before gently removing them from the cupcake tin to cook completely.

Ground Cherry Cupcake Pie

Ground cherry cupcake pies!

Again, you can use any fruit you like, but if you ever see ground cherries, definitely try them. They’re also sometimes called cape gooseberries (though some people say it’s a different fruit in the same family), husk tomatoes (which usually refer to tomatillos…), goldenberries, and a host of other names. Whatever they’re called, they should be small, sweet, and surprising. Make a jam, dip them in chocolate, add them to salsa, or eat them raw.


Okay!  Seems like a lot of people find these growing nearby their homes. PLEASE don’t eat them unless you’re SURE they are okay to eat.  Wikipedia lists over 35 different plants in the Physalis genus.  That’s a lot!  So there’s no guarantee the species that is growing near you is this same species I’ve written about.  Please be careful!!  Even if they are safe to eat, they might not taste the same.

If the people that live around you don’t tend to eat the fruits of the bushes you see, there might be a very good reason why.  Wild foraging can be dangerous, so please eat only ground cherries that you find at markets that have a reputation for, well, selling non-poisonous food.  Ha!

Ground Cherries


  1. Nolwenn

    You can put it in some melted chocolate, it’s delicious.

    Here in France we call it “physalis” or “amour en cage” ;) It’s pretty acid, in my opinion.

  2. Sophie

    Aaah, physalis (or at least that’s what I’ve normally heard them called in the UK, though to be honest you don’t see them in the shops often). Sometimes seems to be spelt with two Ls.

    I was racking my brains as to what ground cherries could be when I saw your preview of the cupcakes via flickr! Was imagining mashed up cherries, but there was no red on the picture.

    They’re such photogenic little things!

  3. Tracy

    I’ve never seen these before, but now I’m dying to try them. They sound so interesting. I’ll have to keep an eye open for them in the farmers markets around here. Maybe I’ll get lucky. I love the mini pie idea too. I will definitely give that a try.

  4. Kathleen Moriarty

    Hi Lolo, which Farmers Market did you find the ground cherries at? I am just curious and I live in Boston too. I’d love to find them!

    Copley Square! They were on the side of the square closest to Newbury St, near the fountains. :)

  5. Melody S.

    Hi, you do not know me, but I have been a silent admirer of your blog for a long time. You are one talented kitchen minx!

    I love ground cherries. They grow like weeds. In my first disastrous garden, they were little balls of squishy-seeded sunshine. I wish they were more readily available, so I could have a handful now

  6. Jennifer

    I just saw these at our farmer’s market the other day and was lucky enough to try one. I thought it tasted somewhat buttery. It was very good, though, and I think your mini pies are the perfect use for them!

  7. Lilly

    Awwww … cute and (obviously) super yummy looking! Great job!
    Not to be too curious but … what about your big happy announcement?

  8. Djinn

    Yep, I know them as physalis or ‘cape gooseberry’, and the papery ‘flowers’ as ‘Chinese Lanterns’. Didn’t know you could cook them – interesting stuff, thanks.

  9. yoel

    Yum! I had always wondered what they were called, and thought they might be gooseberries, huckleberries, boysenberries, or some other berry that I hadn’t seen before. The cupcakes looks delicious! Why the paper wrapper though? Did they fall apart without the wrapper?

    Because they’re cupcake pies! I also wanted to make sure it was easy to get them out of the tins.

  10. vecca

    Hey – those things are on the plants growing in the field next door, and they stick through my fence! Now I know what they are – must be easy to grow here in New Zealand, because no one has been taking care of them.

    Thanks as always for your terrific recipes.

  11. Bianca- Vegan Crunk

    Vegan Yum Yum,

    You are a genius! Seriously. Cupcake pies! That is the most awesome idea anyone has ever come up with. They’re cute, compact, and prevent you from eating too much at a time.

    I love you for this! Really! I may not ever find ground cherries, but I’m gonna figure something out to stick in a mini-pie now. I MUST make some!

  12. Jon

    ! WHAT !
    You can eat these! I’ve had some growing in my front yard forever! I got yelled at when I tried eating them while I was younger. They were always orange. :\
    I’ll keep an eye on these for a while.

  13. Veronica

    Innovative! Cupcake pies… that sums up my epitome of decadence.

    And I’ve never heard of ground cherries. Now I really, really want some because that description is so tempting.

  14. Kirsten

    In Montreal every restaurant serves fruit with breakfast, and my favourite includes these. I miss them! It almost seems a shame to cook them, they’re so delicious raw.

  15. Tofufreak

    these are so cute! if they’re as small as they look in the pics, is it possible to make them in mini cupcake pans using pate brisee and a tart tamper? i think i’ll try that out. thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Cristine

    Thank you for being at the forefront of all this experimentation. :) I have to say I love the cupcake pie idea, too! No ground cherries (that I’ve ever seen) here in Texas, but I’m going to try your mini-pie idea with your fabulous crumb topping recipe from a few posts ago and make mini vegan dutch apple pies. Yum!

  17. molly

    I too am so curious to know what the big announcement is, i’m hoping new cook book deal ;)
    love the ground cherries, i grew some this year!

  18. Zodie

    The cakes look fab – I’ve always known this fruit as ‘cape gooseberries’ (I’m based in the UK) or the inedible form as ‘chinese lanterns’.

    Funny, isn’t it – all the different names for things! I always spend a long time decoding american recipes, thinking ‘I’ll never be able to find a substitute’ but often, it turns out to be really simple. For instance, ‘vegetable shortening’ flummoxed me for a long time and I couldn’t get my icing right at all until I realised that it is, in fact, ‘cookeen’ – a brand of solid vegetable fat over here in the British Isles.


  19. Kiri

    Hi there

    I read your blog all the time – you’re a talented gal that’s for sure. Some one might have already said this but in New Zealand we call these Cape Gooseberries. They are pretty common and are usually made into a sour jam. Your little pies look great.


  20. Kate in Somerset

    You can also fold back the papery ‘shell’ and dip the berry in fondant icing. This is an oldie but goodie petit four.

  21. Alison

    Oh, nevermind! I see the answer up a few comments. I’ll have to check out the one in Copley next time I get around there!

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