Vanilla and cherries are BFF’s when it comes to flavor parings. I cannot resist cherry season, although you can make these cupcakes year round with quality cherry preserves-both used in the filling and the buttercream. Trader Joes has a great preserves they sell that is chock full of whole cherries. Make sure to pick a preserves that is mostly on the tart side- you don’t want one that is too sweet. I have been in the kitchen lately experimenting with cherry recipes. I’m working on a no bake cheesecake parfait recipe that is coming soon that uses both dark sweet and tart dried cherries.
Also, I’ve included a picture of some of the same cuppies with a vanilla buttercream decorated for the Fourth of July, if you want to use an American style buttercream- see the “Bonus” recipe below. Happy Independence Day!
I used an Ateco 829 tip for the piping on both cupcakes you see here
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Cherry Filling
yield: 24 cupcakes
2 1/2 Cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 Cups sugar
2 lg. eggs, room temp
1 1/4 Cups whole milk, room temp
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
Filling: Sour Cherry Preserves (I like Trader Joes brand) it is chock full of whole cherries
Preheat oven to 350° F. Drop cupcake liners into two trays of a standard size cupcake/muffin tin.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated, stopping in between to scrape bottom of mixer bowl. In a pyrex glass measuring cup mix the vanilla bean paste and milk well. Mix the dry ingredients well with a whisk.
Add in one third of the dry mixture and mix until incorporated, then add in half of the milk mixture and mix until incorporated. Repeat with another third of the dry and alternate with the wet, ending with the last third of the dry mixture until batter is homogenous.
Scoop batter into lined tins filling 2/3 way full. Bake for 16 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cool on wire racks.
Remove a small portion of the cake from the middle of each cupcake to allow for the cherry filling. An apple corer works well for this or (do as I do and use the tip end of an 808 Ateco piping tip). Fill each cupcake with cherry preserves making sure to try and include a whole cherry or two. Hint: a baby spoon works well for this! I’ve kept a couple over the years for this very job.
Decorate with the cherry buttercream and top with a fresh cherry. * Note: If you aren’t serving right away-wait to top with the cherry as the stems will turn brown while being chilled. You’ll notice in my pictures the stems are brown-it’s because I topped them and took pictures the next day.
Swiss Meringue Cherry Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 Cup sugar
3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup cherry preserves
optional: 1-2 drops of deep pink gel food coloring
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla, then beat until smooth. Mix in the cherry preserves until incorporated. Note: If you like a deeper pink color you can stir in a drop or two of deep pink gel color.
Vanilla American Style Buttercream
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla or vanilla bean paste
Beat the butter and add in a little at a time until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. For decorating- stripe the inside of a decorating bag with red and blue gel paste food coloring and use a open star tip for a swirled effect.
I just finished reading a really moving book that tells the true story of Sasha Martin, called Life From Scratch. The book is sad, inspiring, raw, and sensitive. Along the way you feel the mood and emotion of her childhood as she moves into adulthood. Each chapter is a blessing of recipe(s) from her life’s journey. One of the recipes is a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream which I’ve adapted into cupcakes and added a bit of extra chocolate fudge frosting as a bonus. I’ve seen cake recipes before that use Guinness so I was especially excited to try this, and it was fabulous. Pick up her book if you haven’t read it- it’s a great read.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
Chocolate & Guinness Stout Cupcakes
recipe adapted from the book Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
yield: 16 cupcakes
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer (take the beer out ahead of time and let sit on the counter unopened so that it is not cold)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan heat the butter until just melted, then whisk together with the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. While the Guinness mixture is cooling, line cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, and then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour it into the wells of the cupcake tins filling 2/3 full; exactly 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for ~ 15-20 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. (baking time in a regular oven is around 19-20 minutes. I used my convection oven at 325° F and baked mine for exactly 15 minutes). Cool completely.
Prepare a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or your choice of tip) and fill each side of the bag with chocolate fudge frosting and Baileys frosting-it’s handy to use a “two tone” piping bag if you can find one.
Dark Chocolate Fudgy Frosting
recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/3 Cup (40 g) extra dark unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s extra dark)
1/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) melted and cooled
In a food processor place all but the melted chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Chill frosting is not using right away.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
recipe from Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Whip the soft butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar on low speed, then increase to medium high, and drizzle in enough Baileys to get the buttercream loose and fluffy. To achieve a whiter frosting whip it 5-10 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
This is my new favorite way to bake mini cupcakes-in “party cups”. The cake does not stick and they push right out- no peeling of paper needed. Perfect for a party! I was in one of those girly, pretty in pink kind of moods today, so decided to make mini rose cupcakes. You can pair the cupcakes with either pistachio buttercream or vanilla buttercream, but they are especially pretty with sugared rose petals. I chose to divide the vanilla buttercream and tint half of it with rose pink. Pistachio and rose is a classic combination-made popular by middle eastern and certain cultures. If you use rose flavor- just make sure to use a subtle amount because they flavor can turn soapy tasting if too heavy.
(yield: 24-28 mini cupcakes)
1 1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp. Cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup sugar
3 (Lg,) egg whites (room temp)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. rose water (make sure to use rose water and NOT extract)
1/2 Cup milk (room temp)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare mini muffin tins with paper liners or use “party cups” as I have done here. If you use party cups you simply place them on a sheet pan; no other prep is needed. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium low speed, add the egg whites one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix until combined. Mix in the vanilla and rose water. Starting with the flour mixture add 1/3 of the mixture alternating with the milk in two additions, ending with the flour mixture. Note: if you desire you can add a little pink gel food coloring paste if you want a pink colored cake.
2. Fill the cups or tins 2/3 full with batter. The batter really rises, so resist the urge to fill them further. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° F for about 10-12 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean or if you press on them lightly the cake springs back. The cakes will not brown. Frost cooled cupcakes with either Pistachio Buttercream (recipe below) or Vanilla Buttercream, decorate with optional sugared rose petals.
1 Cup shelled unsalted & roasted pistachio nuts
3/4 Cup sugar
3 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. pistachio oil (or vegetable oil)
1. Prepare a sheet pan with either a Silpat or by lightly greasing with vegetable oil.
2. Pour the water in a saucepan and then add the sugar. With a clean finger mix the sugar and water until it looks like wet sand. Have a cup of water with a clean pastry brush placed in the cup. Bring the sugar to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar dissolves-stop stirring. If sugar crystals form along the sides of the pan; use the wet pastry brush to let water drip down to dissolve the crystals. Continue to cook until the mixture comes to a light caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts. Return to the heat and cook until comes to a medium amber color. Working quickly- pour the nut mixture onto prepared pan and with a heat proof spatula do your best to flatten out nuts. Allow the nuts to cool until they become hard.
3. Once mixture is hard and completely cooled- use your hands to break apart any large clumps. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse several times to initially break up the mixture. Proceed to process the mixture until it starts to form a thick paste. When the blade no longer seems to move add the oil and continue to process until as smooth as possible.
Swiss Meringue Vanilla Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 Cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 tsp. vanilla
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs whites and sugar and place over a pot with simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer* (*alternatively- you can feel the mixture with your first two fingers and if you don’t feel any sugar granules then it is ok). Turn off the heat. Attach the mixer bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk the mixture on medium until the bottom of the bowl is almost cool to the touch and the mixture has turned into a nice stiff meringue. This will take several minutes. With the mixer on medium high, add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time and continue to mix until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. It will go through a curdled looking stage as it mixes; but don’t worry keep adding the butter and it will come together. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.
For Pistachio Buttercream: Mix in 4-5 Tbsp. Pistachio paste (recipe above) and 1-2 drops of “Mint Green” colored gel paste
For PInk/White Vanilla Two toned Buttercream: Divide buttercream into two equal portions. Tint one half with 3-5 drops “Deep Pink Rose” colored gel paste- mix well to combine. Prepare a large piping bag by standing it upright in a tall glass fitted with chosen piping tip (such as star tip). Place one color down inside of the pastry bag and the other color down the other side; make sure to get the buttercream down all the way to the tip. I find it helpful to place each color inside a disposable pastry bag and squeezing each color down inside the bag.
For sugared rose petals: Place a small amount of liquid pasteurized egg whites (such as 100 % liquid egg whites) in a bowl. Have your organic (non pesticide) rose petals already cleaned and dried. Using a soft clean brush- brush each rose petal (front and back) and then sprinkle with fine granulated sugar. Place petals inside a mini muffin tin to dry. This is best done the day before you assemble your cupcakes- as it takes them several hours to dry completely.
Note: any leftover buttercream may be frozen in an airtight container. To use from frozen; allow buttercream to thaw at room temperature, then rewhip using the whisk attachment.
There are certain things in life I cannot live without.
And salt-(preferably kosher salt).
Don’t even think about taking my salt away. It will not be pretty. You will see an ugly side of me you don’t want to encounter. Remember the scenes when Lou Ferrigno turned into The Hulk? Yeah, it’s something like that. I’m sure as I advance in age some day- some balding, stern Dr. will tell me I have to give up salt- and then I will wrestle him to the ground and feed him a salted caramel cupcake. He will take one bite and come over to the dark side. Immediately.
Please don’t lecture me. It will do NO good. This is right up there with convincing me to floss my teeth every day. Don’t bother wasting your words. Your attempt is futile. I love my salt. I especially love sweet and salty. I REALLY love salted caramel. You will have some salted caramel leftover after making these-You’re welcome. Pour it over vanilla ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24-28 cupcakes
2 Cups sugar
1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
3/4 Cup extra dark brute cocoa (such as Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temp
1 Cup whole milk, room temp
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Cup hot strong coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two standard size muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar and sift the next 5 ingredients over the sugar directly into the bowl. Combine with a fork to mix. In a glass measuring container mix the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the mixer bowl and with the paddle attachment beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes; stopping once or twice to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir in the hot coffee and carefully mix by hand with a large spatula. The batter will be very thin. Pour batter into prepared lined tins; no more than 2/3 full. Three measured Tablespoons is about 2/3 full; it’s helpful to measure out one into a well and then you can eyeball the rest. A scant full standard size ice cream scoop is another good way to get 2/3 full. Resist the urge to over fill as you don’t want to get cupcakes that spill over the cupcake liner- but rather you want a more flat cupcake. Bake in 350° F preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes tins to cool completely over a wire rack. Frost with caramel frosting and drizzle with salted caramel drizzle.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
4 sticks (2 Cups) unsalted butter, softened
8 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tsp. whole milk
1 Cup of (cooled) caramel (see recipe below)
2 tsp. kosher salt
In a stand mixer cream together the butter until soft. Add the sugar about one cup at a time and beat until smooth. Beat in the milk then add the cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth.
Caramel and (Salted Caramel Drizzle)
2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 1/2 C heavy cream; nuke until slightly warm
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (save for salted caramel drizzle)
In a medium saucepan place the sugar and add the water and mix gently until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook over medium high heat and let it come to a boil without stirring; until the caramel reaches a deep amber. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pour in the cream, it will bubble and spout a bit; whisk carefully until combined. Whisk in the butter and then divide caramel by half into two heat proof containers. Add the salt to half the quantity of caramel (for the salted caramel drizzle). Let cool.
Being a foodie, I like to be intrigued by trying foods I’ve never had before. The kumquat suddenly intrigued me. For years I had always walked by that little mysterious orange fruit and never paid it any attention. This year though something happened that was unexpected. It was kind of whispering my name from afar. Just me and the little fruit in the produce aisle. Beckoning me to come over and say hi. A slight flirt and tease-as to say, well hello there-why have you not noticed me before? Kind of like the quirky guy in chemistry class who you suddenly notice one day is kind of cute and a lot less quirky and lo and behold he was there all along. You just never noticed before because you were too busy with your bunsen burner. Sorry for the ninth grade flashback. Anywho~ the kumquat. It was daring me to buy it and take it home and make something yummy with it. So I did. It was cute and quirky, but very tasty.
Tangerine Mini Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream & Candied Kumquats
1 pint kumquats, washed, stems removed
1/3 Cup water
1 Cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
Slice the washed kumquats into thin slices; about 3-4 slices for each kumquat, being careful to discard all seeds. In a heavy saucepan combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and add in the sliced kumquats. Reduce to simmer and simmer for about 5 minutes until the slices are translucent. Turn off the heat and remove from the heat and allow the kumquats to cool in the syrup. Store kumquats in the syrup in a glass jar in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks. (The citrus syrup is great over crepes or drizzled over a warm biscuit with butter).
(yield: ~ 36 mini cupcakes)
1 1/2 Cups cake flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 Lg eggs
zest of one tangerine
3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed tangerine juice
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp. vanilla will do)
1/3 Cup milk
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin tin(s) with paper liners or use a silicon pan if you can.
2. Sift (or whisk) together the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy on medium high speed until fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Stop the mixer from time to time to scrape the bowl as needed. Add in the zest, orange juice and vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce the speed to low and add in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in two additions; ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.
4. Fill each cupcake well to 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about 7 minutes then remove to a wire rack to continue cooling. Frost with buttercream when cooled and garnish with a slice of candied kumquat.
2 Lg. egg whites
1/2 Cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
orange gel food coloring paste (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth. Add the optional orange food gel paste if using, stir to combine.