Delight your Valentine with old-fashioned cherry cupcakes
This old-fashioned cherry cupcake is just the thing for Valentine’s Day.
I’ve updated a cake that my mother used to make for my sisters and me when we were children with all the flavours of a bourbon Old-Fashioned. The rosy pink colour of the cake immediately brings to mind the Feast of Saint Valentine.
When I drink an Old-Fashioned, I seldom add cherries, but the cherries are essential to this cake. The cake is tinted a beautiful rosy pink by the addition of maraschino cherry juice and a generous amount of chopped cherries that add texture and moisture to the light white cake.
The cake itself tastes like the best vanilla cake you ever ate, with a soft nod to the maraschinos. A fragrant orange-bourbon buttercream tops the cupcakes and completes the adult “Old-Fashioned” flavour.
I had remembered this cake fondly but sometimes the memory is better than the actual thing. Not so in the case of this cake.
In fact, I made it twice recently while my mother and I visited my sister and her family. We couldn’t get enough of the cake and it is now my current favourite.
After all, everything that is new was once old and vice versa. When making this cake for a mixed age crowd, you can make two versions of icing and eliminate the bourbon in one of them, for the under 21 crowd.
The orange buttercream brings a bright taste of sunshine to what can sometimes be dreary days in February, with or without the bourbon.
I never thought that this simple recipe would remind me of an important lesson. The day that I was baking the cupcakes for the photo, I ran into a legendary pastry chef. When I told him what I was making, he said “You cooks (as opposed to pastry chefs) have all the fun. Can you imagine what ‘they’ would say if I made a cake with maraschino cherries?”
I love to make my food delicious and sometimes playful, and it had never occurred to me that there might be ingredient boundaries for some cooks.
I think that this is a good lesson for our holiday devoted to love: if you love it, and it makes you happy, don’t worry what other people think.
These Old-Fashioned cupcakes make me
very happy — and I think they’ll do the same for you.
Cherry Cupcake with Orange-bourbon Frosting
MAKES 20 SERVINGS ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1 1/8 cups granulated white sugar 2¼ cups cake flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ¾ tsp fine sea salt ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice ½ cup whole milk ½ generous cup chopped maraschino cherries (about 1 cup of unchopped cherries) 4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Start to finish: 40 minutes Preheat oven to 350 F. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, about three to five minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in alternatively with the cherry juice and the milk. Remove from electric mixer and stir the chopped cherries into the cake batter. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.
Prepare a regular cupcake pan by placing liners in each mould. Fill each cupcake three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool on a rack and make the frosting.
Bourbon Old-Fashioned Frosting
1 box (1 pound) powdered sugar Pinch of fine-grain sea salt ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened ½ generous teaspoon pure vanilla extract ½ tsp orange extract 2 tablespoons heavy cream 1-2 tbsp bourbon, depending on taste Zest of one large navel orange
Sift box of powdered sugar and salt or whisk well to remove any lumps. Set aside.
Cream butter until fluffy using a stand mixer or a hand mixer set on medium speed.
Slowly add the sugar. When the sugar is incorporated in the butter, add vanilla extract, cream and bourbon one tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached.
Stir in orange zest at the end. Taste and add more bourbon only if you want it to taste a little boozier. If it is too stiff, add a little more cream. If it is too loose, add a little more sugar.
Taste for balance and add a touch more salt and vanilla if needed. Spread on top of cupcakes or place in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and decorate in a swirl pattern. Top with a pink conversation heart or stemmed cherry, if desired.
Per cupcake: 151 calories (44 from fat); 5 grams fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 13 milligrams cholesterol; 218 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 1 g fibre; 15 g sugar; 2 g protein.
Per serving of frosting (on one cupcake): 200 calories (65 from fat); 7 grams fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 milligrams cholesterol; 23 mg sodium; 33 g carbohydrate; 0 g fibre; 31 g sugar; 0 g protein.
The cake is tinted a beautiful rosy pink by the addition of maraschino cherry juice and a generous amount of chopped cherries.