Monday, April 26, 2010

The Michigander: Cherry Almond Cupcakes

michigan cupcakes

Over memorial day weekend my first year of medical school, I went "up north" to Traverse City.  I spent a couple of days exploring Sleeping Bear dunes and saw Lake Michigan up close for the first time since moving to Michigan.  Traverse City is a beautiful lakeside town with vineyards and lots and lots of cherries.  Sadly, the cherry festival was later in the year, but that didn't stop me from eating chocolate covered cherries, cherry wine, and cherry soda. Oh, and cherry salsa, too!  Mmm... cherries.

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Picture of a vineyard on the peninsula

I have been meaning to perfect the perfect cherry cupcake.  I don't want chocolate to take away from the cherry taste.  This was my second attempt.  People seemed to really like it, although the cake was too sweet for my taste.  Cherries also aren't in season yet, so I used some canned pie filling.  You can bet that there will a Michigander part two as summer approaches!

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The Michigander (Cherry Almond Cupcakes) - Makes approximately 15
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cherries
  • 2 T gooey cherry stuff from canned cherries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. Chop the almonds in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  3. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a medium bowl.  Mix with a whisk.
  4. Beat the butter with an electic mixer until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the sugar to the butter and mix on medium-high speed until well combined.
  6. Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
  7. Add the two extracts and mix well.
  8. Slowly add the flour mixture to the rest of the batter while mixing on low-medium speed.  Continue mixing until fully combined.
  9. Add the cherries to the batter and stir them in with a spoon.  If you prefer to have the cherries in smaller pieces, mix them in with the electric beater.
  10. OPTIONAL - if you want to add a little bit more sweetness to your cupcakes, add 2 T of that gooey strawberry stuff that comes with canned cherries.  It will also make your batter a nice, light pink color.
  11. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full of batter.  Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cetner of the cupcake comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Mmmm.... these cupcakes really smelled great when they came out of the oven.  You definitely don't want to bite into them until they are completely cool because the specific heat of cherries makes them hot hot hot!

cherry almond cupcakes :)

As I mentioned above, the cupcakes were very sweet.  I decided to top them off with a buttery Meringue Vanilla Buttercream.  It's a recipe that was given to me photocopied from a magazine.  Unfortunately, I am not sure what magazine.... Anyway, this is a heck of a lot easier to make with a standing mixer.  It's possible to do with a hand mixer, but you will be standing for a long time holding it and you want to be sure that you are using a whisk attachment.

Meringue Vanilla Buttercream - Makes 2 1/2 cups
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter, soft and cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Add the egg whites and the sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer over a bowl of simmering water to create a double boiler.
  2. Whisk the sugar, salt, and egg white together until the temperature of the mixture reaches 150 F on an instant read thermometer (or approximately 2-3 minutes).
  3. Remove the bowl from head and place under the standing mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk the contents on medium speed until the mixture thickens to the consistency of shaving cream (or about 2-3 minutes).
  4. While whisking on medium speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time.  Do not add the next tablespoon until the first has been completely incorporated into the mixture.  Your mixture may look curdle after half of the butter has been added, but it will turn smooth again once all of the butter has been added.
  5. Add in the vanilla and continue to whisk on medium-high speed until the frosting is fluffy and smooth (at least 30 seconds).
I have to say, I love meringue-style buttercream.  It's just so... buttery.  And not too sweet!  It's not for everyone, I admit.  I think that it worked really well with the sweet cherry cake.  I topped the cupcakes either with sprinkles or yellow chocolate Michigans.  The Michigan chocolates were a real hit in the office where I am currently rotating.  I can't remember exactly where I picked it up.  When I was living in Detroit last month I spent some time exploring bakery supply stores.  A somewhat similar mold is available online here. And I have a tutorial on how to use chocolate molds here.

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You'll have to excuse the iPhone photos.  I forgot to take pictures of them before I left for work...

I ran out of frosting with six cupcakes to go, so I decided to whip up some regular buttercream and just added some of that cherry gooey stuff that came with the canned cherries (I think a tablespoon or two) to some good ole vanilla buttercream (butter, powdered sugar, vanilla) and spread those onto the remaining cupcakes.  People seemed to like that, too!

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There will be more Michigan-inspired cupcakes to come... and probably a redux of this recipe as well once the fresh cherries come to town!

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Lake Michigan :)

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