Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Ground Black Pepper, Cranberry Curd, and Whiskey Buttercream

Whoa.  That's a mouthful.

I made these cupcakes on Sunday night for a co-workers birthday.  It's the best vanilla cupcake/cake recipe that I've found, with a touch of fresh ground black pepper.  I know it sounds weird, but they were absolutely delicious.  I wanted a cupcake that would pair nicely with fresh cranberry curd, and I didn't want to go with just straight-up sweet.  I wanted something with a kick- and these were perfect.  They're also super easy to veganize, since they already call for shortening (I tried them with butter and it just wasn't the same), and the eggs and milk are easy to sub out.  I'd go for a flax meal or Ener-G sub rather than tofu, though.  Unfortunately I have no idea how to veganize curd at the moment, but really, they'd still be lovely with a dallop of jam or fresh cranberry sauce.  Alternately- here is a recipe for vegan lemon curd that you may be able to experiment with using fresh cranberries.  They're acidic enough that it just may work.  The whiskey buttercream came into play because I wanted something simple, but contrasting enough to do something of its own.  They went over wonderfully and I will 100% be making them again.  The recipes I've written out are the way that I made mine, and the original recipes can be found in the links (other than the whiskey buttercream, which is my own).  Onward!


- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon good sea salt
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (entirely a matter of taste!)
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 3/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla 
- 2 large eggs or equivalent egg substitute 

- Set oven to 350 degrees F
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour with sugar, baking powder, salt, and fresh cracked pepper until combined.
- Add in the shortening, milk, vanilla and eggs (or sub) and mix thoroughly.  The batter may be a bit thick, which is just fine.  You can add a splash of milk if it freaks you out.
- Pour into paper-lined regular size muffin tins filling under just three-quarters full. 
- Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the cupcakes test done.  DO NOT overbake.  Seriously.  I did this with some of mine and the texture was blah.
- Immediately remove from pans and allow to cool before filling/frosting.

Cranberry Curd:

- 2 very full cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs


- Combine the cranberries and water, and cook over low/med heat until all of your cranberries are popped.
- Force cooked cranberries through a food mill, or a fine mesh strainer- and return puree to saucepan.
- Over low heat, add the sugar and butter, allowing them both to melt without boiling.
- Beat eggs in a seperate bowl, and very slowly add to cranberry mixture.  It is VERY important that your cranberries not be too hot, otherwise the eggs will cook on contact and you'll end up with a nasty mess.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for around six minutes.   DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL!!!(!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- Your curd is done once it thickens and holds whisk marks.  It tends to happen rather quickly, so keep an eye on your curd while mixing.
- Set aside and allow to cool.

Whiskey Buttercream:

- 1/2 cup butter or shortening
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon whiskey (the cheap stuff is just fine!)
- 2+ tablespoons milk or non-dairy milk


- Dump everything into a food processor or bowl with a mixer, and mix the hell out of it, until it looks/feels/tastes like frosting.  Add more sugar or liquid as needed.  Fresh vanilla bean is also a nice addition. 


- Once cupcakes are cool, use either a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the middle of the cupcake (don't go all the way down- just about halfway).
- Fill your holes back up with a good sized dallop of cranberry curd, then let them hang out in the freezer or your patio for about an hour.
- Top with a generous helping of buttercream, and if you're feeling extra fancy and special like I was at work the next day- a couple of candied cranberries*.

* Candied cranberries can be made by heating one part water to one and half parts sugar over medium/high heat until just boiling.  Allow to cool, then add about a cup of cranberries.  Put in the fridge for at least 24 hours, allowing the berries to get nice and sugary sweet.  Drain simple syrup from berries, then roll in sugar.  Place on wax paper, and allow to dry for about an hour. 


+ One more thing about these cupcakes-  even if you don't want to go through all of the extra steps of making the curd or an alcoholics dream version of frosting- at least try the cupcakes with fresh pepper.  I promise it will change you.  For the better.


Becky said...

Will they make me sneeze?

Becky said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ashley english said...

this was sent, straight from heaven, to me. thank you, thank you, thank you. this, along with pumpkin pie, sweet potato flan, and pecan chocolate pie will be fed to my family and friends next thursday!!!!! yeah!!!

Brittany said...

Saw your comment about these on thekitchn.com -- making them now! Using my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe, and bourbon in the frosting. I can't wait! I think this combo is genius.

Renai said...

Brittany- wonderful! I really want to try some different variations of curd/frosting when I get the chance. I still love this recipe!

golfb123 said...

I saw your comment on the kitchn, too, & googled my way over. I made these today in mini cupcake form, and they were delicious! I didn't have time for the curd, but hopefully this weekend. I did a vegan version, substituting 1/2 cup soy yogurt for the egg, & it seemed to work really well. Next time I think I'll try the full tablespoon of pepper, to keep more of the kick once frosting is added.
Thanks for posting this recipe!

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