Black Cherry & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Why I Love This Recipe
When I decided to donate some cupcakes to the Happy Tails Bake Sale here in Sacramento, I wanted to make something special. I've never sold any of my cupcakes before so I was nervous. These had always been made for friends, not for purchase, so I didn't want people feeling they had parted with their cash for an inferior product. On top of that, I had to work around the constraints of zero frosting as it would melt or spoil after many hours in the heat, if indeed they last that long. (And I hope they won't due to selling out too quickly.)
I had some vanilla sugar curing for about 2 weeks, and decided this was a good opportunity to use it. Plus after picking up a big bag of black cherries at the Farmer's Market, I decided these two classic cola flavors would be fabulous in a cupcake.
The vanilla sugar and vanilla infused milk really make them incredibly fragrant with their heady, floral vanilla-ness. The acidic and fruity bite of the black cherries acted as the perfect contrast both visually and tastefully. In lieu of frosting I simply sprinkled on some sugar to get a shiny and crusty sweet top, an idea I utilized in the White Wine Cupcake.
It's a perfect bake sale cupcake that adults and kids will enjoy and takes advantage of the great cherry crop that's coming in this year.
To make vanilla sugar, just split open a vanilla bean and place in a small jar. Fill the jar up with sugar and give it a shake every few days. The sugar will absorb the vanilla flavor. After two weeks, you have vanilla sugar. This is a great way to use vanilla beans you just used, just dry them out first and pop them in the jar. For this recipe, I just took the same bean from the sugar and used it in the milk. One bean should do it all.
Sure there is a bit of wait to this recipe, but good food takes time and vanilla sugar is nice to have around the house. It's addictive stuff once you have it, and can be used for Crema de Limoncello. If you don't have time for vanilla sugar, just add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the recipe and use regular sugar. It won't be the same, but it will still be very tasty.
Ingredients You'll Need
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups of vanilla sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
extra vanilla sugar
3/4 cup of pitted, chopped black cherries (preferably fresh)
Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the one cup of milk. Place over heat until bubbles form around the edge of the milk. Turn off the heat and whisk/stir lightly until the heat dissipates to prevent a film of milk forming on the top (ew). Let sit overnight.
Pit and chop some fresh cherries. Wear crappy clothes to avoid staining anything you care about. (Dried cherries or thawed frozen could work too.)
Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
Add vanilla sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. Measure out vanilla milk in a cup.
Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
Add about one third the vanilla milk mixture and beat until combined.
Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
Fold into the batter.
Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full. Sprinkle lightly over the top with extra vanilla sugar.
Bake at 350 for 18 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking!