Cranberry Cupcakes
Spiced Cranberry Cupcakes made with Hot Ruby
(Photo by Isaac Kim)

It’s fall! I’m ready for the cooler weather and flavors that come with the season like pumpkin and cranberry and cinnamon.

I used Hot Ruby, a cranberry wassail, as the flavor base for my first cupcakes of fall. Hot Ruby began as a family’s tradition in Shallowater, Texas, and now is available in stores nationwide and online. It is cranberry-based with spices and citrus hints and has no artificial dyes or preservatives.

Jar of Hot Ruby (and an apple, for no particular reason)
Hot Ruby is a delicious mix of cranberry. lemon, cinnamon and clove. Ruby herself always drank it hot, they say, but “it’s pretty darn awesome served over ice,” so try it that way, too!

For the cupcakes, I reduced some Hot Ruby to add to the batter. I cooked it down to almost a syrup to add to the buttercream, along with some straight from the jar. I highlighted the flavor by adding orange zest, cinnamon, and dried cranberries.

Cranberry Cupcakes on tiered server
The Hot Ruby gave the cupcakes a spiced cranberry-citrus punch.
(Photo by Isaac Kim)

I served these as bite-sized mini cupcakes at the Tuesdays Together meeting of the Manhattan Rising Tide Society.

Hannah enjoying a Cupcake by Amélie
I hope Ruby Faye would have enjoy these treats as much as we did!
(Photo by Isaac Kim)

Hot Ruby also makes a great cocktail mixer. I added vodka for a Ruby Martini (@drinksunited), which my husband commented tasted like a mulled cosmo. Check out Hot Ruby drink recipes here.

Thank you to Gwen Warren of Hot Ruby for providing samples! Visit www.drinkhotruby.com to learn more about this tasty cranberry and citrus cider.

Cupcake photos were taken by Isaac + Hannah Photography. Isaac and Hannah are a (soon-to-be) husband-and-wife team providing engagement and wedding photography services in NYC and PDX.

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Watermelon says summer to me.

Watermelon Cupcake by Amélie

A last minute request for watermelon-flavored cupcakes meant I didn’t have much time to research or shop. Fresh watermelon seemed risky, and I could not find extract, so I used what I could find in a hurry.

Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup–I bought my bottle at Michael’s—is meant for making snow cones and popsicles, but I gave it a try in my cake batter and frosting. I reduced it to make it more concentrated, but it gave only a faint flavor.

Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup

I would recommend using Pure Watermelon Extract for those wanting to bake better watermelon cupcakes than I produced! The cupcakes were still good, but they mostly just tasted like vanilla.

At least they looked pretty. I was making Minecraft cupcake toppers with gum paste (stay tuned for Minecraft Cupcakes, Round 2!), so I created some watermelons while I was at it.

Gum Paste Minecraft Watermelons

The Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup did make a kid-pleasing soda when added to seltzer (approved by a 7-year-old expert).

Summer, summer, summertime…

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Candied Lemon Cupcakes

In 2007, I wrote a post about Harry Potter and mentioned my current fantasy favorite as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I noted that “I won’t run into too many people reading it on the subway.” Boy, was I wrong about that! Little did I know that these books would become a hugely successful HBO series. Almost everyone is familiar with Game of Thrones now, even if they do not watch the show.

I watch with some friends, and we tend to wait to view 2-3 at a time after the premier. I haven’t seen Episode 2 of Season 6 yet, please don’t tell me the Big Things that happened! I can tell this will be a tough season to delay watching.

Last year, I baked a castle cake for the premier. This time, I decided to make a version of the go-to Game of Thrones dessert, the lemon cakes Sansa Stark adores. Sadly, she has not gotten to enjoy any lately.

There are a lot of recipes out there for this Westeros treat. (If you are a fan of the series, you should check out Inn at the Crossroads.) My interpretation of a lemon cake is a lemon cupcake with a candied lemon on top. Since I have a tried and true Lemon Cupcake recipe, I didn’t mess around trying any others.

Lemon Cupcakes with Candied Lemon

To prepare the lemons, I cut them into 1/8″-1/4″ inch slices and removed the seeds. I tried to use a mandoline, but it did not work well for me. The blade caught on the rind—possibly a problem with my technique or the mandoline itself—squeezing the fruit too much before slicing. I had better luck carefully cutting with a knife.

I cut enough to get 12 complete rings of similar size, keeping the smaller ends of the lemons for juicing. I blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then chilled in ice water. I dissolved 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water in a large pan, brought it to a simmer, then added the lemon slices in one layer. They simmered for an hour before I took them out to cool and harden on a wire rack.

I did not let the lemon slices dry completely before I put them on top of my cupcakes, so they would stick to the cakes. They remained moist, which was fine for my purposes. For real candied lemons, let them dry overnight.

I removed the cupcake liners before serving. I don’t think they have such things in the Seven Kingdoms!

Lemon Cakes from Game of Thrones

Recipe: Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 14 cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop or the method of your choice (about 3/4 full). Bake for a total of 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Once cupcakes are room temperature, frost or dust with powdered sugar. (Lemon, raspberry or other fruit-flavored icings are all good choices, or get fancy with a candied lemon!)

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Craving oranges like sunshine at the tail end of winter, I decided to go citrus for a karaoke birthday party. I can’t guarantee that these cupcakes will make you want to sing, but they might brighten your night!

Orange Cupcakes by Amelie

Since my grapefruit cupcakes didn’t quite hit the flavor strength I would have liked, I tried something different this time. Instead of using straight OJ, I cooked the juice, reducing it by about half before using it in the batter and frosting. 1/2 cup reduced to about 4 tablespoons will give you enough for this recipe.

When I first tasted the frosting after mixing it, I did not think it tasted great. But after just a little while, the flavors melded…and it was really good. The orange cake was especially moist, too. These were some of my favorites of recent cupcake experiments!

With the vanilla, these have a bit of that Creamsicle/Dreamsicle creamy citrus taste.

 

Recipe: Orange Mini Cupcakes

Makes about 36 mini cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon reduced* orange juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the orange juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the orange zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins (I use a size 50 ice cream scoop for minis). Bake 5-6 minutes, rotate, then bake another 5-6 minutes. Baking time may vary, so keep an eye on them!

Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely before frosting.

*Start with 1/2 cup fresh orange juice and simmer until reduced by half. This will give you enough to make these cupcakes and their frosting. (You could also probably use thawed concentrate.)

Frosting Recipe

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Pears Chocolate Cake SliceStill have an abundance of Christmas-gift pears? Grab some chocolate and let’s bake!

PearsChocolate

I had 10 small Bosc pears (each less than 4 ounces). A tart or pie seemed the obvious choice to use them, but my husband and I had just finished off an apple tart I’d recently baked, so I wanted something different.

This torta di pere e cioccolato recipe is from Brooklyn’s Al Di La, a lovely Italian restaurant in Park Slope, by way of Deb of Smitten Kitchen (thanks for getting it out of them!).

Chocolate and Pear Cake
A little powdered sugar on top prettied it up (and hid the imperfections).

I made 2/3 the recipe in a 6.5″ diameter, 3″-deep baking dish to bake a small cake for dinner with another couple. That put three of my little pears to use.

As a cupcake baker, a cake that spends almost an hour in the oven intimidates me. I cooked for 20 minutes, turned, then another 20 minutes. I put it on for about 10 minutes more, paranoid by comments of not baking long enough. The edges were darker brown than I like, but it was cooked through and still moist.

baked pear chocolate cake

Bittersweet chocolate and pears taste deliciously fancy together! It was a treat. Now I need to go try it again at Al Di La.

Thanks to the Daily Meal for this baking playlist

 

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