**UPDATE — Holy crap! I actually won this month’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge! Thank you to everyone who voted, and thank you again to Jamieanne for hosting! WOOOO!**
It’s a sad time in the cupcake world… the last Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. As hard as it is for Jamieanne to believe it’s been a year since the first competition, it’s pretty hard for me to believe it too! This contest really did what she set out to accomplish – it got me, and heaps of other talented bakers, to think outside the [mystery] box with our baking. The end results were sometimes pretty wacky, but always super creative. So when I realized it was the end, I was excited to finish what I too had started a year ago, and I was stoked to see that this month’s theme was “Fizzy.”
I decided to use cream soda and fresh cherries to make a Cherries and Cream Cupcake.
First thing you want to do is boil one bottle or can (12 oz) of cream soda, and reduce it down. I didn’t get mine as syrupy as I’d have liked, but the flavor was still there. It took a while, so just leave it on the stove and let it do its thing. This is best prepared ahead of time, as you’ll want it to cool down to room temp before putting it in with your other ingredients. (Side note – I opted for creating the “syrup reduction” rather than using the soda straight from the bottle because I really just wanted to capture the flavor of the soda without messing with science and figuring out how to make the recipe work with a carbonated beverage. I’d done that once before and the cupcakes came out so dense they were awful, and I blame the soda.)
If you’re not entirely sure what a reduction is, you’re literally reducing the amount of liquid. You’ll see from the first picture to the second there is less than half the amount of liquid I started with. I probably could have kept going – just don’t let it burn! Once that’s cool, you can start on the rest of the recipe.
CHERRIES AND CREAM CUPCAKES – Makes roughly 12 (a few extra never hurt anyone)
- 10 Tbsp butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cream soda reduction
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp powder
- 1/2 cup cherry puree
- 1/2 cup milk
If you haven’t already, make your cherry puree. This was a fun process of pitting cherries one at a time to throw into my mini blender. It took about 20-25 cherries to make 1/2 cup of the puree, a little more or less won’t be a problem. I made sure not to liquify it completely so there were still some chunks of cherry in there.
Preheat your oven to 350º F and line your muffin tins with papers.
Start creaming your butter and sugar together in your mixer. While that’s going, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl and whisk them to both aerate and combine the ingredients. In yet another bowl, beat your eggs and vanilla together. You don’t have to whip them to a froth, but I tried to get a bit of air incorporated in there before I mixed them in with everything else.
Add the eggs into the butter and sugar and mix until incorporated. Then add in the cream soda reduction, and mix until combined.
Next, you’ll use the dry-wet-dry method to incorporate your remaining ingredients. Starting with the flour mixture, add 1/3 to the mixer and mix on low until just combined. You should scrape down the sides of the bowl as well. Then add in your cherry puree and mix until that’s blended in. Add the next 1/3 of your flour, followed by the milk, and the remaining flour.
Divide evenly into muffin tins. I made 3 regular sized cupcakes and nearly 4 dozen mini ones, so this recipe should yield at least 12 cupcakes. Fill each tin about 2/3 full – but if you have to guess with a batter this dense, it’s better to under-fill each tin than over-fill. I think that helped these to rise properly as opposed to last time. (Still blaming the soda.)
Bake regular cupcakes for 18-20 minutes (check with a toothpick), and the mini ones for 10-12 minutes.
Let those cool and start on the frosting. I opted for a basic buttercream, and rather than using vanilla extract I used the cream soda syrup in the following recipe:
CREAM SODA BUTTERCREAM
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- 1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup cream soda reduction
Cream the butter, then add in the cream soda and cream until incorporated. Add the powdered sugar a bit at the time and mix until combined. I used extra sugar because of all the liquid in the reduction. If you have more of a syrupy consistency (read: thicker), you won’t need as much of the powdered sugar to hold it all together.
Then all that’s left to do is frost your cupcakes and decorate with, you guessed it, a cherry on top.
The winner of June’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:
- Angela’s Images; a selection of handmade crafts
- Bake It Pretty; a $5 online gift card
- Beanilla; a $7 online gift card
- cupcakewrappers.com; 2 packs of cupcake wrappers
- Miss Kitty Creations; a handmade cupcake charm of your choice
- Simply Caked; 600 brown greaseproof cupcake liners
- Sweet Cuppin Cakes; a $5 online gift card
- Tundra Books; 3 children’s books
Thank you to all our prize sponsors as well as Jamieanne for hosting this fun and creative competition!