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I’ve been on a cooking hiatus for a few days for very good reason.  My new niece Charlotte, was gifted to our world, and family yesterday morning.  On account of taking care of my almost 3-year-old nephew, Eli, needless to say I didn’t have a whole lot of extra time on my hands. But, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, it was the most fun day and a half I’ve had for quite some time.  I miss you already Eli! 

In honor of my adorable new niece nicknamed “Cupcake” by her big brother, I’m stepping outside the nutrition box, mixing it up, and making it pink.  Yes, I’m doing the unheard and throwing all caution, hummus, oatmeal and Greek yogurt to the wind.  I’ve had requests for this recipe and for celebratory occasions think everyone should have access to these precious gems.  (I did use light cream cheese and cherries, but unfortunately they have not made calorie free, nutrient rich real butter or sugar yet.  Bummer.)

Here are the Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes I made for my Mother’s Day meal, posted last week.  Enjoy and savor every bite.  I’ve done a large amount of pretending the last few days, so we’ll “pretend” this dessert is equal in calories to a handful of carrots, or that we all just ran a few miles.  

Sink your teeth into these soft pillow-y presents of almond, cherry and vanilla.   A sweet cherry filling surrounded by melt-in-your mouth  vanilla cake and topped with fluffy almond cream cheese frosting.

CHERRY-VANILLA CUPCAKES with ALMOND CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

makes 12 cupcakes

Cake Batter:

    • 1/2 cup BUTTER, REGULAR, UNSALTED (softened)
    • 3/4 cup SUGAR
    • 2 EGGS, LARGE
    • 3/4 cup BUTTERMILK, LOWFAT
    • 1 tsp VANILLA EXTRACT
    • 1/2 tsp ALMOND EXTRACT
    • 1 1/2 cup WHITE, ALL PURPOSE FLOUR (sorry, it pains me to type it)
    • 2 tsp BAKING POWDER
Filling:
  • 1 cup SWEET CHERRIES, FROZEN, thawed in microwave
  • 1 tbsp SUGAR
  • 2 tbsp CRANBERRY, 100% juice (or water)
  • 1-2 tbsp CORNSTARCH
  • 1/2 tsp VANILLA EXTRACT

Frosting:

  • 8 oz CREAM CHEESE, LIGHT (softened)
  • 2 tbsp BUTTER, REGULAR, UNSALTED (softened)
  • 2 tbsp MARASCHINO CHERRY JUICE, (from jar)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ALMOND EXTRACT
  • 4-5 cups POWDERED SUGAR
  • 12 STEMMED MARASCHINO CHERRIES, patted dry

1. For the cake batter, cream together 1/2 cup butter, sugar and eggs with an electric mixer.  Add buttermilk and extracts, blending until smooth.  Sift in flour and baking powder.  Fill a regular muffin tin pan with paper liners. Pour even amounts of batter into each of the 12 cups (about 3/4 full).  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Set aside to cool.

2. For the filling, combine thawed cherries, 1 T. sugar and juice (or water) in a small sauce pan.  Heat over medium until sugar dissolves and cherries soften, 3-4 mintues.  Add 1 T. cornstarch and stir until incorporated.  If mixture doesn’t thicken add more cornstarch.  Cook for 5-6 minutes on low.  Remove from heat, mash cherries slightly and add vanilla.  Cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.

3. To fill cupcakes, cut a cone sized shape in the top of the cupcake, being careful to not cut through bottom (easier to cut if placed in the freezer for an hour or two).  Remove and cut the flat top off and set aside (eat or discard the remainder of cone, probably choose eat for purely quality control purposes).  Fill the hole with about 1-1 1/2 tsp cherry filling. Place cake flat on top and repeat with remaining cupcakes and filling.  Brief instructions and pictures for this method to filling cupcakes: http://bakingbites.com/2007/09/how-to-make-filled-cupcakes-step-by-step/

4. Prepare frosting, whip cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in cherry juice and almond extract.  Gradually mix in enough powdered sugar to desired consistency (may need more than 5 cups).  Chill frosting in a large plastic zip top or pastry bag until ready to frost.  Using the pastry or cut zip top bag, pipe frosting in a circle motion starting at the edge and working your way in and up, for a cone-like shape where a stemmed cherry will fit perfectly!

Cute, gorgeous, beautiful…all words I’d use to describe this cupcake and my new cupcake, Charlotte. I love being an aunt!

Oops, guess I “forgot” the nutrition information….hehe.  We’ll just say worst things have been eaten. 

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