perfect winter cupcakes

November 15, 2009 § 10 Comments


I made beautiful cupcakes today. I wanted to post about them immediately, but couldn’t think of a single intelligent thing to say. After attempting in vain to come up with something, I concluded that intelligence is a bit too much to expect from me on a Sunday, and I would just put pretty pictures.


But slowly as the day meandered on, I kept wanting to describe the glories of these wonderful cupcakes. I bought fresh cranberries for the first time ever, and they’re gorgeous and enticing and really gross if you just eat them straight from the fridge. Turning them into baked goods, however, is genius. They cut through the sweetness of most desserts, and when you bake them into cupcakes the results are enough to compel one to write a blog post, however uninspired one might be.


The concrete details: these cupcakes are adapted from multiple sources, enough that I feel comfortable calling them my own invention. The base is a pear-cranberry spice cake with white chocolate chunks: this probably could have passed for a muffin until I slathered it with frosting, which I am prone to doing. The cake was moist and sweet and punctuated with the tartness from the cranberries – I never realized how much I love cranberries! It came out great. I iced it with a white-chocolate cream cheese frosting, because I wanted some tanginess to counter the white chocolate. Then I topped them with candied cranberries, to look icy and winter-appropriate. I’m really happy with how these turned out: the result was extremely delicious, and the cake itself is pretty quick to make. I have to admit that it got a little more time-consuming as I added frivolities, but these would be great unfrosted too. Given that easy option, don’t miss out on the deliciousness!

I entered these cupcakes into the Bon Appétit contest: please go vote for me here!


Pear-Cranberry Spice Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Cranberries – adapted from Epicurious, Cupcake Bakeshop, and Key Ingredient

Yield: I got 24 regular cupcakes plus 6 miniatures

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Bosc pears (1 pound), diced
  • 1 cup cranberries (thawed if frozen)
  • 3.5 ounces (100 g) white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined well. At low speed, mix in pears, cranberries, and chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until incorporated.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners until two-thirds full. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes for regular cupcakes and 15 minutes for minis. Cool completely before frosting.

At this point, your cupcakes should look like this:


Candied cranberries

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve sugar in water. Lower heat to barely a simmer. Add cranberries and simmer for 5 minutes, or until softened. Remove from heat and strain cranberries, discarding liquid. When cranberries are cool enough to handle, roll in granulated sugar and place on waxed paper until ready to use.


  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if desired
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring periodically. Allow to cool for 2 minutes or so.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in cream cheese thoroughly. Beat in the melted white chocolate.

Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like (I stayed at 2, and refrigerated briefly before using).

Note: Once you get into melting white chocolate, you need to make sure your chocolate is real, and not the sneaky artificial stuff. I used Callebaut, which is ridiculous, but Green and Black’s and Lindt also make good bars.

Second note:
although most cupcakes should be stored at room temperature, these do better in the fridge. The cream cheese frosting holds up better, and because they’re made with oil instead of butter, they stay soft.


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