Spiced Apple Cider Cupcakes (Guest Post)
I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I hate how cold and wet it gets. It doesn’t rain much in Santa Barbara, but the air is moist and I get covered in a wet dew whenever I bike to work. I wear the works– wool half-cape, warm and fluffy gloves, scarves, etc.– while every other bicyclist in SB is wearing spandex, and everyone else dresses like it’s still a sunny day at the beach.
Winter to me means that if someone comes into work with the sniffles, I’m bound to get a cold (which happened this week). Winter means staying in on the weekend, baking goodies, drinking hot soothing elixirs and snuggling with the girlfriend, and watching movie or TV marathons. Winter weekends are also the perfect time for slowly mulling a pot of hot cider on the stovetop.
I never liked the idea of drinking cider because I haven’t liked apple juice for years– the stuff is just too sweet; it doesn’t smell or taste like real apples, but like some sugary flavor substitute. I had a bad experience when ordering apple juice once at a restaurant in San Fernando, which spoiled my taste for it. I guess the waiter didn’t know that there was something wrong with the apple juice in the fountain drink machine, so when I got my tall glass of apple juice, I took a big gulp, found that the “juice” was really just a bunch of concentrated apple syrup, and gagged. For many years after, every time I tasted or even thought of apple juice, I remembered a mouthful of syrup and nausea would follow.
Fast forward to just a few years ago and my first holiday season working for an ophthalmologist. My co-worker says she’s going to bring in her crockpot and make apple cider for us. I’m not very excited but still interested in how she’s going to do it. She brings in her crockpot, some spiced apple cider from Trader Joe’s, mulled spices, and a sliced orange. She adds all of this to the pot and soon our whole office smells heavenly. She serves me a piping hot cup of cider and after taking the tiniest of sips, I’m hooked. Since then I’ve started making it at home. I know this is a pretty halfhearted attempt at cider, because I’m not making the cider by pressing the apples and spicing it myself, but it’s so good and so simple.
The last time I made spiced cider at home coincided (not unusually) with a craving for cupcakes. I tried to find a spiced cupcake recipe online, but all of the recipes I found called for spiced cake mix. I couldn’t find anything remotely like what I wanted to make in any of the cookbooks we have at home. So I made up a recipe and hoped for success…
It worked wonderfully! The cupcakes use spiced cider as the liquid instead of water and the cake isn’t too sweet, so it’s complimented nicely by the cream cheese frosting. This is a very slight variation of the same cream cheese frosting that I used in my other two cupcake recipes. The four tablespoons of cider add a slightly warm hue and just a hint of spice (any more liquid would change the frosting consistency). Orange zest adds a lovely color and enticing taste. My only advice about the cake spice is that you should modify the amount of ginger to taste. (I love ginger but Allison was surprised when I told her how much I used.) The cupcakes were great– when I make them again, I will not cut back on the ginger, but I won’t feel bad if you do.
Print these recipes. (PDF)
Spiced Apple Cider Cupcakes
(Makes about one dozen cupcakes)
~ 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
~ 2 teaspoons baking powder
~ 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
~ ½ teaspoon salt
~ ½ teaspoon ground ginger
~ ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
~ ½ cup butter, softened
~ 1 cup brown sugar
~ 2 eggs
~ 1 cup spiced apple cider
~ spiced cider cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
~ roughly chopped pecans to sprinkle on top
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.
3. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar. Beat in two eggs. Add the flour mixture and the cider to the ingredients in the large bowl.
4. Spoon mixture into the muffin tin, filling the cupcake liners ¾ of the way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let each cupcake cool completely before icing, then sprinkle over some chopped pecans, if desired.
Spiced Cider Frosting
(Makes enough for at least two dozen cupcakes)
~ 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
~ 1½ cups powdered sugar
~ 4 Tbsp. spiced cider
~ zest of one orange
How to make it:
Use an electric mixer to blend together the cream cheese and sugar. Slowly add the cider and orange zest. Extra frosting will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Print these recipes! (PDF)