Y’all. These cupcakes. I just can’t. Let’s just say there’s a reason these blackberry beauties are dubbed “crackberry,” because they are laced with something deliciously fierce. Try to eat just one, I dare you.
My foodie friend and coworker Michelle had a birthday coming up, so I was on the hunt for something a little different to correspond with her culinary style and more sophisticated palette. Since she’s always experimenting with new flavors in the kitchen, I wanted to go a little off the beaten path with her birthday baking. I searched and searched for recipes on the more savory side, but everything I was coming up with sounded too heavy for the warm DC weather. I eventually found what seemed like the perfect balance for the birthday girl: a rich butter cake with fresh blackberries baked right in, topped with a malted honey buttercream and garnished with a blackberry and a honey drizzle. Ok, so I didn’t exactly blaze any major trails here, but, hey, I had never baked with honey before, so it seemed different to me! Plus I loved the idea of balancing a rich cake with fruit and a lighter frosting, to yield a final product that was sweet, but still summery. Sold. These were happening.
Now I should probably tell you I was partial to this cupcake concept because of the butter cake. It reminded me of an in-sane warm butter cake dessert that I had at Mastro’s the summer I worked in Chicago. If you ever go, you HAVE to get it. It’s part cheesecake, part butter cake, and a whole lot of amazing. So amazing that I tracked down a restaurant copycat cookbook with the recipe just to get my hands on it. I actually have yet to make it, but that should probably go in the Politics to Pastries queue ASAP. Anyway, I was excited to attempt a butter cake on my own, even if was in a different context.
As I was preparing the batter, I could tell the flavors in this cupcake were going to be outrageous. In addition to the melted butter, the recipe also called for brown sugar, which I knew would add a depth and richness that I couldn’t wait to taste. As if this thing wasn’t already destined for greatness, fresh whole blackberries are gently added right into the batter. You might wonder about the blackberry-batter ratio and whether the whole blackberries would weigh down the batter and throw off the balance of the cupcakes in the oven, but if you just make sure there aren’t more than 2 or 3 in each cup, they’ll turn out beautifully!
With a cake bursting with so much flavor, a light honey buttercream was definitely the perfect pairing. I had initially planned to go with the malted honey buttercream that this recipe calls for, but malted milk powder was nowhere to be found on Capitol Hill. I called off the search after the third different grocery store, and found a recipe for just a basic honey buttercream. After now having tasted the cupcakes, though, the malted buttercream might have been a little too rich for what I was looking for, so this worked out perfectly! This frosting was a breeze to throw together, and tasted absolutely divine.
I assembled the cupcakes the morning of Michelle’s birthday (because obviously a honey drizzle must always be fresh – standards, people), and arranged a few of them on her desk at work before she arrived. I threw the rest back in the cupcake caddy and stored them in the office fridge until the afternoon. A couple hours later, I started getting emails from across the office raving about these things. Turns out they were SUCH a hit that people actually went through the fridge and snuck them out of the cupcake caddy before they were even served. The flavors all balanced out so perfectly, and the sweeter, lighter frosting was the perfect complement to a richer, more complex cupcake. Do yourself (and your friends) a favor and make these things. I’m telling you, crackberry.
“Crackberry” Blackberry Cupcakes with Honey Buttercream
For the Blackberry Cupcakes (from La Pêche Fraîche):
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (8 T) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
Splash vanilla extract
1 heaping cup small to medium blackberries
For the Honey Buttercream (from Always With Butter):
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
4-5 cups powdered sugar
Dash of milk
1. For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 and line your cupcake pan with liners. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Once it has cooled, combine the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat until incorporated, then beat in the egg. Add the milk and vanilla, then quickly mix in the dry ingredients. Gently stir the blackberries into the batter so as not to break them, and then transfer batter to cupcake pans, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely.
2. This frosting is a cinch. To prepare, simply add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add milk as necessary to reach your desired consistency. Frost cupcakes using your method of choice.
3. Serve, enjoy, and try not to get addicted.