I’d put prizes in the middle if I didn’t eat them so fast.

She-Should-Be-Reported Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes


There are several ways in which I am a horrid mother, one of which regards the amount of cake batter I consider appropriate for the pre-bake “tasting.” Billy the Kid starts lobbying to “lick spoon” the minute the eggs hit the bowl, and he eventually obtains clearance to commence his appetizer. For the main course, he tongue-polishes the Kitchen-Aid whisk attachment clean and shiny, and finishes up by hunting for errant batter splatters on the counter. He probably puts away a quarter cup of raw flour, sugar, shortening and eggs. The tragedy is that I’m rewarded for my lackluster display of moderation; the minute the pan goes in the oven, Billy the Kid disappears into the living room, switches on the TV, and sits quietly on the couch for twenty minutes, basking in his little sugar tingle. Were he to transform into a dervish and take down the curtains in his whirl, I would impose a strict two-lick limit, but he comes up with some great stuff during his meditations. For this afternoon’s sugar bullet, we made Cherry-Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, a modified version of the Cherry Dreams-of-Me Cake. I’m a strong advocate of the No-Cupcake-Left-Uncherried initiative; without at least half a maraschino, all you have is a frosted muffin.

2 C cake flour, sifted (sift with the baking powder, baking soda and salt)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
1 1/4 C sugar
3/4 C whole milk
3 eggs (do not beat)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice

Set your oven to 350. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the shortening and sugar and beat by hand until fluffy. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and extracts, and beat until well blended. Sift in the dry ingredients, then add the milk in a slow stream while stirring gently with the other hand. Once combined, add the cherry juice, whip it in quickly, then throw the bowl under the mixer and beat on high with the whisk attachment for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into lined muffin tins, and bake single sheets of 12 for 20 minutes at 350. Our batch yielded 21, but if you’ve ever heard of restraint, you might wind up with a couple of extras.

Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting with Vanilla Buttercream (recipe here, just omit cherry juice), then let them sit uncovered until the frosting sets a shell. You should be able to pile them into a display about two hours after frosting without smudging.

In need of a little spousal praise?

Cherry Dreams-of-Me Cake

A man’s burliness is in direct proportion to his affinity for pink desserts. He just doesn’t want to be solicited for his delight.

2 C cake flour, sifted (sift with the baking powder, baking soda and salt)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 C shortening
1 1/4 C sugar
3/4 C whole milk
3 egg whites (do not beat)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp lemon extract
8 maraschino cherries, minced

1/3 C butter
3 C confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
3 tbsp whole milk

Set the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then stir in the egg whites, extracts and cherry juice. Add the flour, powder, soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients in with one hand while pouring in the milk with the other and continue to stir until well combined. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the batter on high for three minutes, scraping the sides once every minute. Pout the batter into 2 greased and floured round cake pans, and bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes (until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the center). Remove from the oven and let the cakes stand in the pan for ten minutes before turning them onto wire racks.

Heat the butter for the frosting in a medium saucepan over low heat. Turn off the stove as soon as the butter is completely melted, and add the vanilla to the pot. Slowly stir in the 3 C confectioners sugar, 1/2 C at a time. Add milk as needed to facilitate stirring. Once everyone else is in, add the cherry juice and stir the frosting vehemently for several minutes.

The cake should have cooled to room temperature upon frosting. This recipe makes plenty, so feel free to go wild between the layers. Leave the frosted cake uncovered until the frosting develops a slight shell, then cover and keep at room temperature. Don’t even bother serving without a tall glass of milk.

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