Monday, December 12, 2016

Cranberry Spice Cupcakes

Comments have become a powerful force on the web. Every time I look at a new recipe or for that matter, something that I'm going to buy, I always read the comments. As writers, we are painfully aware of the comments people leave about our books.

In recipeland, I find them very helpful. If a lot of people complain about the same thing (too dry, cooking time is too long, etc.) I know I have to pay attention to that, and I adjust the recipe accordingly.

This recipe was inspired by Southern Living's showstopper Spice Cake with Cranberry Filling. Now that's what I call a presentation! White spice cake with a cranberry filling, and apple cider white frosting! And they made Christmas trees by frosting upside-down ice cream cones! Clever and gorgeous.

But I wanted to make cupcakes so I made a few adjustments. First, I cut the recipe in half. There aren't too many comments, but a couple of them mentioned that the applesauce flavor is lost in the buttercream frosting. I can believe that. It takes some powerful flavoring to stand up to buttercream. So I put the apple cider in the cake recipe instead, and altered the spices to suit my preferences. I did follow the instructions for the cranberry filling, except I intentionally left out the orange juice. And for the frosting, I used tried and true plain old vanilla buttercream frosting.

This recipe has three segments, but don't let that intimidate you. The cupcakes are very easy to make. The cranberries aren't any harder than making them for Thanksgiving. And the frosting is easy, too. In addition, this doesn't have to be a marathon. You can make them at different times and put them together when you have an hour. Actually, it didn't take me that long.

Cranberry Filling

Make this first because it needs to cool and stiffen some. The original recipe suggests refrigerating it for 8 to 24 hours before using. I followed a helpful comment and popped it into the fridge and then into the freezer for about an hour. That worked fine. Note: I used 1/4 cup of water when I should have used 1/2 tablespoon! It worked okay.

1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon butter

Combine the cranberries and the sugar in a small pot. Mix the cornstarch with the water and stir into the pot. Over medium low heat, cook 4-5 minutes, until the cranberries begin to burst. Cook one more minute, stirring constantly. Add the chopped cranberries and the butter and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool on counter briefly, then place in fridge on a towel. When cooler, move to freezer for about 1 hour.

Spice Cake
(makes 18 cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cloves

1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup milk
splash (1/2 teaspoon) vinegar

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Place cupcake papers in cupcake wells.

Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir well to combine. Set aside.

In a two-cup measuring cup (or anything else, but that requires the least cleanup!), pour 1/2 cup apple cider, 1/4 cup milk, and vinegar. Let stand.

Beat the butter with the sugar about 4 minutes. It will turn white and silky. Beat in each egg until well combined. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the apple cider mixture. Add vanilla and beat.

Fill cupcake papers half full. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

1 cup butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat the butter. Reduce speed to low and add the sugar 1 cup at a time. When all the powdered sugar is in, beat on high for at least 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and the cream and beat 1 more minute.


Wilton's Sugar Pearls

Pipe little rosettes around the rim of each cupcake.

Fill the center with a small amount of cranberry filling.

If desired, pipe a mini Christmas tree in the middle of the cranberries by simply piping smaller and smaller circles as you go up.

Use tweezers to place a sugar pearl on each rosette and on the tops of the trees. (Note: if you don't want to use the pearls, they look every bit as cute without them. Look for the one I left plain in the picture to see the difference.)

How to Get the Look Without the Hassle 

Bake the cupcakes or buy plain cupcakes.
Buy white icing in a can and make the little rosettes.
Buy cherry pie filling and use the thick liquid part in the middles of the cupcakes.
Adorn with sugar pearls.

One cup of cranberries.

Add cornstarch to thicken.

Cook. Very easy.

Mix flour and spices.

A lovely batter.

Only fill cupcakes 1/2 full because they rise.

The secret to this frosting is to beat and beat!

Can you tell which one doesn't have pearls on it?

Which one would you like?

Since it's our holiday recipe week here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, I'm giving away a book. Winner's choice of The Diva Serves High Tea or Murder Most Howl! To enter, leave a comment with your email address, please. Good Luck!


  1. Fabulous cupcake recipe! And both books sound amazing.

  2. I really enjoy Krista Davis' books. What a wonderful recipe for the holidays. dbahn(at)iw(dot)net

  3. The recipes sound amazing. sclickner at juno dot com

  4. What a delectable recipe. Your books are a delight. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. Your recipe is enticing. Thanks for your wonderful giveaway. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  6. Happy holidays. What a fantastic recipe. Always looking for something else tomato with cranberries, and I think your tweaks really make it perfect. Thanks!

  7. These look delicious can't wait to try them. Thanks for the chance to win.

  8. Delicious recipe! mommatoodle at msn dot com

  9. Should we use 1/4 cup or a 1/2 tablespoon of water?
    This looks lovely.
    I enjoy how you all tweak recipes according to your taste preferences, ingredients availability, etc.
    libbydoddat comcast dot net

  10. This recipe looks amazing I will have to try it some time soon. Thanks for this generous chance.

  11. Ohh! That recipe does look delish. Thanks for the recipe and for the giveaway If drawn I'd want Murder Most Howl! Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc ((dot) com

  12. That recipe looks very festive---and cranberry is such a traditional Christmas flavor. Thanks for the recipe and the book giveaway.

  13. The cupcakes look really delicious. Thank you for the recipe and the giveaway! crossxjo @hotmail. com

  14. What a seasonal delight these cupcakes would be. Krista Davis's books are most delightful. I would love to sample her series of Murder Most Howl. robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

  15. Beautiful cupcakes. If I'm chosen, I'd like Murder Most Howl. elainehroberson(at)gmail(dot)com

  16. Love the cupcake recipe but I'm honest. I'm not sure I would make them as I'm the only one that would eat cranberry on them, hubby and family would eat the spice cupcakes with the buttercream icing but turn their noses up to the cranberries. Lol.
    If I'm chosen I would love The Diva Servers High Tea.

  17. Cupcakes look delicious! I love both series.

  18. Such good recipes and thank you for the contest I love both of the series and would love to read and review on a few sites.

  19. These look delicious & festive. Thanks for the giveaway.

  20. This looks good. Thanks for the opportunity. If I win I would like Murder Most Fowl.
    kckendler at gmail dot com

  21. Very strange. Again, like yesterday, I thought I posted a comment earlier, but I don't see it.
    Ah, well.
    Lovely cupcakes. Clever idea.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  22. I love spice cake! Better than chocolate as far as I'm concerned!

  23. Love the recipes!! I'd pick The Dive Serves High Tea. I've already enjoyed the other choice. Thanks so much for the chance! Merry Christmas to all!!

  24. Love the recipes!! I'd pick The Dive Serves High Tea. I've already enjoyed the other choice. Thanks so much for the chance! Merry Christmas to all!!

  25. Beautiful cup cakes! Sounds yummy! The Diva Serves High Tea would be awesome to read, thanks for the opportunity! Merry Christmas

  26. Thanks for the recipe, it has given me some ideas for cake treats. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway. doward1952(at)yahoo(dot)com

  27. Those cupcakes look delicious. Thanks for the chance.

  28. Now I want one! Thanks for the giveaway.
    nerdsrgood AT msn DOT com

  29. Great recipe! Nice of you to include a short cut recipe for the baking challenged. Thanks for the giveaway. Merry Christmas!

  30. The recipe looks amazing. Thanks for the chance to win.

  31. Delicious! Love your books!

  32. Wow! These look absolutely delicious! I may need to consider the cupcake version for the holidays! Thanks!

    Rlewis11797 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  33. Awesome post, Krista! I am green with jealousy, but that is one of the Christmas colors so it's okay I suppose. XO

  34. The recipe doesn't seem that difficult. And then you toss in that no work one at the end. Now, that's the easy way. Yours look good. Wish I had one now.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  35. These look and sound great!!! I bet the cranberry is great with the spice cake! Thanks for the chance to win!

  36. These cupcakes sound delicious. I think I could make my Apple spice cupcakes with the cranberry filling and the icing for my family. They like cranapple desserts. servedogmom at yahoo dot com

  37. The one closest to the photographer doesn't have pearls, but still looks yummy! Great books and mouth watering recipes. Happy holidays! konecny7(at)gmail(dot)com