One of my favorite things about Christmas is the Nutcracker ballet. They have a Land of Sweets, my friends, a wonderful place where they celebrate chocolate, coffee, tea, candy canes, marzipan, and ginger with special dances and the person in charge is the Sugar Plum Fairy. Sounds like somewhere I’d love to live, maybe open a little bake shop and spend plenty of time hiking in the enchanted, snow-covered woods.
Anyway…I’ve had a few Nutcracker-themed cupcake ideas for a while now, and in the absence of readily available sugar plum jam, I’ve turned to the Land of Sweets for inspiration. Flavor-wise, they’re a vanilla almond cupcake with triple berry buttercream, and you could top them with whatever sweets you like; I chose Hershey’s Kisses, nonpareils, Dots, and some fun holiday-themed sprinkles.
For the cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 1 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
For the frosting and decoration
- 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- About 1/3 cup Bonne Maman Mixed Berry Preserves
- 1 teaspoon milk
- Hershey’s Kisses (I used the new Hot Cocoa kind)
- Large nonpareils
- Dots candies
- Sprinkles of your choice; I found two holiday mixes at Joann that included snowflakes, gingerbread men, and peppermint-swirl candy shapes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 14 cupcakes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds. Add vanilla extract, almond extract, and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.
Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.
To make the frosting, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add preserves and 1 teaspoon milk; you need a pipable consistency, not too stiff or thin.
Fit a large piping bag with your tip of choice; I used the Wilton 199 open star, which is good for shell-type patterns. Pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake, then top with candies and sprinkles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days; refrigerate if storing for longer, and bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 14 cupcakes.