I tasted these cupcakes last December, in a Sweet Tomatoes restaurant in North Carolina, and it was love at first bite. I ended up eating three they were so yummy! Since we don't have Sweet Tomatoes/aka Souplantation in Ohio, I set about copying the recipe when I got home, The muffins had little pink bits inside and a well balanced minty flavor. I assumed there were actual candy canes inside, but didn't know if they were just melted sprinkles, and extract flavored the muffins. I decided I'd try the crushed candy cane route first, and was pleased that, after baking, my cupcakes had little minty pink bits inside.
I've used two different yellow cupcake batters to copy this recipe, I'm sticking with Cook's Illustrated magazine's recipe because I liked the crumb better. I think my add-ins will probably work with almost any yellow/vanilla cupcake recipe if you have a favorite, and, will probably even work with a boxed mix. (I don't use boxed mixes because I think it's easy to whip up a mix from scratch without preservatives, but if you aren't a frequent baker and don't always have all the ingredients on hand, I'll forgive you.)
I'm not a huge frosting fan, and think Sweet Tomatoes called them muffins because they are unfrosted. If you don't love overly minty treats, these cupcakes are perfect as is, a delicious vanilla cupcake with a sweet minty accent. If you can't eat your cupcakes without frosting; a peppermint, or, chocolate peppermint frosting would probably make a fantastic dessert. Maybe even regular vanilla frosting with more crushed candy canes on top?
Don't fret if you can't find any more candy canes, peppermint candies will make a find stand in. Since I love these cupcakes so much, I'm not leaving them solely for holiday baking! I think they'd make cute gifts, I've made them mini-sized too, and since they're unfrosted you can stack them in a bag, or tin.
Whether you've been to Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation and fell in love with these muffins, or enjoy candy cane/peppermint flavored desserts, I hope you'll try this recipe soon!
Makes 12 cupcakes or 24-30 mini cupcakes.
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine January 2003
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 ½ ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
2 oz. crushed peppermint candies or candy canes, more chunky than powdery (about 1/3 cup)
Step 2: Crush Candy Canes
I used a meat mallet and a freezer safe Ziploc, candy canes can have sharp edges that tear bags, so make sure the bags are strong, or double bag it. The candy canes melt into the cake, leaving behind pretty pink spots, so the bigger your pieces are the prettier the cupcakes will be. It only take a couple whacks to pulverize a candy cane, use restraint! I'd say about 1/8- 1/4-inch pieces are perfect.
Step 3: Prepare Batter
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners. I've baked a couple batches of these, with and without liners, I definitely recommend WITH, some of the candy canes drop to the bottom of the batter and the melting sugar sticks to even a well sprayed muffin tin. I will probably even spray the wrappers next time.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, vanilla, and peppermint extract, beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. Add crushed candy canes and mix until evenly distributed.
Step 4: Bake and Let Cool
Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. (I've also made mini cupcakes, only fill them about half full and bake anywhere from 12-16 minutes.)
Use skewer or paring knife to lift cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
I think these treats are perfect as is, but if you can't live without frosting, feel free to make some! Unfrosted, the cupcakes will last about 3 days, in a covered container, at room temperature.