These Vanilla Maple Whiskey Cupcakes are a boozy delight, with a buttery maple center and a vanilla whiskey buttercream.
I often get questions about my boozy desserts. Can the alcohol be removed? Is this ok for a child’s birthday party? (That’s my favorite). Since alcohol plays such a prominent role in these vanilla maple whiskey cupcakes, I figured it might be a good topic for discussion.
Regarding alcohol in recipes:
If there’s alcohol in something being cooked (example: cupcakes going into the oven or a sauce), most of that alcohol is actually being cooked out. It’s there for flavor.
Keep in mind that extracts are typically straight alcohol. Your vanilla extract? Booze. However, you’re using such a small quantity of it. A tablespoon of whiskey isn’t much different than a tablespoon of vanilla extract, with the exception that the vanilla might actually be prepared using a higher proof alcohol. See below.
In the US, in order for a vanilla extract to be called pure, the FDA requires that the solution contains a minimum of 35% alcohol. I suppose this is something you want to keep in mind if you avoid alcohol for religious reasons? Aside from that, if you’re not worried about vanilla extract in your child’s birthday cake, you probably don’t need to worry about other alcohols. If I’m not legally supposed to say that… please keep in mind that I’m not qualified to say anything, and I’m not a pediatrician or a lawyer and maybe you should just give them fruit, k?
Moving on, if there is alcohol in a recipe that is not cooked, like the filling and frosting in these cupcakes, that alcohol will obviously still be there at the end (sorry to be so basic, but I get a lot of basic questions). However, the recipe below includes 5 tablespoons of whiskey spread across 24 cupcakes. That’s not a lot of alcohol per cupcake. I have an extremely low tolerance and I’m not worried about getting a buzz from these.
Lastly, if you do not consume alcohol for personal or religious reasons, it can always be omitted from a recipe. In baked goods, the key is to keep the liquid to dry ratio the same. Vanilla extract has alcohol, so that’s not a good swap. Milk or cream are usually a safe, neutral-flavored swap in baked goods.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup regular muffin tins with cupcake liners and lightly coat with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.
Scrape down the sides, turn the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate completely before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl periodically. Don’t worry if the batter breaks up a bit (this is a very high egg:butter ratio). It will come together in the next step.
Scrape down the sides and then add the flour on low speed, mixing until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium speed for a few seconds to help bring the batter together.
Divide evenly between the liners, then bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool while preparing the filling and buttercream.
Prepare the Filling:
In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment), combine the maple syrup, butter, confectioners’ sugar, whiskey, and salt. You can adjust some of the ingredients to taste slightly by adding a bit more whiskey, maple or a splash of vanilla. Just avoid thinning it out too much.
Prepare the Buttercream:
Add the sugar and water to a medium sauce pot. Cover and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid begins to simmer and steam has developed, remove the cover (this helps prevent crystallization). Using a digital thermometer, cook the sugar to the soft boil stage, 235-240 degrees F, approximately 5 minutes.
While the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites on high speed in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until a soft peak has formed.
Turn the mixer speed down to medium-low and very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites.
Once the syrup is completely incorporated, turn the speed to high and allow the meringue to continue forming a stiff peak while cooling down. Mix on high until the meringue has reached room temperature, approximately 20 minutes.
Once the meringue is room temperature, slowly begin incorporating the soft butter on medium speed. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to high and slowly add the vanilla and whiskey.
Prepare the cupcakes:
Using a small knife or cupcake corer, remove the center from each cupcake. Pipe or spoon the maple filling into each cupcake. Pipe the buttercream on top.