Fresh cherries have flooded the markets and of course I wasted no time buying my share. Which basically means that every time I’m out and about I pick up another bag (or two). (I’ve even been looking for errands to run just to have an excuse to go out and pick up some more…definitely a windfall for Mike, who not only loves cherries, but now views standing in lines at the post office and bank a thing of the past…at least until the end of cherry season. ;) )
So what do I do with all my loot?, you might be wondering. In addition to eating fresh cherries by the fistful, I like to make things like cherry jam, black forest oats, cherry custard tart, spumone pudding cake, cherry cordials, and now these pretty cupcakes.
My inspiration for these little lovelies was a combination of cheese Danish pastries and my strawberry shortcake cupcakes. For these cupcakes, I made a sour cream cake batter and then filled the cupcakes with Neufchatel cheese and homemade cherry filling. I used fresh cherries to make the filling, but any kind of berries you like would be delicious; in a time crunch store-bought preserves would also work well.
The sour cream cake is a slight adaptation of my recipe for classic yellow cake. If you haven’t tried sour cream cake I definitely recommend it…it’s gloriously rich and moist with a very tender crumb. You could even make this cake on its own and glaze it with a simple vanilla glaze (recipe below), or serve it topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Yields about 18 cupcakes
Cherry Filling (Makes about 1 1/3 cups):
1 lb (about 3 cups) fresh or frozen sweet black cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water
Sour Cream Cake (adapted from my recipe for classic yellow cake):
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 cup light sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz Neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese), cut into 18 pieces
1/2 cup (2 oz) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the cherry filling: In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the cherries, water, and sugar (uncovered) until the cherries are softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly (the mixture will thicken). Cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge while you make the cupcakes (it will thicken more as it cools).
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. With a handheld electric beater, beat together the sugar and oil, then cream in eggs until light and fluffy (takes about 2 minutes); beat in the sour cream and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined, making sure not to over-mix.
Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter (they should be about 3/4 full). Add a scant tablespoon of cherry filling to each, then add one piece of Neufchatel cheese, pushing it down slightly. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the tray and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Cool completely before glazing.
For the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients, then drizzle over cupcakes. Let the glaze set before serving.