These Cranberry-Pistachio Cupcakes are sweetly aromatic and soft-textured; from start-to-finish they’ll be ready in just an hour, and it’s perfect if you want just a small batch of something sweet.
This time of year has the tendency to get so busy. With Thanksgiving over, our focus turns to Christmas and all the preparation that goes along with it.
But a moment of peace, however brief, is a most welcome retreat in December. Even if it’s just taking an hour to make these cupcakes and then enjoying one with a cup of tea. I can’t think of anything more comforting than the smell of something sweet baking on a chilly afternoon in December, especially if snow is softly falling.
As with so many of my baked goods – particularly baked goods where I feature the flavors of cranberry, cherry, or almond – mahlab plays a role in these cupcakes. (If you’re interested, I talk more about mahlab in my post on Cherry Sauce.) Mahlab helps make these cupcakes sweetly aromatic and adds a special unique touch that people will know is in there, but won’t be able to put their finger on what exactly it is. If you can’t find mahlab, you can add ½ teaspoon or so of pure almond extract instead, for a somewhat similar flavor.
These cupcakes are soft-textured and moist; they’re sweet, but the tart bursts of fresh cranberry add balance. Although they have a very muffin-like look to them, their flavor is much more cake-like than their appearance lets on.
These cupcakes are perfect for an afternoon getaway in the midst of life’s chaos. Enjoy them with someone you love.
- ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (60 ml) avocado oil or light olive oil
- ¼ cup (60 ml) milk
- ¼ cup (60 g) sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups (160 g) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground mahlab
- ½ cup (55 g) whole fresh cranberries, chopped
- ¼ cup (30 g) unsalted pistachios, chopped
- ⅔ cup (77 g) powdered sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 pinch fine salt
- 2-3 teaspoons water (more or less as needed)
- Butter and flour, for the muffin tray
- Fresh cranberries and/or chopped unsalted pistachios, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350F; butter and flour 6 wells in a regular-sized muffin tray (or line them with paper liners).
- Whisk together the sugar, egg, oil, milk, sour cream, and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt, and mahlab, and stir to combine. Fold in the cranberries and pistachios.
- Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tray (they’ll be really full). Bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
- Cool for 10 minutes in the tray, and then carefully remove the cupcakes and let them finish cooling on a wire rack.
- Once cooled, mix together all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl, adding the water a little at a time until your desired consistency is reached.
- Spread the glaze on top of the cupcakes and immediately decorate with cranberries and/or pistachios if desired.
Here are a few of my favorite baked goods that also feature cranberry and mahlab…