I don’t skimp on spice during the spring and summer, but I definitely incorporate a lot more spice into my fall and winter baked goods. There is something about a really flavorful spice cake that just feels especially warm and satisfying when there is a chill in the air. These Bourbon Spice Cupcakes with Cranberries are a great way to welcome in a change in the season, with a wonderful blend of flavors that is perfect for holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.
The cupcakes are moist with a dense, tight crumb. You can really taste all the warm spices and the bourbon in the cake, but the cranberries are what take these from good to great. They add a sweet-tart pop of flavor that contrasts well with the spices, brightening up the cupcakes and making them downright addictive! Plus, they bring in a beautiful holiday pop of color!
Bourbon itself is slightly sweet and has distinct notes of oak, which tends to be a bit spicy itself. There are many recipes that include spirits where they don’t make much of an impact on the flavor of the recipe and that is simply not the case with these cupcakes. Here, the bourbon makes a difference and makes the overall flavor of the cupcakes richer and more complex. I also added a small splash of bourbon to the frosting to emphasize it a bit more.
You can use any kind of bourbon in these cupcakes. I happened to use Maker’s Mark in this batch. The alcohol from the bourbon is going to bake out as the cupcakes are in the oven, so you don’t need to worry about anyone getting a buzz off one one of these cupcakes. With 18 cupcakes in a batch, there is less than a teaspoon in each cupcake anyway. That said, if you really want to leave out the bourbon, there is no good nonalcoholic substitute for it flavor-wise. You’ll can replace it with milk, double the vanilla extra and enjoy a (still delicious!) simple spiced cranberry cupcake instead.
Bourbon Spice Cupcakes with Cranberries
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until well combined.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine milk and bourbon.
Blend one third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by half of the milk mixture. Stir in another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk. Stir in all of the remaining flour and mix just until all ingredients are combined and no streaks of flour remain. Fold in cranberries
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Makes 18 cupcakes
Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter, room temperature
1 tbsp bourbon
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, cream together bream cheese and butter until well-combined. Beat in bourbon, milk and vanilla extract, then gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar until the frosting comes together to a thick, spreadable consistency. If you want to pipe your frosting out, you may need additional confectioners’ sugar to make it stiffer.