The Manhattan Cupcake

Rich chocolate cupcakes with a hint of orange bitters, topped with a smooth, velvety, bourbon-infused buttercream frosting and a maraschino cherry – these cupcakes are a take on the classic Manhattan cocktail and are perfect for a celebration. My partner’s favorite drink is the Manhattan, so I made these cupcakes for his birthday last month, but these are also really great for a rich post-dinner dessert, the holidays, or any kind of celebration. You can add a few more dashes of bitters to the batter if you want something to cut the richness of the cake and the frosting, but the frosting has a strong and distinct bourbon flavor already, which will be very hard to miss. I’d also suggest whipping up a Manhattan for yourself as you are baking this, so you know what sort of flavor profile to aim for.

These are best eaten the day of so that the cake does not dry out. But if you want to serve them later, I would recommend making the frosting later so that it still has the right consistency when you serve it. Or you could do what I did, which is whip an entire batch, and then use the leftovers for some much-needed energy boost, which was pretty useful as we packed furniture as part of our move from Charlottesville to New Haven (more soon on some of the lovely places that I will miss eating at in Charlottesville). For now, here’s the recipe to convert a classic cocktail into a beloved dessert.

The Manhattan Cupcake | Who Needs a Diet

Ingredients (makes 10-11 cupcakes)

Chocolate cupcake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup cold brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tsp bitters (optional)


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioner sugar
  • 2 tbsp good Bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Maraschino cherries


For the cupcake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a muffin pan or put cupcake liners into the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Mix until smooth; the batter will be thin. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For the topping:

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the confectioner sugar together until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bourbon and vanilla and beat until icing is thick and smooth.
  3. If the icing seems too thick, add in more bourbon, a tablespoon at a time until it is the right consistency.
  4. If it is too thin, add in more confectioner sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until it is the right consistency.
  5. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Once the cupcakes are out of the oven and have cooled, ice the cupcakes (the icing will start melting if you try to top hot cupcakes). Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry.

Apple Yogurt Cake

Butter. There is no word that better encapsulates baking during the holiday season  and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has contradicting feelings – wanting dessert ever so often, but not wanting to feel so full all the time. This cake does precisely that – captures all the holiday flavors and tastes of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg without the heaviness that comes with a butter-ful sinful dessert. Instead, this cake uses whole-milk yogurt. This gives it both a great texture, plus gets more moist the longer it is stored in the fridge. The only change that I would make is that the recipe called for freshly ground nutmeg and I didn’t have any, so I ended up using ground nutmeg instead. There’s something about freshly ground nutmeg that just can’t be found in its already ground version and I’ve decided that from now on I’m always going to have fresh nutmeg on hand that I can always grate it and use in my baking. Since this recipe is big enough for two 8-inch cakes, I ended up taking one of the cakes to a potluck and the other one for a birthday in our office 🙂

I used Granny Smith apples, since they are one of my favorite apples for baking. In case you’re ever confused about what kind of apples to use for different kinds of baking or cooking projects, check out this helpful chart!

apple yogurt cake_opt

Recipe adapted from Faith Durand’s The Kitchn. Makes enough for a 13 x 9 inch cake pan, or two 8 x 8 inch cakes.


  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 8 x 8 inch pans with baking spray or olive oil.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Peel and core the apples, and chop into chunks about 1/2-inch across. You should end up with 3 1/2 to 4 cups of apples. Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon right into the liquids and stir just until no lumps remain. In a small separate bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon with the brown sugar and butter.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture, dropping it on the batter in small lumps. Spread the rest of the batter over top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar.
  5. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
  6. This keeps very well for several days in the fridge (I just stored it in the freezer), and it gets even moister as it sits, due to the apples.

What are your favorite light holiday desserts?

Lemon Blueberry Mini Bundt Cake

I recently bought my first silicon baking pan. I didn’t realize how flexible these pans can be until I actually handled it, which made me slightly suspicious of whether these would be ideal for baking and holding shapes. Fortunately, the pan more than surpassed my expectations – it’s completely non-stick, does not even need to be greased, the baked goods can be popped right out, and it’s barely a pain to clean. For more on basics of baking with silicon pans and how to check the quality of silicon bake ware, check this link out.

To inaugurate my new mini bundt cake pan, I went with one of my favorites – the lemon blueberry combo. These cakes aren’t as light as muffins, but I also decided to have them without icing or any kind of glaze, so that it’s a great and filling breakfast on-the-go.

Lemon Blueberry Mini-Bundt Cakes

Lemon Blueberry Mini-Bundt Cakes

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. Gives 9 mini-cakes


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Confectioner’s sugar (optional)


  • In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in blueberries.
  • Pour into three 4-in. fluted tube pans coated with cooking spray, filling them only two-thirds of the way.
  • Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Dust with confectioner’s sugar or with some glaze if you please.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Yesterday was a super-delicious day – starting with a trip to what I thought would be an Apple Orchard, but turned out to be some mega farm with gazillions of rows of fruits. The best part of course was their apple cider and apple cider donuts (but that will be another post). The evening consisted of celebrating a friend’s birthday, for which I decided to make a chocolate chip coffee cake with a taste of cinnamon. I got the recipe from Christina of Sweet Pea’s Kitchen – this is now her second recipe that I’ve tried out which has come out really well! I like this cake for many reasons – it has layers which always makes a cake look fancier, the smell of cinnamon baking  in the oven is terrific, and its warm taste blends in perfectly with the coffee and the chocolate chips. In short, I think this is a great cake to be had slightly warm on a rainy evening!


For the Topping and Filling:

  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the Coffee Cake:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan (I used butter) and set aside.
  2. To make the topping/filling: In a small bowl combine the sugar, coffee granules and cinnamon; set aside.
  3. To make the coffee cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (The batter will be thick)
  5. Spread half of the batter evenly into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar topping and half the chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon the remaining batter in 8 dollops over the batter in the pan and spread gently. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.
  7. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.