Grenadine & cherry velvet cupcakes

This is a variation of my beloved red velvet cupcakes suggested by Christina who tried a cherry red velvet cupcake (a Halloween vampire-themed one, no less) and reported that “it blew my fricking mind”, even in spite of it being vampire-themed which of course would have earned a wry eyebrow-raise from me.

These cupcakes are supposed to contain actual grenadine, but being lazy in very specific ways, I was willing to spend hours devising this recipe and baking and decorating these cupcakes but was not willing to spend any time looking for a shop that actually sold grenadine. Edit: I unintentionally found a shop that sold grenadine less than 24 hours after actually needing the grenadine. So I made my own approximation just using pomegranate juice, but if you have actual grenadine, go ahead and use it. With my homemade grenadine, the cupcakes are a bit tarter than they otherwise would be, but that’s probably a virtue in a recipe that has so much sugar. Recipe after the cut.

Ingredients

Homemade grenadine
2 cups (500ml) bottled pomegranate juice

Cake
170g butter, soft
2 cups caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups plain flour
3 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup homemade grenadine
1 cup of black cherries (pitted; tinned or fresh)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp white vinegar or cider vinegar

Icing
60g butter, soft
250g cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup homemade grenadine
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tbs vanilla paste (or extract)
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted

Decoration
1 pomegranate
cinnamon for dusting

1. Make the grenadine by putting the pomegranate juice in a saucepan, bringing it to the boil and letting it reduce until only about 1/2 cup is left. Remove grenadine from saucepan and leave to cool. If you make it this way it’ll be a dark brown runny syrup rather than the bright red liquid you might be used to. This dark brown syrup will give the cakes a good colour, along with the cocoa later.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

3. Whisk butter and caster sugar together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until fluffy (about 5-10 minutes at medium speed). While this mixture is being beaten, purée the cherries using a stick blender or free-standing blender.

4. Add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after the addition of each one.

5. Add vanilla and salt and beat well again.

6. Sift the remaining dry ingredients (flour, cocoa and baking soda) together into a bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup of the cooled grenadine into the buttermilk. Add roughly 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the batter in the mixer and beat until just combined. Add 1/3 of the buttermilk mixture to the mixer and beat again. Alternate like this until the dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture are all added to the batter.

7. Add the cherry purée to the batter and beat until evenly distributed.

8. Put the bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl and add the vinegar quickly, whisking with a fork to combine. Make sure any bicarb lumps are dissolved. Add this solution to the cake batter and beat on a medium speed for 10 seconds.

9. Spoon the batter into cupcake cases, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for about 15-20 minutes. A skewer, knife or cake tester put into one of the cakes should come out clean if the cakes are cooked. They are very light cakes, so you won’t feel much resistance when you test them. Once cooked, leave them to cool to room temperature.

10. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together in the mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat again.

11. Dissolve the dark brown sugar in the remaining 1/4 cup of grenadine, then beat this into the icing. Taste the icing at this stage and if it’s too sour from the grenadine, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of icing sugar to sweeten it, beating until the icing is smooth.

12. Ice the cupcakes, sift some cinnamon over the top, then decorate with a few fresh pomegranate seeds.

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