Iron Cupcake: Herbs I

This is the first of I don’t know how many Iron Cupcake entries I’ll get to this month. I’m hoping at least two more, and one will (hopefully!) be entered in the first Iron Cupcake: Midcoast Maine (which happens to be occuring three days after my new lease starts, so basically while I am moving…I figure if I plan it right I can go get keys, start moving in, come back to get the rest of my stuff and pull off what I’m thinking will be a really rad set of cupcakes before saying goodbye for real), which also has an herb theme.

I know it's not the best photo, but the cherries really were that dark. Yum, cherries!
I know it's not the best photo, but the cherries really were that dark. Yum, cherries!

Anyway, you probably want to hear about THESE cupcakes. Well, they’re very VERY nice. Full of flavors I adore – cherry, sage, brown butter, vanilla bean. Yum!


I’ve wanted to try the combination of cherry and sage for a little while and am glad I got such a great opportunity to put them together. The sage compliments the cherry in a way that gives it an almost umami sensation. (And would rock in a pie. That may be coming soon.)

Crumbling the fried sage into a sweet sage-y dust would also work here.
Crumbling the fried sage into a sweet sage-y dust would also work here.

Brown butter is a natural pairing with both sage and vanilla…which also goes perfectly with cherry. The cake is a spongy, incredibly fragrant little morsel, holding a filling of chopped, sage-infused cherries. And the frosting has the perfect balance between fresh and candy cherry flavor, reminding me of Cherry Garcia ice cream (plus butter). I based the recipe off of this one I found at Baking Bites, swapping out the vanilla extract for a vanilla bean infused straight in the milk.

Though often I like cupcakes slightly refrigerated to firm them, this one is perfect at summer room temperature, frosting all gooey and cake squishy.

One-bite cupcakes are so adorable!
One-bite cupcakes are so adorable!

Cherry-Sage Cupcakes

First, Make the Vanilla-Brown Butter Cakes:

  1. 3/4 cup + 1-2 Tbsp milk
  2. 1 vanilla bean
  3. 1/3 cup (2.67 oz.) butter, soft
  4. 1 1/3 cup AP flour
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1/4 tsp fine salt
  7. 1 cup sugar
  8. 2 eggs

Place the milk in a small saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean. Add the seeds and pod to the saucepan and simmer over medium heat until it barely comes to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and steep at least 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low, occasionally swirling the saucepan gently, until the butter is amber and toasty but not burnt. Pour into a bowl to cool, gently scraping any browned but not blackened bits from the pan into the bowl with a spatula.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, eggs and milk. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined. Fill lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Let cool in tins for a couple minutes, then remove to rack to fully cool before filling and frosting.

Next, Deal with the Cherries:

  1. About 50 cherries, washed, drained & pitted
  2. 1 Tbsp sugar
  3. 3 large sage leaves, washed & dried

Chop half the cherries into large chunks, about three or four pieces for each cherry. Place the chopped cherries into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently, until the sugar dissolves, then add the ssge. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are soft, infused with the sage scent and there is a thin cherry syrup in the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool.

Puree the other half of the cherries in a blender or food processor. Strain the puree – you should have about 1/4 cup. Set aside (if you refrigerate the puree it will gel so don’t be alarmed if you have to finish the cupcakes later – you can warm the puree slightly before adding it to the frosting to relax it).

Then, Fill the Cupcakes:

  1. Cupcakes
  2. Sage-infused cherries

Cut a cone out of the middle of each cupcake and fill the cavities with the cherries. Trim the cone so that you have a thin-ish lid and place on top of cherries. Set aside and discard of inner cake scraps however you please.

Might As Well Fry That Sage:

  1. Fresh sage leaves, rinsed & gently patted dry (you’ll need as many leaves as you have cupcakes, in corresponding sizes, plus a few extra)
  2. Canola or safflower oil, for frying
  3. Sugar, for dusting

Coat the bottom of a small frying pan with oil and place over high heat. Once hot, drop in sage leaves. Once bright green and stiff (up to 30 seconds) remove with a heatproof slotted spoon to paper towels. Gently blot and toss with sugar. Allow to cool fully.

Finally, Make That Frosting!:

  1. 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  2. 3 Tbsp water
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter, soft & cut in Tbsp
  5. 1/4 cup cherry puree
  6. 1/4 tsp natural almond extract
  7. Red gel food coloring

Whip yolks in a stand mixer on high for 5 minutes, until light & foamy. Meanwhile, cook the water and sugar in a small saucepan until it reaches 248. Turn off the mixture and drizzle some of the syrup in, then turn on to quickly incorporate. Repeat until all the sugar is incorporated and whip the mixture until it reaches room temperature. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat the butter in one piece at a time, waiting for each piece to be fully incorporated before adding the next. If it curdles at any time, just wait it out and it will eventually become smooth and fluffy again. Beat in the cherry puree, then add the almond extract and gradually beat in the coloring a little at a time until you are happy with the color. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with your favorite tip and swirl onto the cupcakes. Top each with a sage leaf.

Our June ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:


  1. Wow, this is a very nice cupcake…so much work!!! Look very yummie with cherry and the sage frosting. Great pictures as well.

  2. This is by far the most interesting and coolest cupcake I’ve ever seen. I love the innovation with the cherry and sage. And the brown butter just completes its irresistible quality, I want one!

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