Real Cherry Cupcakes


These aren't your average cherry cupcakes!

Cherry, as a flavor, is often the favorite of many a child and a grown-up when it comes to choosing popsicles, candies, even flavors of over-the-counter liquid medicine. When you taste an actual cherry, though, it often doesn't taste like the artificial cherry flavoring. This is fine! Cherries have their own gorgeous sourness with plenty of astringency and tannin to give you a complex and interesting flavor that pairs quite well with sugar. The cherries I've used in this particular recipe are canned cherries from my own pantry. If you're interested in canning, you can check out my blog on Pickled Asian Pears, where I do a crash-course on water bath canning. I found these sour cherries in a local grove where I was able to pick them to my heart's content. Look around for local groves in your area!

This recipe has not one bit of cherry extract, as I love the natural flavor! You will note a bit of vanilla, just to give the cakes some life, but it's not the forward flavor. This is an excellent cupcake fit for a party, for a Netflix session, or for doomscrolling on TikTok. I do feel I need to address a thing or two, first...

First and foremost, I'm sure you can tell from the photo that these cupcakes are - in fact - baked in mini-brioche tins. It turns out that I don't make that much brioche at home so these lovely tins are going to waste. As someone who is an advocate of chaotic goodness, I simply cannot let that slide. If you also happen to be a magpie of sorts that collects adorable small tins from garage sales, thrift stores, et cetera, I invite you to break them out for this recipe. Be sure to use plenty of good pan-spray or rub generously with oil in all of the nooks and crannies if you do! We don't want our cakes sticking to our molds, do we?

Real Cherry Cupcakes

yields 1 dozen cupcakes or 6 mini-cakes

  • 113 g (4 oz) vegan butter, room temperature
  • 200 g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 8 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cornstarch
  • 1 12 oz can whole, pitted cherries in light syrup
    • I have home-canned cherries that I picked from a local tree, but you can use the canned stuff from the store if you don't have a pantry full of random stuff you've canned over the summer!
    • You're not draining the cherries; you're using the syrup too. You want it.
  • 3 Tbsp almond milk
Preheat your oven to 350 F. You can prepare mini cake molds like what I have with plenty of pan spray or utilize a cupcake tin with paper liners. Either way, do this first so you won't have to worry about it later.

Whip the butter with a whisk attachment on the standing mixer or a hand beater until nearly white in color and quite fluffy. Add the sugar, and whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a full 2 minutes on medium speed before adding the other one. Dump in your flour, vanilla, salt, baking powder, cornstarch, and canned cherries all at once. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir everything together gently until the batter is mixed nicely. Add in the milk at the last moment and stir once more to incorporate. You're going to dump in the syrup too, so don't worry. The cake will be lovely as a result! It will even attain a pretty pink color in the batter. 

**If you want this color, you're going to need to add a few drops of red or pink dye, as the natural coloring is going to cook out in the oven.

Portion the batter into the cups of your choosing and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes come slightly away from the sides of the pan and spring back when touched. Allow the cakes to cool completely before decorating. I used cream cheese icing dyed pink for this particular photo, because I love cream cheese icing. Any simple buttercream will do, or even some whipped cream and powdered sugar. 

If you're into making things in bulk, you can also bag them and freeze them while they're plain and pull them out when you need a quick something to decorate for a friend's birthday, or if you're feeling creative. My own freezer is chock-full of my own homemade cakes and things, and the stash has saved me many a time for book club. This is just one of the many tricks being a chef has taught me: cakes freeze perfectly and you can't underestimate a stash of them for when you inevitably forget something celebratory and need to pull something together in a flash.

I love this recipe because it tastes like real cherries and it's something delicious you can pull together with the bounty of summer without doing yet another pie. (We love pie in this house and on this blog; this is no disrespect to's just that you can't always have pie every day. You do understand, yes?) When one has access to a cherry tree, one will learn quickly that cherries are plentiful in many a grove and you really can't go wrong when you are able to have the privilege to preserve them. Take advantage of it!

Happy cooking and happy eating!