Cakes & Cupcakes

Cherry Blossom Cupcakes


It’s officially the first day of spring! March 20 is the Spring Equinox, and while that doesn’t mean an instant season change, its a nice milestone to celebrate. It means we are at least on our way to warm weather and beautiful gardens. And the weather even cooperated and warmed up a bit today, which made me happy. Sometimes it’s the little things, right?

But we have had some strange weather this year in much of the country, including my home of Washington, DC. In February, it briefly seemed Spring had already arrived. We had several weeks of warm enough weather that plants starting blooming, setting off seasonal allergies. The National Park Service predicted DC’s famous cherry blossom trees would bloom earlier than normal as a result.

cupcakes cooling

But then, we had a major cold snap and a snowstorm, and now it seems half the blossoms have been killed (let’s pour one out). I’ve lived in this area a long time and I don’t recall there being this much drama around the cherry trees. They are usually impacted by spring weather in some way, but this is pretty unusual.

Regardless of how many trees are in bloom, DC will still have a great cherry blossom season. That’s because many local business offer unique cherry themed menu items to celebrate, which are a real treat for cherry lovers. (There’s even a pop-up bar I’ve been dying to visit). All the cool cherry blossom things I’ve seen inspired me to come up with my own recipe for Cherry Blossom Cupcakes.


These delicious cupcakes have chopped cherries added to vanilla cake batter, with a cherry flavored buttercream on top. They are a sweet and delicious way to celebrate the beginning of Spring.

I decided to use maraschino cherries for this recipe. I know, they are preserved and overly sweet, but I like them! They are also nice looking as garnish and easy to find this time of year. But you could certainly try substituting an equal amount of fresh or frozen cherries instead. You will either need to crush some cherries to make juice or also buy juice to use for the frosting.

Cherry Blossom Cupcakes
Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 16 oz jar maraschino cherries
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Drain the cherries in a sieve set over a small bowl. Reserve the syrup. Roughly chop the cherries (you should have about 1 cup).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the extracts and beat to combine.

With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture and mix until almost incorporated. Add the milk and 2 tbsp of cherry syrup and mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix to combine. Add the chopped cherries and mix by hand with a spatula to make sure batter is fully mixed and smooth.

Divide among cupcake liners (I use a scoop that puts about 1/4 cup in each liner). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, than transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to fully cool.

Cherry Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp reserved maraschino cherry syrup or cherry juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running, gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Add the cherry syrup and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until frosting is smooth and spreadable. (You can adjust the consistency with more sugar or syrup as needed).

Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag with a large closed star tip, such as Ateco 855. Swirl the frosting on, starting from the center. If desired, top with cherries.

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