Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Bourbon Pecan Pie Filling, Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue, and Candied Pecans

These are a mouthful. Literally.

These wordy wonders came to me one day while riding the crowded subway, trying desperately to keep my mind occupied with something other than the stranger nodding off to sleep on my shoulder (why is this a thing that happens to me so often?). It was one of those stressful, packed rush hour situations where many people would say "I need a drink!" but me being, well, me, my mind was lost in pastry land, floating among clouds of sugar, spice and everything nice. Somewhere along the way, though, that "I need a drink" mentality must've snuck in, because when I got off at my stop, two things were cemented in my brain: chocolate and bourbon.

As much as I wanted to, though, I didn't rush home and make the first chocolatey bourbon-filled recipe I could think of. I really wanted to think on this one, and the longer I did, the more components entered the vague recipe in my mind: pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon ... essentially all of the components of a chocolate pecan pie, minus the pie; minus the pie, because I have yet to master the perfect pie crust (but I'm working on it).

A quick Google search gave me the final bit of inspiration that I needed. The very talented Tieghan from Half Baked Harvest has taken all of these components I'd been dreaming about and turned them into tasty, boozy little cupcakes (a whole cup of bourbon in the cake batter? Love it!) Using this as my inspiration, I got to work creating my own intoxicakes (because they're intoxicatingly delicious, and they have alcohol in them which sometimes results in intoxication ... I'll work on it). What resulted is something that, I think, is really kind of magical: spiked chocolate cake, oozing pecan pie surprise centre, silky and light brown sugar frosting, crunchy candied pecans ... this is the stuff dreams are made of. Well, my dreams anyway.

If your ideal baked treat is a perfect combination of taste and texture (with a little bit of attitude) these are for you. Using unsweetened apple sauce in the place of oil gives these cupcakes a unique and delicious moistness (and cuts fat content significantly, as an added bonus) but if you're skeptical, substitute the 3/4 cup apple sauce with 1 cup canola or vegetable oil and you're good to go! Have fun with these and, as always ...

Happy Baking!

For Chocolate Cake:

1 cup bourbon

3/4 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar (reduce to 1 cup if using sweetened applesauce)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven too 350F. Line 12-cup cupcake pan.In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In bowl of a stand mixer, beat sour cream and sugar together until combined, then add eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. In medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, applesauce and bourbon until smooth. Add to egg mixture and mix. Add dry ingredients on low speed and mix until just combined. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for approx. 20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.

Pecan Filling:

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup golden corn syrup
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 1/4 cup cold water with 2 tablespoons cornstarch, whisk until smooth. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, salt and corn starch mixture to a sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking consistently for about 5 minutes. Do not stop whisking the mixture, especially in the beginning or you will end up with scrambled eggs. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the pecans, bourbon and vanilla. Allow the mixture to cool a few minutes and then transfer to the fridge for at least one hour or until completely cooled and thickened.

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Frosting:

4 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved when mixture is rubbed between two fingers. Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled to the touch, about 7 minutes total. With mixer on medium-low (speed 3), add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high (speed 6); continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles. Frosting may separate but trust me, just beat it more and turn it slowly up to high speed and keep beating it WILL come back together. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes using whatever tip you like.

Candied Pecans:

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped

In a small bowl whisk together the bourbon,vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add pecans and stir to coat evenly. Transfer to flat baking sheet lined with foil, and bake until toasted (approx. 17 minutes) stirring occasionally. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then top frosted cupcakes.


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"A party without cake is just a meeting."

-- Julia Child