cherry liquorice cupcakes

© Lydia,

Apparently it was national cherry day 3 days ago (16th July), something that was drawn to my attention by the botanical baker blog. As it happens, we had foraged some cherries that were sitting happily in the freezer only a few days before that. I love cherries, and I'm really looking forward to more foraging this weekend in a spot in Lincolnshire we know to be fantastic, and the jam-making that follows.

I don't know where the idea came from but I was convinced that cherries and liquorice should go well together. This proved to be yet another combination that, when suggesting it to Nick, was met with a pause, a confused-disgusted look, and a quiet escape of "um...". But I have faith. Scouring the internet for liquorice/cherry cake recipes I wasn't that surprised that I couldn't find the combination already there. Nor was I surprised that liquorice cupcakes do, most commonly, contain liquorice. But I don't have liquorice at home and it's rare that I want to go shopping, especially as my car's MOT has expired and isn't booked in for its test 'till Tuesday, which it'll probably fail so miserably that it'll be sayonara to Mike II. But I digress.

© Lydia,
Apple & Spice mentioned that liquorice cake using melted/disolved liquorice has a treacle flavour to it, so I figured that using treacle should imbibe a liquorice taste too. described an aniseed extract frosting that didn't repel the liquorice-haters but was satisfying liquorice-y for it's admirers. 

Sweetapolita also nicely links liquorice with almonds, which everyone knows goes well with cherries. I felt a mix of treacle and star anise (I know star anise isn't the same thing as aniseed, but both have a liquorice taste) would be the best way to go to avoid the treacle making the cake too dense and sticky but give it enough moisture.

I couldn't decide between a liquorice cake with cherry frosting, or a cherry cake with cherry jam filling and a star anise frosting. I actually started preparing the star anise-infused milk for the frosting before changing my mind and using it for the sponge instead. So here it is, my non-liquorice liquorice cake with cherry frosting. The recipe is for 6 cupcakes, as I have a tendency when trying out recipes to decrease the batter to the minimum possible (i.e. 1 egg's-worth), so multiply up for your "needs"! If you want to make an 8" cake instead of cupcakes then triple the quantities given below (both for the batter and frosting), baking for the same amount of time as cupcakes in two sandwich tins.

This cake is light and airy yet moist, and while some people can't taste the anise at all (freaky taste-buds, Andy!), for others it's quite pleasantly noticeable. Either way, everyone who's tried it has loved it, including two non liquorice-lovers! Enjoy!

Lydia's cherry liquorice cupcakes 

       (suitable for liquorice-haters!) makes 6
© Lydia,
Cake Batter
60g (2oz) margarine or butter
60g (2oz, 1/4 cup) caster sugar
1tbsp treacle (blackstrap molasses)
1 large egg
1 tsp almond extract
115g (3/4 cup) self-raising flour
60ml (1/4 cup) milk (or 40ml = 2tbsp+2tsp milk if you have an electric grinder for the star anise)
1 star anise, ground (~1.5tsp ground), if you don't have a grinder, use 2-3 star anise

Cherry Frosting
90g (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
180g icing (1 cup confectioner's) sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1tbsp kirsch/cherry liquor (cherry juice/flavouring/extract should also work)
40g fresh/tinned cherries (stoneless weight, approx 20 small cherries), chopped

With a swirly frosting as pictured, you should still have some frosting left at the end, so you can get away with decreasing the quantities slightly. If you're doing a thinner coating of frosting (i.e. spreading it on) you can get away with making just half of the frosting quantity.

If you have an electric grinder, grind your star anise to a fine powder and set aside and ignore the simmering milk stage. Otherwise, simmer the star anise in the milk for 10 minutes and allow to steep, cooling, for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160°C (electric/fan, 180°C gas - mark 4, 320-350°F).
Line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases / line 2 8inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper or grease with butter and coat with flour (if you have springform tins)

Beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat to incorporate.
Fold in the flour (with the ground star anise if you had a grinder), then the treacle, almond extract and 40ml (2tbsp and 2tsp) of the milk (remove whole star anise if used, you can strain out the ground star anise if you wish, but it's not necessary).
Divide among the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the centre of the cake(s) are firm and springy to the touch. 
Allow to cool fully before frosting - for the cake, cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before transferring, upside-down, on a wire rack. 

To make the frosting, beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add all the liquid (if your cherries have seeped liquid, then add this too but subtract the amount from the amount of kirsch you add so that the total volume of liquid added does not exceed 1tbsp and 1/2 tsp, otherwise the frosting will be too runny, and is very likely to curdle) and the chopped cherries before beating again until incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the frosting as it will become runny.

© Lydia,


  1. Totally loved it, thanks Lydia! Honestly, 6 just isn't enough.

    1. Thanks! And I agree, I think I'll be foraging and baking again tonight!


Delicious? I think so! Got a suggestion? I'd love to hear it!