I first published this sponsored post in 2017 for Middlesex County to help them promote local food and farm markets. They paid me to develop recipes featuring Middlesex produce and write about them for their website. At that time, the recipe for these Sugar Shack Maple Cupcakes was only available on their website; I’m happy to share it here on Urban Cottage Life now, just in time for this year’s maple syrup run!
I have to be honest: I’m a little obsessed with the photos of these maple cupcakes. They may be some of the prettiest that I’ve ever made. And the fact that the cupcakes (without the frosting) are 100 percent sweetened and flavoured with maple syrup from my neck of the woods makes them even more attractive to my eye.
I purchased the maple products used in this post at Fort Rose Maple Company near Parkhill. Lawrence McLachlan, one of the owners, explained the maple production process to my six-year-old granddaughter and me in the sugar shack, and then he and two other family members, William and Jermey, allowed me to take their photo. One of the things I value about sourcing local produce is that I can talk to the farmers and others who work so hard to bring their products to market.
Maple syrup is a quintessentially Canadian product, and I feel fortunate that there are numerous producers in the area where I live. An annual trip to the sugar bush and sugar shack to see how the syrup is produced is a tradition for many, along with the practically obligatory pancake breakfast. Adjust the belt a notch or two afterwards, and the drive home won’t be uncomfortable at all.
I debated whether to go savoury or sweet to showcase maple syrup, but these cupcakes won out. They’re entirely flavoured with this amber elixir: no extracts, no spices, no nuts … just the distinct and prized flavour of maple that’s the reward for getting through a Canadian winter. I made the cupcakes with both maple sugar and maple syrup, so they’re refined sugar-free. When I visited the Fort Rose shop they were out of granulated maple sugar, but I came up with a MacGyver-worthy workaround: I purchased their hard maple candies and ground them in the food processor to create the sugar needed for the recipe.
The frosting, on the other hand, is another matter. I decided that an American buttercream was the way to go, and while it’s delicious (how could it not be, given that it’s also flavoured with maple syrup?), its heavy reliance on confectioners sugar makes it far too sweet for me (the things I suffer for my readers!). Don’t get me wrong, I liked it — a lot — and many of you will too. But, I wanted to tone down the sweetness and make a sweetly unrefined version. So, after developing this recipe I did a do-over, developing a maple Italian meringue frosting, which you could also call a maple marshmallow frosting. Hmm, which name to choose? Stay tuned for that recipe!
For those of you who like your sweetness completely over the top, feel free to adorn your frosted cupcakes with a plume of maple spun sugar; I purchased mine at Fort Rose Maple Company too. I prefer the maple cupcakes with just the frosting, but the spun sugar certainly adds flair.
What better way to celebrate maple syrup season than maple cupcakes, straight from the sugar shack!
Let’s Get Baking!
Sugar Shack Maple Cupcakes
© Marlene Cornelis/Urban Cottage Life.com 2018
Fort Rose Maple Company didn’t have granulated maple sugar available when I visited, so I purchased some maple leaf-shaped pure maple candy (for the pantry, honest!) and ground it into sugar with a small food processor. These maple cupcakes have a delicate maple flavour and slightly crispy top. They’re delicious on their own; adding the sweet maple frosting takes them to the next level of indulgence!
Note: The flour, baking powder and icing sugar are measured using the scoop and level method.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with 12 large paper baking cups.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
- 1/4 cup firmly packed maple sugar (I ground 8 maple leaf candies, or 85 g)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
For the cupcakes, measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Stir and set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter a few minutes until light. Add the maple sugar and cream on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium-low speed until they’re incorporated, scraping the bowl once. The mixture will look somewhat split at this point.
Add half the flour mixture and beat in at low speed, then add half the maple syrup. Repeat. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium speed for about a minute until the batter is smooth. Use a spatula to scrape the bowl and for any final stirring.
Using a small ice cream scoop, portion the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 27 minutes, or until the cupcakes are domed and golden. Use a toothpick to test for doneness; if it comes out clean, the cupcakes are ready.
Set the muffin tin on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the tin and place them on the rack to finish cooling.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3 cups icing sugar (also known as confectioners sugar)
- 5 to 7 tbsp maple syrup
- maple spun sugar to garnish (optional)
Use a stand or hand mixer to cream the butter. Turn off the mixer and add the icing sugar. Beat on low speed until the butter and sugar start to come together; it will still look pretty dry. Add 4 tablespoons of maple syrup, then beat on medium speed until the frosting starts to become creamy. Beat in the rest of the maple syrup a tablespoon at a time as required for the frosting to reach a spreadable but somewhat stiff consistency.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting on with a knife, and, if you like, embellish it further with a flourish of maple spun sugar. Or, apply the frosting using a piping bag fitted with a large decorative tip. My favourite design is a flat rose, made by starting in the centre and working around to the outside.
Looking for More Middlesex County Fare?
If you’re looking for more recipes that showcase the bounty of the county (see what I did there?), here are some more to check out. Sticking with the maple syrup theme, these Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars are not to be missed. On the savoury side, I’m pretty proud of this Chicken & Harvest Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie. And on the sweet side again, you need these Caramel Apple Crumble Squares in your life. And if you don’t live in or near Middlesex County, support your local farmers and food producers!