SHF#47: Vanilla Date Cupcakes with Buttermilk Fudge Frosting

September 26, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 7 Comments

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting

Not sure why, but I haven’t participated in Sugar High Friday in awhile. This month, though, I found myself seduced by a cupcake-loving pink flamingo into sending super-sweet Fanny a super-sweet cupcake for her round-up.

I’ve been on a tear lately trying to use up things in my pantry.  One of those things was a bag of dates that had been lingering around for longer than I would like to admit.  It was time for them to move out, and I found them a new home thanks to one of my favorite baking books, Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen.  She has a recipe for moist date cupcakes, flecked with vanilla bean and frosted with buttermilk fudge.  It sounded so interesting, I had to give it a go!

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting

With the combination of dates, brown sugar and buttermilk, the cakes are golden-hued, really moist and delicious, and keep nicely for a few days.  There isn’t a picture in the book, but the author’s instructions led me to believe that the frosting would be quite stiff.  Mine actually had a consistency in between a glaze and a normal icing.  I could definitely spread it on, but I couldn’t heap it on.  It is definitely sweet, though, and a little goes a long way, so maybe that was a good thing.  I thought about chilling the icing, then whipping it further, but I liked the smooth tops and gentle drips that formed as it set.

vanilla date cupcakes with buttermilk fudge frosting


Vanilla Date Cupcakes with Buttermilk Fudge Frosting makes 8 regular-size cupcakes
adapted from Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen

Note: If some of these measurements seem a little screwy, that’s because I downsized it from the original, which was much larger and meant to produce jumbo cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 oz plump, pitted dates, coarsely chopped
5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light brown sugar, packed
seeds of 1/3 vanilla bean
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 t pure vanilla extract (or dark rum)
1 c cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1/3 t baking powder
1/3 t baking soda
1/8 t kosher salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 c + 1 T buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with 8 paper liners.

-Put the chopped dates in a small bowl and pour 3 T boiling water over them.  Let sit for a few minutes, and mash with a fork to a rough paste.  Set aside while you prepare the batter.

-By hand, or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, two sugars and vanilla seeds until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg, then add the vanilla extract (or rum) and mix well.

-In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

-Add the buttermilk and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended.  Fold the date paste into the batter with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, filling each one 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

-Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.

For the frosting:

1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 t light corn syrup
1 1/3 T unsalted butter, in small pieces
1/3 c buttermilk, plus an additional 1 T, for thinning the cooked frosting
1/3 t baking soda, sifted
1/4 t pure vanilla extract or paste

-Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, buttermilk and baking soda in a heavy-bottomed pot (use a larger pot than you think you will need…this mixture bubbles up to about four times its original volume as it comes to the boil!).  Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir one last time as it comes to the boil, then don’t stir again.

-Boil the syrup until it reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage).  You will see that the frosting caramelizes as it cooks.  Immediately pour it into a mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip).  Let it cool for about five minutes.

-Stir in the vanilla extract or paste, then beat on medium speed until thick enough to spread, about five minutes.  If the frosting is too thick, add the additional buttermilk, one teaspoon at a time.

-Slather the tops of the cupcakes with the frosting and cool before serving.  You can place the cupcakes in the refrigerator to set the icing if it seems loose, or add additional teaspoons of buttermilk if it seems too thick.  (If it is too loose to work with, you can try chilling it for 10 minutes or so, then re-whipping.)

-Iced cupcakes can be stores for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before serving).  If you have more frosting than you need, transfer extras to a small, flat container…it will set up as fudge in the refrigerator.


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  1. These look so delicious! I definitely want to give that frosting a shot.

  2. Sooo glad that you participated in this month’s SHF event – those cupcakes look and sound so enticing!!

  3. Yum! These look lovely, I quite like the way the icing turned out. I will have to make these for my sister – she will love them!

  4. So cute! I love the little heart decorations. Regan Daley’s book is one of my favorites – now I’ll have to try this recipe!

  5. How gorgeous and delicious do your cupcakes look!

  6. I love dates and these cupcakes sound amazing!

  7. Ooo, that combination of flavors sounds amazing. How did you come up with it?

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