Giving cupcakes a special buzz…

I have hit my baking groove once again, and my oven must be either loving or hating me for the extensive use this week. This week was rough and stressful. When I got home at night, I either fell asleep on the couch or went into the kitchen to start on a list of recipes. Monday’s stress/boredom session brought about banana oat bread, which was okay…but nothing to write here about. I also made homemade tortilla chips seasoned with Penzey’s Spices Arizona Dreaming seasoning, which complemented the fresh salsa I had on hand well.

While I was looking through recipes yesterday, I found the one my boyfriend’s mom recently sent to me: Honey Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Vanilla Buttercream. Something about this recipe intrigued me, and soon before I knew it, I was whipping up these cupcakes. There was something I didn’t expect while baking…that I was going to have a lot of cupcakes leftover. Instead of jumping right into the recipe, I should have cut the ingredients in half for less cupcakes. However, they turned out being a hit and voila! people loved them.

You might be asking…where can I find lavender? Well, there are several places in Northern Virginia. First, you can pick your own at Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Catlett, Va., which is located outside of Warrenton. The other place to find it would be Penzey’s Spices. You will have to ask for it. I bought mine at Penzey’s, since I did not have time to pick my own. However, I would be tempted to do so at a later time.

Also, you might be asking whether you should use local honey or store-bought honey. While I prefer the taste of locally harvested honey, the mere convenience of the store-bought variety sometimes wins over. Since I am out of my jar of local honey (thanks to my seasonal allergies), I used clover blossom honey from an organic grocery market. It yielded similar quality.

Honey Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Vanilla Buttercream

(Recipe adapted from Ohio Magazine, July 2011 edition)

Cupcakes:

5 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. dried lavender (8 oz. fresh lavender…see note)

2-1/2 c. sugar

3 c. vegetable oil

2 c. buttermilk

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. bourbon vanilla extract (if you have Madagascar or Mexican vanilla, you could use either one as well)

4 eggs, at room temperature

3/4 c. honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda by hand. Set aside.

Note: If using dried lavender that has been processed, mix with sugar. If using fresh lavender: pulse lavender in food processor. Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with sugar. Mix the lavender sugar with the flour mixture.

In a mixer, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, eggs, and honey. Slowly add in the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Portion batter by filling cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Yields 3-1/2 dozen cupcakes

Honey Vanilla Buttercream

1 lb. butter, softened

seeds of 2 Vanilla Beans

1/4 c. honey

2 tsp. dried lavender or 2 tbsp. fresh lavender (pulsed in food processor)

1 lb. powdered sugar

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter with the vanilla bean seeds. Add the honey and lavender and mix at medium speed until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar until ingredients are thoroughly combined and a spreadable consistency.

Spread on cooled cupcakes.

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