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Celebrate Canada Day with Maple Cupcakes

Tomorrow is Canada Day – a day, much like Fourth of July, of backyard barbecues and general merrymaking, at which food is always present.

But what constitutes Canadian food? Perhaps because of the Canadian flag and its iconic maple leaf, Canada is associated with maple syrup – made from the sap of the sugar maple tree, Quebec is the world’s largest producer of the stuff. Turns out, it also makes a mighty fine cupcake, so luckily there’s no need to celebrate with pancakes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Cupcakes are nicely portable and well-received at any function at which both kids and adults will be present; if you pop by the dollar store at this time of year you’ll likely find wee flags (American flags work too – Vermont makes its share of maple syrup) to stick in the top – voilÝ  – no decorating necessary!

The extract adds a little extra maple kick – surprisingly, when baking with maple syrup the flavour is more predominant in the unbaked batter than in the finished product. I imagine this recipe would make a pretty delicious vanilla-honey cake too; just substitute good vanilla extract for the maple, and honey for the maple syrup, reducing it a bit as honey is more intensely sweet than maple syrup. For a regular sized cake, bake the batter in two 9″ round pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray for about half an hour, until springy to the touch.

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. maple extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, thinned with milk
3/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition; beat in the maple extract.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another, stir together the buttermilk and maple syrup. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk in two, beating on low speed just until blended after each addition.

Divide the batter among about 24 paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, until springy to the touch.

Maple Frosting

I tried this ratio and it worked, but you could cut the butter by half if you’re trying to reduce your fat intake. You may need to add a little extra maple syrup or even a couple teaspoons of vanilla. Essentially you adjust the proportions of each ingredient until you have a soft, spreadable frosting.

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup

In a medium bowl, beat the butter with half the icing sugar until creamy. Add the remaining icing sugar and maple syrup and beat until well blended and smooth, adding a little extra sugar or syrup as needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes.

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