Before I get started on this post, I want to say how awesome it is that on October 13th the official Tru Blood Beverage website wrote a post about my True Blood Velvet cupcakes on their news page! So exciting, especially for me, I’m a huge fan of the show True Blood & the Sookie Stackhouse books. It was really spiffy that they noticed me & my lil’ ol cupcakes. I really geeked out over it for a while, truth be told (and still am, kinda). If you missed the post, and can’t find it, don’t worry. If you check out my press page, you’ll see a screenshot of what was written.
In researching my latest cupcake endeavor, I found out an interesting new fact. I didn’t know that black licorice was referred to as ‘Devil’s Road Tar’, but once I did I was so excited. I’m a big black licorice fan, I’m that person who eats all the black jelly beans and gum drops and leaves the rest. Not to mention there’s nothing like a good quality piece of licorice candy. I love it. Fennel, anise, licorice… whatever. I love it all. When I was little, my grandpa used to share his licorice pastilles with me, when I was a kid I’d devour Good & Plenty’s like there was no tomorrow, and as I got older I fell in love with Luden’s Honey Licorice cough drops (which are really hard to find, but I’ve been suckin’ ‘em down like crazy the past few weeks since I’m just getting over a bad ass cold) whether I was sick or not. I used to brush my teeth with Tom’s of Maine fennel toothpaste for a while, too. And Sambuca? Yes please. But all that aside, when I discovered that alias above, I knew it was perfect that I make these for Halloween. I stumbled upon a few different licorice cupcake ideas on the web. Some didn’t really appeal to me, to be honest, and others were combined with odd flavors. I don’t like chocolate with licorice, sorry. Vanilla was a safe bet, but I wanted something a little different. And so inspired by a few other bloggers, I decided the best bet would be an orange marshmallow topping made with Fluff. Why orange? Well, there’s an ice cream called ‘Tiger Tail’ (thanks Tania) that is orange ice cream with licorice sauce, and also there was a candy made by See’s that was a licorice stick, but orange & licorice together. The combination intrigued me, since both flavors are in my list of favorites. And really, what’s more Halloween-y than black & orange? Plus they match my Halloween cupcake cookie jar & cupcake candle… heh.
Admittedly, these will not be for everyone. Most of you will probably gag at the thought of these. That’s alright. It’s my blog & I’ll bake licorice cupcakes if I want to! And if no one else likes them, then more for me. This recipe only makes 12, so it’s not like a lot will go to waste. Honestly, they were really delicious. Not too much of an in-your-face licorice flavor, just a pleasant anise taste. And I even added more anise to mine! Don’t be afraid to try them, even if you cut the recipe in half. I am not ashamed to say I ate three in a row. Okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed. But they’re made with egg whites, so they’re healthier. Right?
The cupcakes, with an interesting cast of characters on top.
.You know what I learned while looking up licorice? Licorice is not the same thing as fennel or anise, despite having the flavoring compounds.
The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole (“trans”-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene), an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.
But for our purposes, for this recipe, anise = licorice and does a pretty good job of it. Licorice has quite a rich history. It’s been used in drinks & teas for ages, and used to soothe many ailments. Not only that, but it’s just plain yummy.
Licorice. Just the word by itself evokes certain memories in each of us. Now imagine tasting some licorice right now; yum! In fact licorice has been enjoyed throughout the ages by pharaohs, kings, and people like you and I! Licorice comes in more varieties than the candy vines, it is used in teas, medicine, booze, food, and all sorts of candy. Let’s take a look at how licorice has become such a delectable treat worldwide.
Now, licorice wasn’t always used in candy of course, it was often put into a drink consumed by the ancient Egyptians. Often time warriors would use licorice because it could help out on long marches when a thirst needed slaking. Many wise men in many countries like Alexander the Great and the Indian prophet, Brahma, encouraged the use of licorice for its healing properties. Even today the Aveda Company makes a comforting tea using the licorice root, Glycyrrhiza Glabra. Licorice has even been used to soothe coughs and heal peptic ulcers.
In spite of all its medicinal qualities, its most popular quality is its wonderful sweetness and its use in candies. It can be found around the world: In the United States of course, and in Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries. Its popularity knows no boundary.
In 1914 the American Licorice Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois. Black Vines were born that year and have remained a popular treat ever since. The chewy black goodness evolved into “yummies” such as: Black Crows, Licorice Snaps, Black Scotties, and an all time favorite, Good and Plenty. My favorite was a product call “Allsorts.” These were originally manufactured in England and looked like beautiful candy jewels with licorice surrounded by pink, blue, and yellow confections. They were cut into squares, cylinders, and rounds; usually layered so you could see the licorice in the center of say a pink round candy. The look was tempting and the taste magnificent. You can still buy these today.
Eventually, in 1920 the classic Raspberry Vines made their debut, and while they weren’t really licorice, they became synonymous with licorice because they were produced by the same company and had the same chewy characteristics as real black licorice. However, red licorice is made with strawberry or cherry extracts; they are not made with the licorice root, therefore, they don’t taste anything like black licorice, but are delicious in their own right.
Licorice has been used for kinds of purposes throughout the ages. One thing that stands true is the tastiness and the memories we get when licorice is on our palate. We reminisce a bit about when life seemed to move a bit slower, or when grandpa would hand us a licorice morsel out of his jar. Whatever the memory is, there is no denying the history and goodness of a licorice treat!
BLACK LICORICE CUPCAKES
First you get:
- 1 1/3 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons anise extract
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 oz white chocolate (good quality)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 5 egg whites at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Melt chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler. When completely melted and combined, stir in the sugar, and set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl.
- In a large glass measuring cup, mix together the milk, vanilla, and anise extracts.
- Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Beat just until ingredients are combined after each addition.
- With clean bowl and beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for one minute,then on high until soft peaks form.
- Transfer 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter bowl, gently fold to combine. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
- Fill 12 cupcake papers to ¼ inch from the top rim. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I frosted them with an orange marshmallow Fluff frosting that I striped with black & orange stripes, then piped it on and sprinkled it with orange and brown sprinkles with miniature black bats. I don’t often do the “holiday themed jimmies” thing, but these were so freakin’ cute with the mini-bats, I had to. The toppers are vintage, they include a jack-o-lantern, a flying witch, a black cat face, a witch’s head, a black cat, a scarecrow and a skull & crossbones. Cute, right? The liners are Martha Stewart for Michael’s, of course. She always pulls me in with these adorable liners and then I always buy way more than I need to. But that’s alright, it just means more cupcakes and muffins for this delicious holiday.
Honestly, even if you aren’t a big licorice fan, you might like these. They aren’t bold at all, they have a very light flavor. And if you’re looking for the frosting recipe, it’s here. Just add orange extract to it instead of vanilla and you’re ready for Halloween. And Arwyn, my darling little creature the color of licorice, is ready for Halloween too. As always.