Home vegan Barberry Hazelnut Cupcakes

Barberry Hazelnut Cupcakes

by Mihl

Barberry-Hazelnut Cupcakes

Sometimes I think writing a food blog is pointless. It is like trying to heat your room while your window is open wide. In case of the blog it is not the energy that is lost, but taste, smell, and so much more.
You cannot hand over a cupcake and let people smell and taste it. Instead, you have to describe the smell, the taste, the feeling of the food in your mouth.
And in my case, you have to do all of these things in a foreign language, where you have to deal with your own limited vocabulary.
Considering all of this, I’d rather hand you a cupcake through the screen than having to deal with the difficult task of describing a new flavour combination.

Yes, how to describe a new flavour combination? How to describe food that is familiar to you but not to anyone else? These are some of the questions I ask myself every time I write a blog entry.

I think I am not always successful at characterizing the food I make. Sometimes I am too lazy to think about a good text, after all the time I already spent in the kitchen. Sometimes I think my words are not very accurate. Sometimes it just seems all too difficult wo write down what I tasted and smelled.

When I made these cupcakes yesterday evening, again one of the first questions which came to my mind wasn’t “which recipe to use?” but “how to describe these?”.

Because when it comes to taste, smell, and texture, these cupcakes have quite a story to tell. When they were in the oven, there was this typical, very pleasant and complex smell of the plum brandy, I used for soaking the dried barberries. That smell was mixed with a bit of cinnamon and hazelnuts. After 23 minutes I took the cakes out of the oven and could feel their crispy top. It felt exactly like a cookie made with many egg whites, crunchy and airy. One bite and I realized how soft, delicate, and moist they where on the inside. The barberries had become plump and had soaked up every bit of the slivovice flavour but their own character was very present as well. The sour berries contrasted with the sweet cake. But in a good way, like a perfect balance. And then there was the hazelnut and cinnamon combination which brought the cupcakes back to the ground.

This was the best I could do to describe these cupcakes. If you don’t know what I am talking about, come over and I’ll share one with you. Then the only word that is necessary will probably be “yum!”.

Barberry Hazelnut Cupcakes (makes 12-14)
50 g (1/2 cup) dried barberries
1/4 cup slivovice (other fruit brandy is a great substitute, rum or juices will be fine too)
180 ml (3/4 cup) soy milk
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
110 g (1/2 cup) vegan margarine
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
1 envelope bourbon vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
40 g (1/2 cup) toasted ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a small bowl, combine barberries and slivovice and soak for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°C. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a bowl, combine soy milk and flax. Set aside. In a second bowl, beat together margarine and sugar with a hand-held mixer, until light and fluffy. Add soy milk mixture and combine. Beat until  no lumps are left. Add vanilla sugar (or extract), flour, cornstarch, hazelnuts, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Mix until combined. Add barberry mixture and mix again. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins. For larger cupcakes, use 12 tins, for smaller ones, use 14. Bake for 20-23 minutes. Remove from heat and let coll in the pans for five minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

If you  cannot find barberries, dried cranberries will probably make a great substitute.

I didn’t feel like making a frosting for these. Instead I melted 70 g (2.6 oz) dark chocolate and drizzled it over the cupcakes. Then I sprinkled some barberries on top.


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Emma November 4, 2010 - 15:10

Your photograph is absolutely divine. What a great shot and composition. Perfect!

Seglare October 27, 2010 - 11:29

I haven’t had the time to visit your blog (or any others) for a few weeks, and now that I finally did, I found so many wonderful recipes again – not least these cupcakes, which sound amazing! :)

Barberries are completely new to me, too: I don’t think I have ever even heard of them before. They’re probably not available in Denmark, but I’ll keep my eyes open for them on my travels abroad.

Like the previous commenters have said, I think you’re doing a wonderful job here. Your blog is such an inspiration to new bloggers like myself, and I have found so many great recipes here, long before I started my own blog (or even read any blogs regularly). :)

Kip October 23, 2010 - 10:21

I know what you mean about trying to describe a food and wondering if you’re even close to getting the point across. That said, I think you do a great job (your photography skills help a lot too) and your blog is one of my favs! Keep up the excellent food and work :)

kirsten October 22, 2010 - 13:54

Holy..you changed your layout! Looks awesome :)
I have never heard of a barberry? But the way you describe these made MY mouth water….

River (Wing-It Vegan) October 22, 2010 - 04:45

You always describe your food in a way that makes my mouth water, so you must be doing it right! :)

That is such a beautiful picture! It looks like a beam of light descended from the heavens to illuminate those cupcakes… I’m a little dramatic today! :D

Vegan Thyme (Kelly) October 21, 2010 - 16:46

Excellent description and I love this post! Your food sort of carries with it your passion for cooking–I never enter your blog “wondering” about what you have cooked up, I just know you’ve put your heart into it and hands down, it will be amazing! Bravo!

TofuParty October 21, 2010 - 16:44

Believe me, you’re doing this food blogging so very good. Again you really make me drooling for food by just looking at it and reading about it.

Sarah (GF vegan) October 20, 2010 - 06:24


I know the feeling with trying to describe what you’ve made. Often I fall into the same old cliched phrases but like you, after cooking my energy lacks. I then get lazy about writing a decent post.

Anyways, love the sound of this recipe! Thanks :)

Morgan October 19, 2010 - 17:42


Pauline October 19, 2010 - 15:42

Beautiful picture that speaks a thousand words as well as suggesting aromas, textures and flavours. Thank you!

Sarah S. October 18, 2010 - 17:39

Your writing is impeccable, and your food + photography are stunning! I have a hard enough time describing my food in my native tongue, which makes your writing all the more impressive. Love love this post :)

miss v October 18, 2010 - 17:20

I would take a cupcake handed through the screen any day of the week! Of course, the best part is i have the recipe now, so I won’t miss out on the wonderful baking smells and licking batter off my fingers. :)

shellyfish October 18, 2010 - 16:02

Beautiful photo, beautiful words! I know what you mean, and trust me, your flavours are getting across – promise! What could I use in place of the barberries? I’d love to try these!

mihl October 18, 2010 - 20:55

Dried cranberries. Or I bring you some barberries.

Mo October 18, 2010 - 03:37

I’ve never heard of a barberry before, but those are gorgeous!

Josiane October 18, 2010 - 02:17

Zereshk! How do I love those little berries! Not only are they delicious, but they also remind me of the time I’ve spent in Iran – so many good memories! I can imagine how fabulous those cupcakes taste. I’m keeping these in mind and will be making them as soon as I have a chance to get barberries. Yum!

Jessica October 18, 2010 - 01:56

I would love to taste the cupcake! But in keeping a food blog, you present beautiful photos and provide the recipe, so we readers get an idea of the flavors you are enjoying. I know there are times, though, when the dish is exceptional and even a photo doesn’t seem like enough. I did like your description; I’ve never had barberry.

Jes October 17, 2010 - 20:42

These cupcakes sound delicious! I think that’s what I like about food writing, though, the challenge of trying to find the right words to describe the sublime or the recipe that utterly failed. I would **love** to have some barberries around to play with though!

veganhomemade October 17, 2010 - 20:07

They sure sound amazing, especially since I don’t even know what a barberry is! The flavor combination is really interesting. And I wouldn’t consider your English vocabulary limited at all! I don’t think anyone would ever know you weren’t a native speaker.

Tiffany October 17, 2010 - 18:40

Mihl, I have similar difficulties when writing blog posts; it’s never easy to provide descriptions that both capture all elements of the food being discussed and are also unique from their predecessors. But even for writing in a foreign tongue, you do it wonderfully, and your photos are always beautiful additions to the recipes you post here! This one is no exception. I have neither tasted barberries nor cooked with brandy, but can still imagine how delicious these cupcakes must taste!

Also, thanks for the kind words of encouragement you left on my blog. I really appreciate the gesture and will keep it in mind as I try to avoid burnout. :)

TheChicVegan October 17, 2010 - 18:21

I LOOOOOVE this picture. You always have the most amazing recipes! I’ve been following your blog for a while now but never comment. I couldn’t help but let you know how awesome you are! :) Please keep up the amazing work!

Andrea October 17, 2010 - 17:55

The photo is a work of art, as is the description following it. Even if they weren’t accompanied by poetic text, the cupcakes would speak for themselves. Actually, I think they are calling, “eat me, hurry up, I’m exotic and delicious!”

Ricki October 17, 2010 - 17:18

I struggle with the same issues every blog post, too–and English is my mother tongue!! No one would know you’re writing in a second (or third) language. I have a sense of what those cupcakes taste like already–and yes, I would love one right now, thanks! Gorgeous.

t October 17, 2010 - 15:48

Love this post! But all the unusual flavor combinations you use, the beautiful photographs, and the care you put into each recipe also speaks for itself! These cupcakes sound amaaaaazing, I never heard of those berries before, but I guess you can get them in Berlin too. :)

A-K October 17, 2010 - 15:26

That picture is KILLING me (in the best way). And you do an amazing job of speaking in a foreign language, believe me!

BitterSweet October 17, 2010 - 15:25

Gorgeous photo! That lighting is so lovely- Stronger than the norm for food photos, but it totally works, and highlights that luscious chocolate drizzle. Yum!

celine October 17, 2010 - 12:02

you and me, cupcake baby, this is love.

Comments are closed.

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