Who knew that Maple Syrup had a season?
Well this new Canadian passport holder didn’t! And I’m surprised I passed the Citizenship test without knowing that vital piece of information! My saving grace, I guess, is that I just love the stuff – particularly smothered over fluffy pancakes.
The maple syrup season usually starts in late February and runs until the end of March. Ideal temperatures of +5°C (41°F) during the day and -5°C (23°F) during the night start the sap running through the trees. Did you know that it takes 40 litres of sap to reduce down (by boiling) to make one litre of maple syrup?
Canada and the United States are the only two maple syrup producing countries in the world with Quebec being the largest producer in Canada and responsible for about 75% of the global supply. In the US, Vermont is the largest producer and generates about 5.5% of the global supply.
Maple syrup contains a number of natural minerals such as calcium, vitamin B, zinc, potassium and magnesium but, unfortunately, you may need to consume vast amounts to get any real health benefit. However, compounds found in Maple Syrup are reported to have antibacterial, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties and further research is currently being undertaken.
Maple syrup is classified as one of three grades, each with several colour classes: Canada No. 1, including Extra Light, Light, and Medium (very mild to mild and sweet flavour); No. 2 Amber (bold flavour); and finally No. 3 Dark or any other ungraded category (full-flavoured and only used commercially).
Armed with all this new found knowledge, I now turn to the matter in hand – a recipe! Given my fondness for cupcakes and maple syrup it seems only natural to combine the two. So, for your baking pleasure Maple Walnut Cupcakes with Maple-Butter Frosting!
Ingredients for the Cupcakes (makes 24)
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) walnuts, chopped medium-fine
- Candied walnuts, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Into a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in walnuts with a wooden spoon.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes are golden and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool slightly. Invert cupcakes onto the rack; then re-invert and let them cool completely, top sides up. Frost tops with Maple Buttercream and garnish with candied walnuts, if using. Cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Ingredients for the Buttercream (frosts 18)
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter or margerine, softened
- 2 – 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup, best quality
- 3 – 4 tablespoons milk
- In a medium bowl, beat frosting ingredients, adding enough milk, until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
- Frost cupcakes and garnish as appropriate.
Here are another 13 recipes that use this wonderful ingredient – and not one of them includes a pancake!