I am a bad Montrealer.
Reason 1. I’m definitely a Maritimer who just stumbled on a life here.
Reason 2. Poutine upsets my stomach.
Reason 3. I haven’t been to Cabane à sucre.
For those unfamiliar with Quebec customs, maple season is sacred. If you’re also unfamiliar with French, Cabane à sucre roughly translates to sugar house, or “sugar shack.”
This is the time of year when people celebrate the sweet nectar of the maple tree by pouring it over all of the pancakes and beans and ham and bacon and other miscellaneous pork products they can get their hands on.
It kicks off in late winter and continues through early spring.
People pile into cars and head out to their Cabane à sucre of choice. They’re usually in some sort of rustic, tucked away building with clapboard siding in the country.
I guess I should say I have technically been to a sugar shack before. On my eighth grade trip, we went to Quebec for three nights. It was June and sticky and hot. I was a picky eater and totally insecure about eating away from the comfort of my mom’s kitchen in the presence of my middle school crush. I only remember having a pancake or two.
Let’s not count that one.
This is the year.
I kicked off maple season by picking up my first CAN of maple syrup. I’m not sure, but I think it’s much more common here to buy it in a can than it is anywhere else (someone, please correct me if I’m wrong).
How do you store canned maple syrup once it’s open? I poured mine into a mason jar, freshly sterilized in the dishwasher and sealed it tight in the fridge.
It seems to be working well so far!
These cupcakes were such a fun experiment.
The caramel is salty and sweet, with just a hint of maple flavour. The cake itself isn’t too sugary, with a spicy little kick from the cloves and cinnamon. Cream cheese frosting is the perfect tangy taste to offset the sweet, salt and spice.
Also, I’m still on the look out for Cabane à sucre recommendations, so give em’ here!
Salted maple caramel cupcakes
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup of milk
1 3/4 cups white flour
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 batch of maple caramel (see below)
1/2 block of plain, full fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 – 3 cups icing sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a muffin tray with liners.
- Cream butter and sugar with a handheld or stand mixer before adding eggs/egg whites. Cream until fluffy and light. Add vanilla, spices, yogurt and milk. Once fully combined, add your dry ingredients and blend until just mixed, taking care not to mix too long.
- Pour into prepared muffin tray and bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The tops will be springy. Set aside to cool.
- Prepare your maple caramel as directed below.
- After about 30 minutes, core your cupcakes with an apple corer (or a cupcake corer, if you have one. If you don’t, you could attempt with a spoon but I’m unsure of the result). Spoon in caramel until it reaches the top. Set aside to cool completely.
- To make your cream cheese frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese together until fully combined. Add salt and vanilla. Mix in icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting is fluffy, but not too thick.
- Frost your cupcakes and decorate as you please.
SALTED MAPLE CARAMEL
1/2 cup of salted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of real maple syrup (not pancake or table syrup)
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp salt
- Add all of your ingredients to a medium-sized pot on the stove. Turn the burner to medium-high and let come to a boil. Once it bubbles, turn the heat down to low and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes or until the caramel is thicker and smoother. Remove from heat for 20-30 minutes to prepare for pouring into cupcakes.