I admit it: I love bacon. I love it too much to relegate it breakfast, which is often skipped or consumed half awake. I want bacon for lunch and for dinner too. And, if possible, I want bacon for dessert. Lunch and dinner recipes are easy, but dessert… well… it’s a little tricker. Or so I thought…
I used one of my favorite baking hacks, a box of cake mix, to reduce the time and cost of making these. Now, let’s take a minute to talk about boxes of cake mix. They are a win/win. First, they cost about $1.50, which saves you at least $10 on the various ingredients you’d need to buy to make a cake from scratch. Second, they really do taste good. I can’t tell the difference between a good boxed cake and one made from scratch, so you probably can’t either. Personally, I think it’s the frosting that really sets cupcakes apart. Third, you still have to add a few ingredients and bake it, so you get the fun part of the experience and homemade touch without all the measuring and mess. That said, cake mix from a box does have its limitations (although not many, based on the selection now available). For this recipe, I jazzed it up a little by adding maple extract to the cake mix, and it gave me exactly the results I wanted with minimal effort.
Here’s the complete list of ingredients:
- Box of yellow cake mix (and eggs, oil, water as listed on the back)
- 1/2 tbsp Maple Extract*
* A quick note about maple extract: This may be hard to find. I had to go to 4 stores to find it (eventually found it at Safeway, but not Whole Foods). So don’t assume that your store will carry it. There are places you can order it online if you plan ahead. You might be able to substitute maple syrup, but I don’t recommend it. I wondered what the difference was myself so I tasted it and it’s stronger and much less sweet than syrup, so the substitution would definitely be noticeable.
For the Frosting:
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) of butter (at room temp)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp maple extract
- 1/2 tsp water
- bacon (about 4 strips) for garnish
While the cupcakes baked, I put the bacon in a skillet to fry. By the time the cupcakes were finished, the bacon was cooked and cooling on a paper towel. Once the bacon was cool, I used a knife to coarsely chop it so that it could be sprinkled onto the top of the cupcakes.
The last step was to make the frosting. I used this recipe as a guide but tweaked it slightly (see my ingredient list above) based on the comments and the exact taste and consistency I wanted. I put the butter, sugar, maple extract, maple syrup, and a splash of water into my KitchenAid Mixer and let it whisk everything until smooth.
For the professional-looking swirl, I put the frosting in a big heavy-duty ziplock bag (the cheap ones will burst – learned that the hard way!) and snipped off one of the corners. That let me pipe it on like they do at the bakeries, starting on the outside and swirling my way inward. A quick word of warning, though: if you pipe it on as thick as I did, you will run out and have about 5 naked cupcakes.
Last, sprinkle with the bacon bits. Be as stingy or as generous as you like, but I’d encourage you to go “hog wild” (sorry… couldn’t resist)!
I know that cupcakes aren’t normally considered the manliest dessert, but these are a bit of an exception. They deserve a spot at any tailgate, poker night, or potluck. One of my favorite things about these is that they really capture the essence of fall, without a single hint of pumpkin (which is a bit over-played, don’t you think?)