These cherry muffins are a treat any hour of the day. Dried cherries, white chocolate chips, and crushed almonds baked into a chocolate muffin make this a worthy competitor of cupcakes! If morning muffins usually leave you unimpressed, you’ll be a fan once you make a batch of these scrumptious cherry muffins.
The Difference Between a Muffin and a Cupcake
I used to make the joke for years that the only difference between a muffin and a cupcake is the time of day when you eat it. I’m not alone for feeling this way because there are muffins that seem just like cupcakes, only naked. But I’m food-curious, so I took the time to read up on what people who know way more than me have to say on the matter.
It turns out there are significant differences between muffins and cupcakes.
How They’re Made
Cupcakes are literally just little cakes. They have the same texture as “big cakes” because the batter is made the same way — the cake method. I Googled it and did you know there are five different methods for making cakes? Me either. That “All in One” method sounds like just the ticket.
Muffins, on the other hand, are their own thing. They’re made via the “muffin method.” What is the muffin method? It’s the technique of mixing your dry ingredients in one bowl, your wet ingredients in another bowl, combining them at the last minute, and trying not to overmix.
Minimal mixing is to avoid gluten development since gluten will result in soft, airy muffins — the ones that end up being like naked cupcakes.
How They Look and Feel
Muffins are supposed to be heavier and denser than cupcakes. I saw one description that talked about how muffins have a “coarser crumb,” as opposed to cupcakes, which have a “fine crumb.” If you think about the consistency of the inside of a corn muffin and compare that to the inside of your favorite bakery cupcake, you’ll probably get the idea.
The cherry muffins this recipe makes aren’t crumbly like corn muffins, but they aren’t the soft, cakey texture of cupcakes either. They’re somewhere in between, which ends up being exactly where I want them. One of the most off putting things about muffins is how messy they are — if something’s going to fall apart and get crumbs all over me as soon as I start eating it, I’m not going to want to bother with it.
How They Taste
Cupcakes have more fat, egg, and sugar (i.e. all the good stuff) in their batter than muffins. They’re meant to be sweeter and richer tasting even before you slather them with icing.
Muffins can be of the sweet variety, either plain or with glazes or crumb toppings. But muffins can also be savory (think jalapeno corn muffins). Cupcakes are never savory.
My Challenge, Should I Choose To Accept It
Honestly, the more I wrote about the differences between cupcakes and muffins, the more I wanted to make cupcakes and not muffins! As a rule, muffins tend to leave me lukewarm if they’re the only option for breakfast.
I suppose I could have cheated. Just used my favorite chocolate cake batter and pulled an “Oopsie! I guess I overmixed the ingredients. Oh, darn. Now I have to make do with all these remarkably cupcake-like cherry muffins.”
But I can’t do things like that. At least not after knowing there really is a difference between a cupcake and a muffin. I agreed to make cherry muffins, not cherry cupcakes. Without realizing it, I had accepted the challenge to make a cherry muffin I actually enjoy eating.
Good thing I like challenges.
The Details of This Cherry Muffin Recipe
I could have gone any number of ways when I put this recipe together. “Cherry muffins” can exist in a lot of variations, but these are some of the key points about the muffins I made for this post.
I Forgot All About These Cherries
I’ve made Cherry Crumble using fresh cherries and I’ve also made Cherry Turnovers using canned cherries. As of the writing of this post, I’ve yet to make something with cherry pie filling but I’m sure I’ll get to that at some point. However, there was another form of cherry I completely forgot about.
In fact, had I not been given a bag of dried cherries a couple weeks ago, it’s anyone’s guess how long it would have been before I remembered those exist. But as soon as I saw them I said, “Ah ha! Those are my cherries for cherry muffins.”
Fresh cherries would be perfectly fine to use. You’ll just have to add in the time to pit and chop up your cherries. Be sure to wear a shirt you don’t care about ruining because if pitting cherries doesn’t stain it, chopping cherries most certainly will!
Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut
I don’t always put nuts in my baked goods, but lately I’ve been on a nut kick and I’m putting them in anything I think I can get away with. I always planned to put some kind of nut in this muffin, but it took a while for me to select which one to use.
I finally went with almonds for the nut element in this recipe because cherries and almonds are known to pair up well in all sorts of food. But walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, or even pistachios would also work quite nicely as substitutes for the almonds.
I had some sliced almonds left over from my Cherry Turnovers recipe, but not the amount I needed. The only other almonds I had were whole. As you know, whole almonds are
pretty extremely difficult to chop. I’ve broken nut choppers I put whole almonds in — how a nut can go up against metal and win is beyond me!
Normally I use a hammer on whole almonds, but I couldn’t find the hammer because I don’t know where my husband put it. I definitely needed half a cup of almonds not-in-whole-form, so I had to improvise.
I was forced to use a rolling pin to crush almonds in a sandwich bag. I don’t mean that I rolled the pin over them with a moderate amount of force and was rewarded with nice, crushed nuts — had I been working with walnuts or pecans, sure.
Instead, I was on a small stool that gave me enough height for leverage and I was pushing down on the roller cylinder (not the handles — they would have broken off) with enough force to work up some body heat and have sore hands afterwards.
I had to work hard for those crushed almonds. I recommend buying processed almonds.
Two Kinds of Chocolate
The muffin I made as the “base” of this recipe was a chocolate muffin made with cocoa powder that’s quite tasty all on its own. I considered putting semisweet or milk chocolate chips in the batter for some extra chocolatey goodness. But then I thought of how pretty white chocolate chips would look in the finished cherry muffins and I went with white chocolate for purely aesthetic reasons.
About Powdered Buttermilk
I’m a fan of buttermilk in recipes. What I’m not a fan of is buying a jug or carton of buttermilk, using maybe a cup of it, and then it just sits in my fridge until I end up throwing it out. Buttermilk only lasts around 14 days once opened and I can never seem to plan enough recipes calling for buttermilk in a two week period just so I can be sure to use it up. I’m not that organized.
There are quite a few very good ways to create a substitute for real buttermilk and I’ve used them. But they require using regular milk and sometimes I’m out of that too. When I discovered powdered buttermilk, it was a game changer and my pantry has never been without a can since. This is the only brand of powdered buttermilk I’ve been able to find so it’s the one I always use.
If you prefer to use liquid buttermilk, just substitute it for the amount of water the recipe calls for (and obviously don’t put powdered in the dry ingredients).
This Was a Last Minute Addition
I don’t know why I did this, but I threw in some cappuccino mix with my other dry ingredients. It was just one of those impulsive things I do sometimes.
Since I only used 3 tablespoons, it’s more of an optional ingredient. I’m not sure how much difference it made since I didn’t make any cappuccino-free muffins to use as a control group (there’s my Psychology degree rearing it head from dormancy).
Your Sifter’s Moment Has Arrived
I’ve always had a sifter in my kitchen tool/gadget arsenal. I rarely get to use it, however. For some reason I don’t seem to come across many baking recipes that call for the dry ingredients to be sifted. I don’t know why this is. Maybe sifting is one of those things that has become archaic and unfashionable — “old school baking.”
But I loved getting my sifter out for this cherry muffin recipe, especially this pretty sifter I got for my birthday this year (I hadn’t realized my husband knew what a sifter was, let alone that I needed one).
If you don’t have a sifter, not to worry. A whisk will do the job too.
If you don’t have a whisk, either (not judging here — I’m the girl who doesn’t own an apple corer or a cherry pitter), use a fork to mix everything and break up the lumps.
Glazed Versus Unglazed
I opted to make an unglazed cherry muffin. But a simple powdered sugar glaze would be a nice finishing touch if you prefer your muffins that way.
If I’m being honest, it didn’t even occur to me to make a glaze at the time of this bake! But even if it had, I probably would have only glazed half the muffins because I’m not Team Glaze when it comes to muffins.
I kid you not, as I was writing this section, my husband asked me (mouth FULL of muffin) “How come there’s no frosting on these?” I don’t know why I bothered, but I explained how the toppings (or lack thereof) are part of what distinguishes muffins from cupcakes. I thought he’d find this information interesting and it would make sense why the muffins I made were plain.
After I was done dropping this food education bomb on him, all I got was that “Mongo not happy” look. Oh, he still finished that muffin. He just looked a little resentful while doing so.
I shoulda made a glaze.
Storing and Freezing Cherry Muffins
Assuming your cherry muffins don’t all get eaten up as soon as they come out of the oven, you can store them once they’ve cooled. I recommend putting the muffins in large resealable storage bags or in an airtight container to keep them moist. They’ll keep for a few days, but I bet they’ll be eaten well before then.
If you want to freeze your cherry muffins once they’ve cooled, you can go to the trouble of wrapping them individually in wax paper and then putting them in freezer bags…or you can just put them directly in the freezer bags and skip the wax paper. They’ll keep in the freezer for up to 3 months but, again, something tells me they won’t stay in your freezer that long.
A Time-Saving Hack For Baking Recipes
These cherry muffins are fairly quick to put together. I can easily see me whipping up a batch of these on a weekend morning (being sure to remember a GLAZE for Someone to have on his muffins).
But there’s a little pre-planning trick to speed things up so you can make these on a weekday morning. For baking recipes I make often, I’ll premix the dry ingredients and store them in resealable bags that I label (so I remember what it’s for). All I have to do is pour the contents of the bag in a bowl and follow the rest of the recipe. I’ve done this for cakes, pancakes, waffles, and bread.
With this recipe you can also premeasure the dried cherries, almonds, and white chocolate chips and store them in a bag. Just dump all that into the batter once the wet ingredients have been mixed in.
It’s like creating your own version of a boxed cherry muffin mix — just add egg, water, oil, and vanilla!
To make these awesome cherry muffins, the first thing I did was cut up the dried cherries into smaller pieces. I’d mistakenly thought dried cherries were the same size as raisins or dried cranberries, but they’re not. They’re bigger and, for me, too big to use in a muffin recipe.
I used my kitchen shears to cut the cherries into pieces about the size of raisins. You can see the size difference between the ones I cut up and the ones that are still whole.
I will point out that I only used ½ a cup of dried cherries in this recipe, which is on the conservative side. I have a tendency to overdo my ingredients sometimes. With there also being ½ a cup of almonds and ½ a cup of white chocolate chips, 1 ½ cups of things added to the batter seemed like the muffins could get “crowded,” if you catch my meaning.
I’m not even going to pretend that these muffins scream “I’m a cherry muffin!” The cherry taste is subtle, but it’s there. I can, however, see this not satisfying cherry fanatics. If you really want the cherry flavor to take center stage, I’d increase the dried cherries to ¾ of a cup, maybe a whole cup if you really, really, really want to taste cherry above all else.
The next time I make these, I’ll use ¾ of a cup of dried cherries to see how it goes.
Then I threw my dried ingredients into the sifter and I sifted them into a medium-sized mixing bowl (I could have used my small one, had I been able to find it).
But even after sifting, the ingredients weren’t as mixed as I like, so I grabbed my whisk and used that to stir everything together.
Time for the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl — egg, water, oil, and vanilla. Mix them well.
So now the dry ingredients are ready to be added to the wet ones.
Do yourself a favor and do NOT use a whisk to combine everything. It turns out the batter is kind of thick (brownie consistency). I was highly annoyed at the big glob of batter stuck in the whisk and I had to beat the whisk repeatedly on the side of the bowl to finally get it to come out.
Using a heavy duty spatula would have been a much better idea. Learn from my mistakes.
In fact, the batter was too thick for my comfort, so I added 1 tablespoon of water that I folded in. Then the consistency was perfect.
Now it’s time for the good stuff — the cherries, almonds, and white chocolate.
Fold them in, but still bear in mind you’re making muffins and the muffin method requires that you not overmix!
Your muffin pans are up next. I made regular-sized muffins. If you want to make these in mini muffin form, you’ll just shorten the baking time. The opposite is true if you want to go the jumbo size muffin route — you’ll increase the baking time.
I Googled to get the recommended baking time adjustments and I’ll share those in the recipe instructions.
I used a spoon to add the batter to the tins, making sure I distributed the batter evenly among the tins. I was surprisingly accurate, because I didn’t have any muffins that were obviously bigger or smaller than the rest.
Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes (my Ninja Foodi usually takes the minimum baking time). A good idea is to test your muffins with an inserted toothpick at the minimum baking time to see if they’re done or need a little more baking time.
These smell soooooooo good as they’re baking. I was pretty excited about trying one.
And that’s all it takes to make cherry muffins with that classic cracked top. You can glaze them now if you want. (It seems I’ll have to glaze at least a few from now on.)
I read somewhere that muffins are never to be eaten hot or cold, but always warm. In general, I mistrust absolutes. I feel like the “Muffins can never be eaten cold” statement is one that can be disregarded. In fact, I’ve eaten two muffins since I made them today — the first one was still warm from the oven and the second one had cooled. They were both equally tasty.
You’ll see what I mean.
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ½ granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons powdered buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons cappuccino mix (optional)
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup water (or ¾ cup buttermilk, leaving out the powdered buttermilk)
- ⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ½ - ¾ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup crushed almonds
- ½ cup white chocolate chips
- Glaze (optional)
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Using kitchen shears, cut the dried cherries into raisin-size pieces.
- In a small-to-medium size mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, salt, powdered buttermilk, and cappuccino mix.
- Using a whisk or fork to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, water, oil and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with a spatula or spoon until just combined.
- Add the cherries, almonds, and white chocolate chips.
- Fold into the batter.
- Lightly spray cooking oil in the tins of the muffin pans you are going to use.
- Spoon the batter into the tins, to a little over ¾ full (with muffins, it's okay to slightly overfill).
- Bake at 400 degrees for the suggested times, depending on your muffin tin size. Check all muffins with a toothpick at the minimum time to determine if they are done.
- Once done, remove the muffins from the muffin tins right away.
Optional: Mix all glaze ingredients well and pour over muffins after they are removed from the tins.
Suggested Baking Times:
- For regular size muffins, bake for 18-20 minutes.
- For mini muffins, bake for 10-12 minutes.
- For jumbo muffins, bake for 24-26 minutes.