American Noir Cupcakes – A Tribute to Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep”

THE BIG SLEEP Cupcakes - Dark chocolate, bourbon, smoky cherries and coffee. To die for.

 Agnes Lowzier: Is Harry there?
Philip Marlowe: Yeah, yeah, he’s here.
Agnes Lowzier: Put him on, will you?
Philip Marlowe: He can’t talk to you.
Agnes Lowzier: Why?
Philip Marlowe: Because he’s dead.

A few months ago two people who don’t know each other inspired me in their own ways to create this, the most dangerously delicious of cupcake recipes.

The first was a man I was dating who had a healthy obsession with American noir, both in film and novel form.  He had loaned me Raymond Chandler’s debut novel, The Big Sleep.  Our beloved protagonist, detective Philip Marlowe, drowns himself in whiskey, smokes cigarettes like a champion and downs coffee to keep it all clear.  Blood is shed and it’s Marlowe’s job to wade through the beauties of the underworld to find out where it all began.

Sounds like the makings of a very sultry dessert if you ask me…

…And a gluten-free one, of course.

The second vessel of inspiration was Kelly over at Ingested Read.  A bookworm and baker like yours truly, Kelly creates recipes inspired by whichever book she’s currently devouring.  I’d contributed Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcakes, Hansel and Gretel Grown-Up Gingerbread and Curious George Banana Bread to her site(all gluten-free and delectable).

But it was time for something sexy.

So after a few months on my mind these cupcakes finally made it to the light.  Last week, in the dim glow of my steamy NYC kitchen, barefoot and a bit sticky, I hollowed out dark chocolate cupcakes, filled them with a cold cherry that had been soaking in smoky, bourbon-laced dark blueberry syrup, and topped them with coffee, whiskey and vanilla frosting and a candy cigarette.  Sweet, smoky, dark and with a tiny punch of alcohol.  Cheers to you, Raymond Chandler.

Cherry Filled and Dangerous

The result?  Cut it down the center, and between the dark chocolate layers oozes a blood red cherry.  The frosting is light and fluffy and offers a one-two punch to combat the bourbon kick of the fruit.  All the flavors meld together… let’s just say you may be inspired to go walk in the rain, or sit in a dim bar, or throw on a mink shawl and shimmy down the street in heels.

Notes: I made two chocolate cake recipes – the gluten/dairy free one you see below and a basic chocolate cake from Real Simple.  I soaked my cherries in smoky blueberry syrup from a recipe I recently made for a Burwell General Store Recipe Swap.  If you need your frosting to be dairy-free, I suggest my favorite Fluffy Vegan Frosting with the addition of the coffee in the recipe below.  These cupcakes are best fresh.

The Big Sleep Cupcakes

Ingredients: Cake

  • 2 cups gluten-free cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower)
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup almond milk thickened with 1 Tbsp soy sour cream or cream cheese or 1 1/2 cup whole cow’s milk
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (optional)

Ingredients: Cherries

I used the smoky blueberry syrup I created last week.  For a quick alternative, try this:

  • 24 ripe cherries, pitted
  • 2 cups blueberry syrup or 1/2 cup blueberry jam dissolved with 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder or paprika
  • 3 Tbsp bourbon or whiskey

Directions: Combine all ingredients and soak for at least 24 hours.

Ingredients: Frosting

  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1lb box powdered sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp good whiskey or bourbon

Directions:

  • Line 24 cupcake tins and preheat oven to 350°.
  • Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, powder and salt.
  • In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) beat oil, sugar and maple syrup on medium/high until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat to combine.
  • Beat in vanilla and chocolate extract.
  • Reduce speed to low and aternate the flour and almond milk, starting and ending with dry, until all are just combined.
  • Fill tins 3/4 of the way full and bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out smooth.  Cool completely.
  • When cool, use a teaspoon to hollow out a space from the top of the cake enough for one cherry.  Fill each cupcake with a cherry and drizzle with a little sauce (this should soak into the cupcake a tiny bit.

To make the frosting: beat the butter on high until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until light.  Add the whiskey, vanilla and coffee and beat to incorporate.

Decorate!  Pipe or use a small icing spatula to glob as much frosting onto the cakes as possible.  Decorate with dark sanding sugar or a candy cigarette.  Enjoy with a cool glass of sweating bourbon.

Yum.

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22 Comments

  1. Pingback: American Noir Cupcakes – A Tribute To Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep | Food Frenzy

  2. Pingback: American Noir Cupcakes – A Tribute To Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep | Food Frenzy

  3. Kelli says:

    Jaqueline, these are uber amazing conceptual cupcakes! You’re a star. These are going up on Intercaketuality this very minute. x

  4. You weren’t kidding…cherry filled and dangerous! The flavors here have to be sensational because the photos sure are. A unique cupcake from a talented baker, thank you for sharing the recipe!

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