birthday / bourbon / cupcake

I Have a Turtle

no turtle was harmed in the making of these cupcakes

Not a real turtle.  But once, when pondering “what animal would you be if you were an animal” in college, I decided my friend K be would a turtle.  Turtles do make great friends: they’re cautious and cheeky and sage and can bite off your finger or munch passively on a leaf.  Turtles hang around.  In cartoons they are depicted as grumpy or really chill or plucky and cute, all of which aptly describe K.  They carry their home with them.  Turtles are awesome.

This particular turtle has a favorite cocktail: Makers and ginger.  So when my turtle was turning 28, I brought some Makers and ginger cupcakes to the park to celebrate, decorated with, well, turtles.  But delicious turtles.  Turtle, turtle, turtle.

Makers Mark and Ginger Ale Cupcakes


For the cupcakes (makes 1 dozen) If you prefer to use cake mix, make sure you purchase a dark chocolate variety, make according to recipe with addition of ground ginger.  Substitute 2 oz water with bourbon if you like them extra boozy.

  • 3/4 cups unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder (I prefer King Arthur’s Double Dutch Dark Cocoa, your chocolate cake comes out close to black in color and tastes fudgy rich.  This is not some weak Hershey’s mess.  This is real cocoa for the chocolate lover.)
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour (no specific endorsement here)
  • 1 teas espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 teas ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

For the glaze

  • 2 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbs corn syrup
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 oz Markers Mark
  • 1 teas ground ginger
  • lime zest

For the frosting

  • 1 8oz block of cream cheese
  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter, softened
  • 4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 oz Maker’s Mark
  • 1 teas vanilla extract
  • candied ginger and marzipan tutles for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard cupcake tin with cupcake papers.  Place cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix well and set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing with each addition one.   Add vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low. Spoon in the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with sour cream, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the cupcake comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. You can glaze the cupcakes warm, but let cool completely before frosting.

Make the glaze: melt chocolate, butter, corn syrup, ginger and lime together over low heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  If you have bad luck scorching chocolate, use a double boiler. Whisk in Maker’s Mark.  Poke holes in cupcakes with a skewer or fork.  Spoon glaze over cupcakes, using the back of the spoon to spread the glaze into all the nooks and crannies.  Let cool.

While the glaze cools, make the frosting.  Using a hand mixer,  combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl.  Add 1 cup confections sugar and mix well.  Add Maker’s Mark, ginger, and vanilla.  Mix in remaining sugar, adding more in necessary to reach desired consistency.

Marzipan Turtles

tiny marzipan turtles

  • Dye one pea sized ball of marzipan white
  • Dye one pea sized ball of marzipan black
  • Dye one ping pong sized ball of marzipan green.
  • Leave remaining marzipan natural color.

Shape four small balls of marzipan together to form feet.  Roll a log of marzipan to form body and head, rounding the head end and curving it upward at a cute, expressive angle.  shape small amount of green marzipan into a disc to drape over naked turtle to form a shell.  Flatten tiny discs of white marzipan to form eyeballs.  Add an even tinier disc of black on top of each to form pupils.  Using a toothpick, lift eyes and place on head of turtle.


2 thoughts on “I Have a Turtle

    • White food coloring does exist! Not usually something you find in the grocery store unfortunately, but most baking specialty stores have it – NY Cake & Bake in Manhattan is where I got mine. A little goes a long way, too.

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