Tarragon Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tarragon always reminds me of my childhood. One of my favorite dinners growing up would be when mom made fondue. It was always so much fun and so interactive. She would break out the brick red fondue pot with its little yellow stained, originally white, squiggly line design from way back from the 70's and fill it with hot oil. We would each be served a bowl with cubes of steak (often times mom and I would eat them raw with a bit of seasoning, yum! perfect making for a cannibal sammich as she called them) and we would all have our very own artichoke.

After my brother and I fought over who got which color of fondue forks, we would all catch up on our days while dropping our steaky bits in the fondue, the occasional piece being lost, and sooner or later we would be undoing the jigsaw of forks to get our streaky bits out of the pot. My refusal to eat the artichoke heart (it was a spiny heart and I was a kid, would you eat a spiny heart as a child?) was a bit of a ritual. It was a hands on, play-time meal for the whole family.

But the smell of tarragon! The dipping sauce my mom made for the steak and artichokes was amazing, but simple. Melted butter, some salt, and chopped tarragon! She would place it all in ramekins and place them on top of the lid of the dish the artichokes and let them melt. Oh! I loved it, and have ever since. Tarragon's grassy, slightly anise like flavor is intoxicating. And while some out there are thinking, "EWW, ANISE!" tarragon is always the exception I find when it comes to those who hate licorice flavor, including myself.

These cupcakes taste better have spending the night covered in the fridge so the flavors have more time to meld. Vanilla bean and tarragon go great together and have a classy, adult flavor to them. They were a total hit at the office where I work, it seems tarragon and vanilla is that perfect pairing no one ever seemed to notice before, and I bet would make for wonderful flavors to add to fish and salads. The high society flavor of this cupcake is perfect for a bridal shower or maybe an afternoon get together with friends.

In the future I would also garnish them with some tarragon leaves, but ah well, next time.

Tarragon Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes / 350F oven

What You'll Need...
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon

What You'll Do...
1) Place the milk and 3 tablespoons of chopped tarragon in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the rim. Take off heat and let cool in the fridge.

2) Beat butter on high until soft for 30 seconds.

3) Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.

4) Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

5) Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.

6) Mix in the flour mixture then the milk mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Fold in the rest of the chopped tarragon.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers about 3/4 full.

8) Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
What You'll Need...
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of milk
1 vanilla bean

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter until soft.

2) Add the sugar and then the milk. Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds. Cream till soft. Spread on cool cupcakes.


  1. Garrett, do you think dried tarragon might be ok for this recipe? I haven't been able to find it fresh anywhere here.


  2. Yeah, should be fine using dried.

  3. I've always been a huge fan of vanilla bean buttercream. Looks fantastic.

  4. Hmmm this could be adapted to a chocolate version.
    You are going through all the herbs in my garden. Least they won't o to waste.

  5. Minko - yeah, but cheryl already did that, haha. plus even with that much tarragon, it's really subtle, i think chocolate would really just decimate the flavor.

  6. Could you tell me where can i find moderately priced vanilla beans?

  7. The vanilla buttercream looks to die for!

  8. almost full - well, I usually get mine from World Market, but I suggest you buy in a small bulk from a company online rather than the store. It's a FAR better price. Comapnies like Beanilla or Singing Dog or Vanilla.com should be able to meet your needs and pocket book. Basically, never buy them at the supermarket, you're being screwed sideways that way.

  9. I don't know how the quality compares, but I've always been pleased with the ones I can find on eBay. Incredibly inexpensive.

  10. Just made these and they turned out really oily...I'd suggest cutting the butter by about 1/4 c -- use 1 and a half sticks instead of two. Or maybe I just did something wrong.

    Great blog!! I love all the recipes here.

  11. I'm making a cake for a dinner party in which the host isn't fond of overly sweet things and I wanted to do a nice buttery tarragon vanilla cake with lemon curd filling. Would that work for this recipe?

  12. I had this brilliant idea for a tarragon flovered cupcake, only to find out it's already been done. Didn't think about chocolate. They look amazing!


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