Amaretto is the stuff of legends…and cupcakes.
Legend says the origins of amaretto date back to the Italian Renaissance. In 1525, Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo da Vinci’s pupils, was commissioned to paint a series of frescoes featuring the Madonna in the sanctuary of a church in Saronno, Italy.
Luini found a beautiful local innkeeper to use as his model for the Madonna, and, in some versions of the story, the two became lovers. To show her appreciation, Luini’s muse prepared a gift for him: a flask filled with a sweet and fragrant amber liqueur. This was, of course, the first incarnation of what is now known as Disaronno Originale.
Whether it’s true or not, this tale has sentimental value in Saronno culture, and the Disaronno Originale brand continues to disseminate it as the origin story of not just their brand, but of amaretto itself. (This is complicated by the fact that the Lazzaroni Amaretto brand also presents itself as the first such liqueur and tells a different sentimental tale, but that is a story for another day.)
Whatever brand or story you buy into, amaretto is an extremely useful—and delicious—addition to any liquor cabinet. Though amaretto can be served neat or on the rocks, I personally find it too sweet to consume it by itself. Luckily, it can be used to create several popular mixed drinks.
Try the French Connection (amaretto and cognac), the Godfather (amaretto and scotch), the Godmother (amaretto and vodka), or the Godchild (amaretto, vodka and cream). All are served best over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass.
Amaretto also has several culinary uses, particularly in the realm of desserts. Commonly, amaretto is used to flavor tiramisu. It also compliments chocolate and almond flavors especially well, and it is often mixed into ice cream.
I asked Danielle Mullen, a local foodie and baker, for some advice about cooking with amaretto, and she was kind enough to share her recipe for Almond Amaretto Cupcakes. If this recipe interests you, be sure to stop by Danielle’s blog, honeyandvanillabeans.com
Almond Amaretto Cupcakes
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar (60 grams)
1 cup white sugar (225 g)
2 cups all-purpose flour (250 g)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (2.35 fl oz or 70 g)
1/4 cup amaretto (2 fl oz or 55 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup slivered almonds
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons amaretto
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and amaretto, beating well after each addition.
4. Stir in almonds. Batter will be thick.
5. Fill paper-lined muffins cups two-thirds full. Bake at 375° for 14-17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
6. For the frosting, cream together butter and sugar until it takes on a sandy texture.
7. Add in half of the whipping cream and half of the amaretto.
8. Mix well. Add in remaining liquids.
9. Frost cupcakes.