How much do I love Starbucks and how often do we go there? Well, my toddler requests a stop almost daily, if that tells you anything. I’m not proud. But hey, at least she thought McDonald’s was a farm (truth).
Starbucks is a weakness, for sure. And around this time of year, their cranberry bliss bars are also a weakness. A buttery blondie base studded with white chocolate and cranberries and then smothered in cream cheese frosting, more cranberries, and a white chocolate drizzle? Pure holiday nirvana.
I allow myself maybe one or two per year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t dream about them otherwise. Or offshoots. Like Cranberry Bliss Muffins. I had to create them. It was my calling. My mission. My density.
The muffins themselves are buttery and craggy, more dense than light, almost more moist scone than cake. With their cream cheese frosting and white chocolate drizzle, I didn’t want the muffin itself to be light and fluffy. Otherwise, they would be cupcakes! These are unmistakably muffins – but with frosting. And toppings. And awesomeness.
A muffin with frosting – totally acceptable for the holidays.
A few recipe notes
The base of these muffins is adapted from the blueberry muffin recipe in a seriously incredible new cookbook, The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. These guys exhaustively test recipes until they come up with what, they feel, is the best version of each one.
It’s a different sort of muffin recipe – no milk, only sour cream – but the result is rich and thick, even vaguely reminiscent of the blondies these muffins are inspired by. Be sure to follow the steps as stated – vigorously whisking the egg, beating it with the sugar, GENTLY folding the wet and dry ingredients together – or your muffins may turn out tougher than you like.
Cranberry Bliss Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour* (240 grams)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (lightly chopped, divided)
- 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (divided)
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (aka confectioners' sugar)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a standard-size muffin pan with 12 cups by either greasing the cups with butter or a non-stick oil spray or by adding cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Crack the egg into a medium bowl and whisk until pale, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick and well-combined, another 30 seconds. Add the melted butter and whisk vigorously to combine. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest. Lastly, add the sour cream in two additions, whisking just until combined.
- Chop the cranberries (if you haven't already). Reserve 2 tablespoons and set aside. Add the remainder to the flour mixture along with 1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips. Toss the cranberries and white chocolate chips with the flour mixture just until distributed.
- Add the sour cream mixture to the flour and fold very gently with a rubber spatula, continuing to fold and stir gently just until combined. The batter will be very thick and there may still be bits of flour here and there; that's okay. Better to have spots of flour than to overmix.
- Using a trigger-handled ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop into muffin cups in approx. 1/3 cup increments, dividing evenly between the 12 cups. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer afixed with the whisk attachment or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until well combined, about 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix on medium speed until well combined and smooth, about 60 seconds.
- Frost cooled muffins with a knife - each takes about a tablespoon of frosting. Sprinkle on remaining chopped cranberries. Lastly, place 1/4 cup white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 50% power in 15-second increments until they melt when stirred. If the white chocolate siezes up, try adding a 1/4 teaspoon or so of vegetable oil to help get it to a drizzle-able consistency. I find my luck varies depending on what brand of white chocolate chips I use (I do like Ghirardelli the best). Another option would be to use a double boiler to melt the white chocolate. Using a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate over the tops of each muffin in long, thin streams. Let sit until white chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes, and serve.
- The muffins keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, much beyond that and they get a little stale. You could also freeze the muffins then thaw and frost/garnish before serving.