I wasn’t planning on baking this weekend. I was planning on “taking the weekend off”. But all it took was my friend asking, “What about cupcakes for Sunday night?”, and I was all over it. Any excuse to bake, I guess.

I was pressed for time, so I went with the cherry chocolate cupcakes again. Mostly because they were so good, my cousin hadn’t tried them yet, and I had all the ingredients. I did change the frosting from fennel cream cheese to fennel meringue because I was itching to use the blow torch.

The cherry chocolate cupcake is, I am convinced, a great recipe and a crowd pleaser. The meringue frosting is a bit tricky, and I need to work on the recipe some, but I am providing it here for the adventurous.

Fennel Meringue Frosting

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 egg whites

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of sugar and the water in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
2. Crush the fennel seeds slightly with a mortar and pestle.
3. Add the crushed seeds to the sugar and let boil over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is somewhat syrupy. See step 6 for what to consider when cooking the sugar syrup.
4. Whisk the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees fahrenheit. This only takes only a couple of minutes.
5. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
6. Drizzle fennel syrup into the mixer. This part can be tricky. For one, you don’t want the syrup too watery or it can deflate the meringue. But if the syrup is cooked too much it could harden. Aim for a soft ball stage. If you see the meringue start to deflate put less of the syrup in and all of the fennel seeds.

Note: Once again, I had a lot of frosting left over. So, I spread it out on a silpat covered baking sheet, threw it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, turned off the oven and left it there while we ate dinner. The result was like a big fennel, meringue cookie that was crispy, chewy, and tasty.

1. Pipe meringue frosting onto cupcakes using a large star tip.
2. Using a blow torch, brown the meringue.

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