I had the amazing opportunity to go back to Denmark this summer for the third time. In Denmark, the predominant flavor for sweets and alcohol, much to my dismay, is licorice. Salted licorice candy and liquors like Små Grå dominate the market. I had to get used to the question, “Does it taste like licorice?” when offered anything new. Thankfully, Denmark does rely on other flavor profiles, and much to my surprise, I have fallen in love with other candies and liquors. Has anyone heard of Fiske Fjæs? One shot of that menthol-tasting alcohol and your sinuses will be cleared!
I always go back to an original favorite, though. Eight years ago, almost to the day, I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a semester abroad. One of my first trips with my classmates was out on a fishing boat. We started the journey with a shot of ice cold Akvavit, or Snaps. Danish Akvavit does not rely on licorice, thank goodness, but on caraway and dill. It sounds like it would not be pleasant, but there is something earthy and satisfying about it! For these cupcakes, I used Danish Aalborg Akvavit.
I decided to pay homage to licorice through the use of fennel seeds in this cupcake. Pair it with the herbaceousness of the Akvavit in a cream cheese frosting, and you have a Danish-inspired cupcake!
1 c. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 1/2 c. flour, sifted
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. ground fennel seeds
To grind the fennel seeds, use a mortar and pestle, a food processor, or a clean coffee grinder. It took me about 3 tbsp. to equal 2 tbsp. ground seeds.
Combine the butter with the brown and granulated sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, blending one at a time.
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) in a small bowl. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Always end with an addition of dry ingredients.
Mix in the ground fennel seeds and vanilla, evenly distributing the fennel seeds.
Fill a lined or greased cupcake tin 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick or paring knife entered comes out clean.
Akvavit-Spiked Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese
4 tbsp. butter
4-6 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. akvavit
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar about one cup at a time, until you reach the texture that you want. Add the milk, akvavit, and vanilla then mix. Adjust your flavor and texture using more powdered sugar if needed.