O tart cherries, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. In pie, in muffins, in coffee cake…okay, you get the idea.
So, I went back and forth between calling these muffins and cupcakes (naturally, they were consumed at various times of day), and eventually settled on muffins. I decided that the key difference between the two is frosting – cupcakes should have frosting. If it doesn’t have frosting, it’s a muffin and that means it’s totally fair game to eat it for breakfast. Sound reasonable? Dissenters?
Okay, good. These muffins have a simple vanilla base with a cherry-laden cream cheese center, and are topped with more cherries and a streusel crumble. If you can’t find tart cherries, sweet cherries will do, but I highly recommend trying to find some tart ones, especially if you live in the big tart cherry growing states (Michigan, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, etc.).
Did you know that tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties, and can help reduce muscle damage and pain? They have also been linked to lowering cholesterol levels and reducing bone loss in old age. Drinking tart cherry juice can even help combat insomnia! Tart cherries have a whole slew of health benefits like these (and more!), which I learned about from a brochure I got at King Orchards when I was there to pick cherries. As if you needed an additional incentive to make these tart cherry cream cheese muffins! Okay, I admit, scientists *may* not be suggesting that we should all eat more tart cherries via cream cheese muffins, but hey, you’re still getting more health benefits from a cherry muffin than a plain, non-cherry muffin, right? Now, go forth and seek tart cherries!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, melted
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups tart cherries, pitted
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup pitted, chopped tart cherries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
- For the topping: combine the flour, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined and little clusters form. Set aside.
- For the muffins: in the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg. Mix in the vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture and the milk to the mixer bowl in two alternating additions each, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- In the bowl from the flour mixture, mix together the cream cheese and chopped cherries.
- Portion half of the batter into the prepared muffin tin cups. Scoop small spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture into each cup. Top with remaining batter.
- Place cherries on top of the batter (4-5 cherries per cup). Carefully sprinkle the prepared topping over the cherries.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (try to avoid testing through the cream cheese centers!).