Dirty Shirley Cupcakes

2 Mar


When I was a little girl, I always looked forward to the few weeks every summer I was able to spend with my Grammie and Grandpa in Massachusetts. Mostly because I, the oldest of 4 siblings, got to go all by myself. Just me, no sisters, no brother, just me alone, to soak up all that undivided love and attention on just me. For those few short weeks every summer, I got to be the star.

The three of us did all kinds of wonderful things together, enjoyed all kinds of fabulous experiences that I rarely did at home, including and especially, going out to a dress-up restaurant for dinner. And although the dessert was usually the best part of the meal, the most magical moment was when the waiter approached the table to take the cocktail order. My grandfather would order a drink for my Gram, one for himself and a Shirley Temple for me…sometimes with an extra cherry! Imagine the headiness when that waiter came back, tray in hand heavy with an array of multi-colored beverages. He’d place a cocktail napkin on the table in front of me, followed by a small glass, ice tinkling in the grenadine-infused soda, minute bubbles swimming to the surface, a bright red cherry bobbing through it all. In that exact moment, I was a princess…a grown-up, have my own cocktail, princess.


Legend has it that the Shirley Temple was created for and named after the 1930’s child star by an establishment she frequented often. Some say it was a restaurant in Hollywood, others say it was a hotel in Hawaii. Ironically, Shirley Temple herself never really cared for her namesake mocktail. But here’s a secret I’ve never shared with anyone. Shirley Temple – the child actress – has always kind of creeped me out a little. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the too many perfect curls, maybe it’s the constant cherubic smile, or maybe it’s the way she was always tap-dancing her way into America’s heart – but something about her just doesn’t sit right with me. So it’s no surprise that my darker side was secretly delighted to discover there is a cocktail out there called The Dirty Shirley. Basically a classic Shirley Temple with a little something extra added. A cocktail that celebrates that child star while simultaneously tarnishing, just ever so slightly, that perfect image.


Of course, I ran with the idea. While most Dirty Shirley’s add a little vodka, I thought amaretto would make a better addition for the cupcakes – and I was right. These little pink-bottomed cupcakes are as delightful as their namesake, with just a hint of amaretto coming through. Enjoy one or two of these and you just might end up doing a little tap-dancing yourself!



Adapted from a recipe by The Curvy Carrot

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup cherry 7-Up

1/4 cup amaretto

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approx. 2 – 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

In a measuring cup, combine 7Up, amaretto, and extracts.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the amaretto mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Remove 3/4 cup of the batter and place in a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of flour and cherry juice and stir to combine. Drop a scant tablespoon of the mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Top with remaining cupcake batter, but try not to mix the two together.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.



1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

pinch salt

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

1 tablespoon amaretto, or to taste

12 maraschino cherries

In a stand mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy, 2 – 3 minutes. Add sugar and flavorings and mix at low speed until combined, then increase speed, adding additional sugar and/or amaretto until desired consistency is reached. Frost each cupcake and top with a maraschino cherry.


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