A week or so before I left for Hawaii I started looking for a fun book or two to read on vacation. Both the title of this book and it’s cover art grabbed my attention…. perfect timing! Mai Tai One On (The Tiki Goddess Mystery Series) by Jill Landis was everything I had hoped it would be for a beach read. The author conveys the feeling of being in Hawaii and adds funny, memorable characters to the mix.
The story centers around Em Johnson who had recently moved to Kauai from Southern California to help her Uncle Louie save his beloved Tiki Goddess Bar. Louie seems to be suffering from dementia so Em isn’t sure of his cognitive ability which contributes to her suspicion when his long time feuding neighbor is murdered. Em’s young bartender, Sophie, is also a person of interest by the Kauai Police Department and in order to save her uncle, her employee and his tiki bar, finds she must solve the murder herself. Only she has help… kind of… in the form of the Hula Maidens. The Hula Maidens are a comic relief from the story getting too serious. They are senior citizens who love to hula dance even though they have no skills or even talent, but fortunately their quirks make them endearing. There are three tropical cocktail drink recipes (although no Mai Tai recipe) that sound quite good. It may inspire me to host a tropical party this summer so I can try them out!
After purchasing the above book, I started finding Mai Tai’s everywhere! Mai Tai cocktails, after all, are the quintessential Hawaiian drink. The rum, orange juice and pineapple juice concoction brings to mind warm sandy beaches with turquoise surf tickling your toes and gentle trade winds rustling palm fronds. A vacation in a glass. It was no wonder that when I saw this cupcake recipe I knew it would be one I would make again and again. Mai Tai Cupcakes can be made for adults only or adapted so children can enjoy the tropical deliciousness as well!
Mai Tai Cupcakes
1 box yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
3/4 cup (6 oz.) pineapple juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
Juice from one lime
3 eggs, room temperature
Optional: Orange food coloring
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons spiced rum (omit if serving to children and substitute 2 teaspoons rum extract and 3 tablespoons orange juice)
4 drops coconut extract
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups (1 pound) confectioner’s sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice
1 tablespoon spiced rum (omit if serving to children and increase the milk)
2 tablespoons milk (plus more if needed for consistency)
Pineapple or lime wedges, maraschino cherries
Line two cupcake pans with 16 paper or foil liners. Lightly spritz liners with non-stick cooking spray.
Place all the cupcake ingredients into a large bowl and blend with an electric mixer 30 seconds on low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat another two minutes.
Divide half of the batter equally between the cupcake liners, and then tint the remaining batter in the bowl a light orange color, if desired.
Divide orange batter between the cupcake liners, layering on top of the yellow batter.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes (rotate pans half way through baking) until a wooden skewer inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes in pan for five minutes then remove and place on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before glazing.
Place all ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for one minute. Stir and heat again in 20 second intervals until butter melts. Set aside to cool a bit.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the shortening and room temperature butter together until creamy, about 2 minutes on low speed.
Gradually add 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar, beating until incorporated.
Add the 2 tablespoons of milk and beat until smooth.
Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of sugar and incorporate.
Add the tablespoon of rum, the tablespoon of cherry juice and the extracts.
Beat until icing is light and fluffy, adding more milk one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
Once cupcakes are completely cooled, prick the tops with the tines of a fork several times, piercing about 1/4 – 1/2 inch deep.
Brush the glaze over the top of each cupcake.
Fill a pastry-decorating bag, fitted with a large star tip, with the icing.
Pipe decorative swirls on top of each cupcake and garnish with fruit. Sit back, take a bite and dream of a warm, sandy beach!