Inspired by the bourbon-based cocktail popular in the South, these boozy and minty cupcakes are a perfect way to celebrate derby day. For an extra punch of bourbon, brush some on the tops of the freshly baked cupcakes.
a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip or a resealable plastic bag 12 paper cupcake liners
For the vanilla-bourbon cupcakes: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife, and scrape down the length with the back of the knife to remove the seeds. Add the seeds and granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the butter, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. While continuing to beat, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as needed. Add the bourbon, and reduce the mixer speed to medium-low (the mixture will look curdled, but that's OK). Beating after each addition until just combined, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, 1/2 the milk, 1/2 the remaining flour mixture, the remaining milk, then the remaining flour mixture. Divide the batter evenly among the liners in the prepared tin. Clean the mixer bowl and paddle attachment.
Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool the cupcakes in the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes. While they are still warm, brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon if desired. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely.
For the minty frosting: Mix the butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar has been incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the liqueur and peppermint extract, and mix on medium-high until smooth. Add the half-and-half, and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate the frosting for about 15 minutes to firm up.
Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes with a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip or a plastic bag with a tip cut off, using all the frosting. Decorate with mint sprigs and sanding sugar.
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