Simple syrup is simply magical. A while back, I read that was professional bakeries’ secret for keeping sheet cakes and layer cakes moist. Then I read the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and saw that they frequently use a cake “soak” in between layers. That’s it! I thought. That’s definitely the secret!
Boy, was I right. I’ve used simple syrup on top of my cupcakes and in between cake layers ever since then, and it really does make a difference. And it’s so simple (hah, get it?) to make, there’s really no reason not to!
This mother recipe can be modified however you want: add flavored liqueurs, extracts, zest, herbs – the sky is the limit. Some examples of simple syrups I’ve made include:
- Lemon lavender – lemon extract and lavender are buds added while the simple syrup is cooking. Strain to remove the lavender (or leave it in!) once the simple syrup is done. Add lemon zest when the simple syrup is done cooking for some extra fresh flavor, or even consider adding a tablespoon or so of lemon juice beforehand for a little lemony zip.
- Rosemary – steep fresh rosemary while the simple syrup is cooking, strain to remove when it’s done.
- Vanilla – basic, but delicious. I like to add a mixture of vanilla paste and vanilla extract for a double whammy of vanilla flecks and flavor.
- Orange – orange extract and Grand Marnier are added to the simple syrup while it’s cooking, and orange zest is stirred in afterwards.
What kind of simple syrup ideas can you come up with? (Recipe follows after the cut.)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- Whatever extracts, flavorings, herbs, or zests you want.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, water, and any other liquids you're adding to the simple syrup (lemon juice, extracts, liqueurs, etc.)
- On medium heat, cook the sugar water, whisking occasionally, until it begins to simmer.
- Immediately remove from the heat. Add in any flavoring ingredients that you didn't want to cook (like citrus zest) or that need to be dissolved (like cocoa powder).
- Cool slightly, then brush onto cooled cupcakes or cake with a pastry or basting brush to keep them moist and flavorful.
- If you add over a tablespoon of liquid, you will want to adjust the sugar proportions accordingly so you have equal parts sugar and water.
- This can store for quite a while in the fridge. I like to transfer it into labeled mason jars and use for future cupcake recipes.
- This can also be incorporated into your morning coffee (delicious), or even used as a base for homemade soda (stir into club soda or sparkling water, or if you have a SodaStream, you can use your homemade simple syrup as a replacement for their syrups.)