Recipe: Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

I took a little time off from making, baking, and photographing to have a low-key weekend before I head to Chicago this week. Work has been intense lately. I'm adjusting to wanting to spend a lot of my time off with someone else. The weather has been starting to perk up. All in all I just needed a weekend to relax and not worry about baking. Getting back into the swing of things this weekend, I wanted to make something that used up things in my fridge/pantry. It's been a little while since I've baked cupcakes and I had a few oranges and blood oranges lingering in my fridge and these cupcakes were born. A standard cupcake with a few twists: orange zest, dark cocoa, and a tangy frosting.  

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes 

Yields 36 cupcakes

1 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed or Special Dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place liners in a cupcake pan.

Cream together butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add zest of one orange and vanilla and mix together.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Add a third of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, add half the buttermilk, another third of dry, the other half of the buttermilk, and the last third of dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon batter into the cupcake pan, filling each liner until 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes and then cool completely before frosting.

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Orange Buttercream

1 stick butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 orange, zest and juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with confectioner's sugar, adding one cup at a time. Add vanilla and the zest of an orange. Juice the orange, strain it, and then add to the frosting one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistence. (I used 3-4 tablespoons) Beat on medium high for 3-4 minutes until frosting is light and airy.

Add to a pastry bag with a star tip and frost each cupcake in a circular motion. Top with an orange slice if desired. Serve immediately or store in an airtight cake carrier.

Decorate: Conversation Heart Cupcakes

Does anyone really enjoy eating conversation hearts? I find them chalky and very artificial tasting. But, they are cute and such a fun idea to turn other things into. Kelly over at StudioDIY has been turning tons of adorable things into conversation hearts and it got me thinking about cupcakes.

For a while now I've been seeing heart-shaped cupcakes over on Pinterest and it's been on my list of things to try. Like a lot of things on Pinterest, this a very simple concept but it does take some trial and error. Here's what I did...  

You can use any boxed cake or from-scratch recipe to make these cupcakes. To make mine extra celebratory, I made Funfetti from scratch. Mix up the batter as directed and line you cupcake pan with paper liners. A lot of Pinterest links showed people using marbles, but I didn't have marbles. But, I do have tin foil! 

Tear off about a 2 inch wide piece of tin foil. Using kitchen scissors, cut that strip into three pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Each foil ball should be about the size of a marble. Place each ball in-between the liner and the side of the cupcake cup. Fill each liner with batter about 1/2 full. Too full and the batter will overflow and not look heart-shaped. Too little and the cupcakes just look sad. See? Trial and error. Give each foil ball a poke down with your finger and bake as directed. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting: Mix up your favorite vanilla frosting recipe (I used one from Joy the Baker's Cookbook which is fabulous). Spoon about three tablspoons of frosting into a small bowl, and separate the remaining frosting evenly into three bowls (or four bowls if you want four different colors). Apply a small amount of food coloring into each bowl of frosting to create a pastel colors. I used pink, blue, and green. Mix the coloring in and apply to each cupcake with a spoon or offset spatula.

Apply red food coloring to the bowl with the small amount of frosting to create the text color. You'll want a dark red, so more food coloring than before. Fill a pastry bag or a sandwich baggie with the red frosting and cut off a very tiny hole. Pipe saying that can be found on conversation hearts and you're done!

Even if you don't want to go through the trouble of making them heart shaped, you can still frost circular cupcakes to look like conversation hearts. Still cute!

These definitely might look very homemade, but I kind of like that. Not everything needs to look like it walked out of a bakery and was made by professionals. People will be more excited with the effort you put in than if they looked perfect!