Whew! Been a crazy summer over here with all the goings on! Feels good to be back to blogging! Starting off, a fabulous recipe for simple but gorgeous orange cupcakes...
I've been testing and testing recipes for months, trying to get a nice and easy, basic cupcake recipe that can be tweaked with flavorings or colors for frosting to use over and over again and I think I've finally got it! This version takes a basic vanilla based white cupcake batter and infuses it with bright orange zest. I take the orange a step further in the frosting a well, adding some zest to the buttercream and a dash of yellow food coloring to achieve a perfect, delightful yellow color. They remind me of the color of sunflower petals, hence the name. If my decorating skills were up to par, I would have piped them to look like sunflowers but sadly, I fall short in this part of the kitchen.
I found the trick to a great white batter is using beaten egg whites that are then folded into the rest of the batter. This gives a nice airy texture to the cupcakes. Also, using good quality vanilla extract is a must -- I use Madagascar vanilla extract. I find it to be the best, very fragrant and has a nice, smooth bourbonesque finish. You can find it at Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods.
I also found using buttermilk yields the best cupcake. The acidity in the buttermilk (as opposed to using regular milk) gives a nice, background subtle tang to the batter without overpowering it. It also makes a softer, moister cupcake in my opinion. If you can't find or don't have buttermilk, in a pinch you can use a combination of sour cream, milk, and a little extra orange juice, but honestly using the buttermilk is just best and easier.
You'll also notice here I use cake flour. Different than all-purpose flour, which are usually in my recipes, I do believe that for basic cupcakes cake flour is best. Again, it gets you that fluffy and moist cupcake texture without becoming gummy.
And of course, as with all baking, make sure everything is at room temperature so all the ingredients incorporate evenly.
I think these are so cute done with mini-cupcake liners and baked in mini-muffin pans. They're adorable and easy to eat. I love the yellow color and think they're just perfect for summer and early fall. They'd make a great back-to-school treat, or fall party dessert. They're wonderful for church gatherings as summer winds down and fall begins her approach. I piped my frosting using a basic pattern and topped with a candied pearl. Go ahead and use whatever sprinkles or piping technique you know. I'd love to see someone do these in a sunflower shape or piping! If you try it, please email me the pictures! Happy baking!
"Sunflower" Orange Cupcakes with Orange Yellow Buttercream Frosting
1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 mini-muffin pans with mini-cupcake liners. Set aside.
First, sift together the cake flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Sifting the ingredients together before adding them to the rest of the batter ensures they'll be evenly distributed throughout the batter. If you skip this step, you can get ball clumps of flour which are both unsightly and not tasty. Set aside.
Now take the egg whites and using the handheld electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachments, begin to beat the egg whites until white and stiff peaks form. For more details on how to do this, check out this previous post here. Set aside.
Next, place the butter in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachments, begin to cream the butter. Once the butter is thoroughly creamed and beginning to turn paler in color, add the sugar and continue to mix together on medium speed until the sugar is completely incorporated and the texture becomes lighter and fluffy.
Next, add the eggs one at a time. Each time you add the egg beat it thoroughly into the batter before adding the next ingredients, but be careful not to overmix it in either!
You'll notice the batter now has a lovely deep yellow color and is light and fluffy in texture.
Next, add the vanilla and orange zest to the batter and mix in to combine.
Now, beginning with the flour mixture you sifted at the beginning, add a third of it into the batter and mix it to combine. Then add half of the buttermilk. Add another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, then end with the rest of the flour mixture.
Each time you want to make sure you're mixing it in so everything's combined, but don't sit there for hours either so you overmix the batter. In the end it will look pale yellow in color, and make a ribbon-type effect in texture as so:
Now fold in the egg whites into the batter using a spatula. Yes, you have to use a spatula. No, you cannot use the whisk or paddle attachments on your mixer. No, you cannot use a spoon. No, you can't use a wooden spoon or a metal spoon or a dinner fork. This is why spatulas exist. For more detailed description on the folding technique, look here.
Once the egg whites have been folded into the batter, you are ready to scoop and bake.
Fill each liner with some batter -- a good heaping teaspoon's worth is perfect -- and place in middle rack of oven. Bake until set and toothpick comes out clean, 10-15 minutes depending on your oven's strength. Be careful not to overbake! Rather than looking at color, test with toothpick for most accurate doneness.
Remove from the baking pans and set on wire racks to cool. While cooling, make the frosting.
Basic Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered (aka confectioner's) sugar
small pinch of fine salt (like 1/8 tsp)
1 Tbsp good vanilla extract
*1 tsp yellow food coloring gel (optional)
*1/2 tsp orange zest -- was added to this version pictured (optional)
The texture of the butter is paramount to a good frosting. First, it needs to be room temperature. It needs to be soft. If you have any resistance with a knife going through it, it's not soft enough. If it's melting it's too soft. If it's the consistency of a scoop of ice cream it's perfect.
I like making frosting in the standing mixer because it's easier. Place the butter in the bowl of the standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachments. Cream the butter a few minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar a little at a time and mix on low speed -- if you did a higher speed the sugar will poof in a cloud all over yourself and your kitchen. Be patient and mix slowly until you've added all of your sugar, then crank the speed up to medium-high and mix until the frosting has body, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the vanilla, orange zest if using, and food coloring and continue to mix on medium-high speed until the color transforms and infuses into the frosting, about another 2-3 minutes. Take a spatula and mix once more by hand to make sure everything is evenly mixed in.
The frosting is ready to use.
Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve. Bring out to room temperature before serving.