Speckled Egg Cupcakes

speckled egg cupcakeA few years ago I saw a beautiful speckled egg cake, probably on Pinterest or in an issue of Real Simple magazine. Since then, I’ve intended to make something like it each spring, and I finally made a cupcake version this week.

A word of caution regarding the speckling: it is not nearly as simple as every single recipe online would have you believe. I set up a splatter guard made of parchment paper, and still ended up with speckles all over my countertop, with a few on my walls and many on myself, likely because I didn’t use a paintbrush with stiff bristles; my brush had soft bristles, which made things a bit messy. Still, the end result is worth it: these received rave reviews from Mike’s colleagues. Also, you could pair almost any flavor combination for these cupcakes, but I chose a classic chocolate and almond.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Light blue, light green, and turquoise gel food coloring

For the speckles

  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons water*

*Most online recipes did not call for water, but my mixture was too thick for it to flick from the paintbrush so I added some water. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this takes a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract; beat another 1-2 minutes. Add additional tablespoons milk, one at a time, beating well between each. To tint, add blue, green, and turquoise gel food coloring 1-2 drops at a time; I used 2-3 drops of blue and green, and about 3-4 drops turquoise. Frost cupcakes; you will have about 2/3 cup left over for another use.

For the speckles, stir together cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and 1-2 teaspoons water; you don’t want the chocolate to be too thin or it’ll bleed into the frosting, but if it’s too thick, you won’t be able to flick it onto the cupcakes. Dip a food-safe paintbrush with stiff bristles into the chocolate and use your fingers to flick the chocolate onto the frosting.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 12. 

Black Forest Cake for Two

Dark chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, and cherries: that’s really all you need for a Black Forest cake. But if you’re like me, and you like cherry-flavored things but not actual cherries, what can you do? You can whip up your own version of this famous dessert, that’s what.

Cherries have wonderful flavor, but I don’t want to eat an actual cherry because of the skin. So instead of making this cake with cherries, I put a few tablespoons of cherry preserves into my food processor and spun it until it became smooth, then folded it into my Kirsch-flavored whipped cream. The end result is one of the best little cakes I’ve made in some time; it’s a small, two-layer 6-inch cake, perfect for just Mike and me. I chose to level my cakes, leaving me with a fair amount of leftover scraps; those will likely become cake pops later this week. You could absolutely make this without leveling your cakes, though the layers just won’t be quite as even; you could also bake this in a regular 8-inch cake pan and just split that one layer into two. 

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons cherry preserves, pureed if desired
  • Semisweet chocolate, for garnish

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake tins and line each with a parchment circle.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Divide batter evenly between the two tins; bake for 22-25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tins for just a minute or two, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cakes are cool, level them if desired; reserve the scraps for a trifle, cake pops, or other treat. 

Place heavy cream and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low at first to combine. Add Kirsch, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in cherry preserves.

Place bottom layer of cake on your cake plate and top with a thick layer of whipped cream. Carefully place the top layer, covering the top and outside of the cake. Using a fine grater, grate semisweet chocolate over the top of the cake for garnish. 

Store cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 days; the cake will dry out once it’s cut, but still taste delicious. Makes about 6 servings. 

Apricot Fruitcake

During my pre-Christmas baking extravaganza, I decided to make a second type of fruitcake using “lighter” ingredients. This meant using light brown sugar rather than dark, and including a hearty quantity of apricots (hence this recipe’s name), golden raisins, and currants, rather than candied cherries and dates.

Both Mike and my mom tried both types of fruitcake, and while they preferred the darker version, they also liked this one. I chose to bake this recipe in two smaller loaf tins, which I think helps with baking time, and also allows you to give one away as a gift – perfect for the holidays. My second loaf went to my friend Arvind and his family, and he let me know that it was gone in less than 48 hours.

Ingredients

  • Heaping 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) diced dried apricots
  • Heaping 3/4 cup (125 grams) golden raisins
  • Heaping 1/2 cup (75 grams) currants
  • 6 tablespoons dark rum
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • Heaping 2/3 cup (90 grams) chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice
  • A few more tablespoons rum, for brushing

Preparation

Combine dried fruits and 6 tablespoons dark rum in a glass or ceramic bowl; stir together and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease two 8 x 4 loaf tins.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and baking powder and beat to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing well between each addition. Add flour and golden syrup and beat until just combined; add cranberry juice and beat, then fold in rum-soaked fruits and pecans, stirring to distribute evenly.

Spoon batter into loaf tins, dividing evenly and filling about 3/4 full. Bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then brush with remaining rum. Allow to cool completely; fruitcake can be stored in the loaf tin for several days. Makes two 8 x 4 loaves; servings vary based on how thick you slice it.

Fruitcake

This year, to my great surprise, I learned that several people in my life like fruitcake. Mike requested one for his holiday treat, and soon thereafter my mom, cousin Barb, and friend and colleague Arvind all expressed their appreciation for this often-joked-about confection. I had never made one before yesterday, but I’m actually quite pleased with how it turned out. I mean, I didn’t taste it because I think dried fruits are kind of icky, but Mike told me it was delicious.

This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Everyone’s Favorite Fruitcake, and though it has a slight crack down the middle, Mike loved it. Apparently you can experiment with all types of different dried fruits in this type of cake, but for my first foray, I went for a pretty traditional mix of dried apricots, dates, candied pineapple, candied cherries (the red ones, not those electric green ones), and golden raisins. I also did this recipe entirely by weight, but I’m listing the ingredients by volume below since most people bake by volume.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup diced candied pineapple
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup diced dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied cherries
  • 6 tablespoons dark rum
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup or dark corn syrup
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup cranberry juice or water
  • A few more tablespoons rum, for brushing

Preparation

Combine dried fruits and 6 tablespoons dark rum in a glass or ceramic bowl; stir together and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 loaf tin.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and dark brown sugar until fluffy. Add salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and baking powder and beat to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing well between each addition. Add flour and golden syrup and beat until just combined; add cranberry juice and beat, then fold in rum-soaked fruits and pecans, stirring to distribute evenly.

Spoon batter into loaf tin and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours, checking after about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until a  cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then brush with remaining rum. Allow to cool completely; fruitcake can be stored in the loaf tin for several days. Makes one 9 x 5 loaf; servings vary based on how thick you slice it.

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

The holidays are in full swing, and I’m baking like there’s no tomorrow. Or perhaps I’m baking like tomorrow is Christmas? In any case, I’m baking a lot.

Today’s chocolate peppermint cupcakes are inspired by the York Peppermint Pattie, one of the best treats around regardless of time of year, but a treat I always associate with winter. I’ve started eating chocolate again and have, thus far, remained stable in the migraine department. But darker chocolate – like the variety used on the famous pattie – will be a new frontier for me, so wish me luck. I found this recipe over at The Baker Chick and adapted it to include some peppermint extract in the cupcake batter, while omitting the peppermint pattie inside the cupcake itself. You could certainly do that, but I wanted to use the patties just as a garnish on top, like a delightfully delicious chocolate moon rising out of a peppermint cloud. Perhaps all the sugar has finally gone to my brain…

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, to taste
  • 12 snack-size York Peppermint Patties

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this takes a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of milk and 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Add another 1-2 tablespoons milk, plus additional peppermint extract to taste; my frosting used 3 tablespoons of milk and 1/8 teaspoon plus a few additional drops of extract to reach my desired flavor and consistency.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe swirls onto cupcakes. Press a peppermint pattie into the frosting to garnish. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 12.

Buttery Brown Sugar Cupcakes

No offense to buttercream, but sometimes you just want a different type of frosting. Enter browned butter frosting, a cousin of buttercream that is absolutely delicious, and quite easy to make.

Browned butter frosting starts to harden quickly after it’s made, so in truth it’s better suited for a cake or bars, where you can pour it on, spread it out, and allow it to set. Still, it made an excellent pair with my brown sugar cupcakes, creating a buttery, almost caramel-like flavor. Both the frosting and cupcakes are very easy to make; they would also be delicious sprinkled with some toasted pecans.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe made 22 cupcakes for me.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and melted butter, whisking until no lumps remain. Whisk in egg, sour cream, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly whisk in flour mixture until batter is completely smooth; it will be fairly thick.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about half-full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from pans immediately; cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, melt butter in a small saucepan until light golden brown; this will take a few minutes, and you’ll want to swish the butter in the pan every so often, then use a whisk to get the browning bits off of the sides and bottom. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and browned butter. Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then check your consistency; if necessary, add more milk, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to reach a spreadable consistency.

Working quickly, frost your cupcakes using a small offset spatula. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. 

Apple Cake

As a woman who doesn’t really like cooked fruit, my experience with fruit-based cakes is fairly limited. I see them all the time on the Great British Baking Show; impressive concoctions involving currants, cherries, and a range of other dried or fresh fruits mixed into spiced batter. Some people have theories about coating fruit in flour before mixing it in; others, like me, just toss it and hope for the best.

This cake is a gift for my friend Arvind and his wife, who just had identical twin girls (and they are beyond adorable). Because no one in my life can mark any major event without some type of baked good, I’ll be dropping this off at their house tomorrow, along with good wishes for the little ones. I hope it’s delicious; the original recipe came from Recipe Tin Eats, and was incredibly easy to make. I can see serving it with caramel sauce or perhaps some vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples (about 2 large apples)
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper on the bottom and sides.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, stir together sugar and vegetable oil, then stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined; be careful not to overmix. Stir in apples and pour batter into prepared pan; it will be very thick. Smooth the top and sprinkle on flaked almonds.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (mine baked for 42 minutes, but the original recipe states that depending on your oven, it can take more than an hour). Remove from oven and place on a wire rack; let cool 10 minutes, then remove outer ring from the pan and allow to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes about 12 servings.

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

My mom has some dietary restrictions, and she tends to stay away from dairy. Last night Mike and I went to her house for dinner to celebrate my birthday, and I figured baking a dairy-free cake was the least I could do for the woman who gave me life. After all, she’s the one who did all the hard work, right?

Dairy-free baking isn’t always as challenging as it might seem, and there are many recipes out there that don’t require a range of bizarre ingredients to substitute for butter or milk. Most vegetable cakes, like this pumpkin cake, use oil instead of butter. Such cakes are usually fluffier than butter-based cakes, and tend to keep their moisture longer. And if you choose to bake your cake in a Bundt tin, as I did here, there’s no need for a buttercream or cream cheese frosting; you can whip up a simple glaze icing with just powdered sugar and water. I’m happy to report that Genny loved this cake, so it’s one I’ll make again for her in the future.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-5 teaspoons water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and oil until very well-combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing very well after each.

Stir in flour mixture and pumpkin alternatively, stirring until well-combined and smooth. Fold in toasted pecans, then spoon or pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes, then check with a cake tester or toothpick; continue baking for a few minutes at a time, checking frequently, until the cake tester comes out clean. My cake baked for about 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely before glazing and drizzling.

To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons water. Continue adding water until glaze reaches a pourable consistency, then pour over cake and allow to drip down the sides.

Store cake at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes about 12 servings.

Tree Trunk Cake

It’s my 43rd birthday, and as always, I’ve baked my own cake. I love the woods, so I decided to make an orange almond honey cake and decorate it like a tree trunk. It was actually much easier than I expected because my main tool was a small offset spatula, which worked really well for the bark and tree ring details. I did pipe some ferns and mushrooms as well, and I’d intended to make a little hedgehog to sit on the top, but I ran out of frosting. Maybe next time.

Fair warning: this cake is in no way, shape, or form low calorie, low fat, or remotely healthy. All told, the cake and its frosting include six eggs and five sticks of butter. Granted, I’m not eating the entire cake myself, but if you’re the dieting type, I’d say this may not be the treat for you.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 1/2 oranges

For the frosting

  • 1 1/2 (2 1/2 sticks) cups butter, softened
  • 5 – 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons honey, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Lightly grease two deep, 7-inch round cake tins and line the bases with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add honey and blend to combine, then add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add self-rising flour and almond flour, then milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract, and beat to combine until you have a smooth batter.

Pour batter into prepared tins and bake for 40-45 minutes, until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add 5 cups powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add honey and extracts and beat to combine, then add enough additional powdered sugar to make a medium-stiff consistency frosting.

To decorate: Divide frosting into one larger portion and two smaller portions. Tint largest portion dark brown and cover the sides of the cake with it, then use a small offset spatula to pull frosting upward to make bark ridges, reserving a small amount to swirl into the top of the cake. Tint one of the smaller portions light brown and frost top, using your spatula to make tree rings. Add small portions of darker brown and swirl to accent the rings. Reserve remaining light brown for mushrooms.

To make the ferns, tint one portion of frosting moss green. Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and pipe stems, the switch to a leaf tip and pipe leaf shapes. Tint remaining frosting darker for a second color and repeat.

To make the mushrooms, fit a piping bag with a petal tip and fill with remaining light brown frosting. Pipe stacked horizontal ribbon-like rows on waxed paper squares on a flower nail and chill for about 5 minutes, then press into the sides of the cake. Add a few leaves of fern-like foliage onto the tops.

Store cake at room temperature; makes about 12 servings.

Full Bloom Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Mother Nature has the heat cranked up here in Pittsburgh, blasting us with the full force of a western Pennsylvanian summer. Right now it’s actually pouring at my house, a welcome sight for my flowers.

Full disclosure: I am obsessed with plants. My dream home, besides a cottage in the woods, would be smack in the middle of a botanical garden. Mike gets nervous when I go to our local nursery – conveniently located less than five minutes from our house – by myself, because I’m bound to return with something in need of planting. And as I’ve been practicing my buttercream flower piping skills this summer, I decided to go with a basic five-petal design (many thanks to Wilton for this awesome tutorial), along with some roses, carnations, and marigolds, for these treats. The flavor profile is botanical as well; chocolate orange, a wonderful combination involving two of my favorite things that grow.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Zest of 1/2 medium orange
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon milk, if necessary

To decorate

  • Burgundy, golden yellow, red, and moss green food coloring
  • Wilton tips 5, 12, 21, 104, and 352
  • Flower nail
  • Disposable piping bags

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe makes 15 cupcakes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add orange zest next to the well with the vanilla extract. Add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Working quickly and using a 1/4 dry measuring cup, scoop batter into cupcake wells. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from cupcake pans; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make frosting, place butter in a mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes using the paddle attachment.

Add  powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Once incorporated, add the vanilla and orange extracts and beat for 1-2 minutes on medium speed.

If frosting is too stiff – you want a medium consistency for piping – add 1 teaspoon of milk to slightly thin it. You want a smooth consistency that’s easy to pipe, but not too thin or the flowers won’t hold their shape.

To decorate: use a small amount of white frosting on the top of each cooled cupcake for your base. Divide the remaining frosting into small portions for the remaining colors. I used the following:

  • Burgundy and red for the purple five-blossom flowers
  • Remainder of the purple plus golden yellow for a rusty orange for roses and drop flowers
  • Golden yellow for blossom centers and drop carnation clusters
  • Moss green for leaves

For five-petal blossoms: Using a flower nail, pipe five-petal blossoms using the technique outlined by the awesome folks at Wilton in the link above. Place on a baking sheet and chill for 5 minutes to harden. Place blossoms on cupcakes once they’re firm enough to handle; using light yellow frosting and a 5 tip, pipe one single dot or several dots in the center, whichever you prefer.

For roses (pictured below): use purple frosting and pipe a cone shape into the center of the nail, then switch tips to your 104 petal tip. You want the broader end of the tip to be toward the bottom as you pipe; pipe petals, turning your flower nail as necessary. I used the remainder of my purple frosting, mixed with golden yellow, for the rusty orange color of the other flowers you see in the photo below; I did some roses and some marigolds using the 21 tip with that shade as well.

For carnation clusters: Using a 21 drop flower tip and yellow frosting, pipe small clusters of flowers.

For leaves: Using moss green and the 352 leaf tip, pipe leaves.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Below, we have a blossom cluster featuring the five-petal blossom, carnation cluster, and marigold.