Orange Cupcakes

Mike turned 42 this past Sunday. Each year I ask him what he’d like me to bake, and his answer is usually chocolate chip cookies. Then I force him to choose something different, and this year, he picked orange cupcakes. Not just any orange cupcakes, though – an homage to the Hostess cupcakes of our childhood, complete with a squiggle of white frosting across the top.

There are several copycat Hostess orange cupcake recipes out there, and this is a hybrid of several, plus my own take on the filling and frosting. I used buttercream frosting, rather than the fondant-like topping available on the store-bought version, and I’m glad I did. The cupcakes turned out a bit dry, and they needed the extra moisture from the filling and frosting. They tasted amazing, but next time I think I’ll use a cupcake recipe that’s oil-based, rather than butter-based, for a softer texture. You’ll have filling and frosting left over, which you can store at room temperature in airtight containers for 2-3 days for another use.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 1/2 medium oranges
  • juice from 1 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the filling

  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • yellow and red food coloring, for tinting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium for 1 minute. Add sugar and orange zest, beating until fluffy. Add egg and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Add flour mixture and orange juice and milk in three alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before filling and frosting.

To make the filling, beat butter and shortening together until combined. Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined.  Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat to combine; you may want to add more vanilla to taste, depending on your preference.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once. Beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add orange extract, vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of milk, beating for about 1-2 minutes to combine. Add additional milk to reach a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread. Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting for white squiggle; tint the remaining frosting a yellow-orange. I used golden yellow gel food coloring with one drop of liquid red to get my desired shade.

To assemble, use a sharp knife (a melon baller did not work well for these cupcakes, I have to say) to core each cupcake. Place filling in a piping bag and generously fill each hole.

Place orange frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and generously pipe a blob on the top of each cupcake, then flatten it out with an offset spatula.

Place white frosting in a small piping bag with pipe the squiggle on the top of each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 12 cupcakes.

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Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!

Dracula’s Favorite Cupckes

October went by in a blur, and I never got a chance to post these fun, Halloween-themed cupcakes. They’re a basic almond cupcake filled with blood-red raspberry filling, topped with a little bat. I like to think Dracula would have enjoyed them.

I initially planned to poke holes in the tops and have some of the filling ooze out vampire-bite-style, but that didn’t quite work. Fortunately, I had some bat sprinkles, so that worked well. To make your raspberry filling appear a bit more bloody, simply add red food coloring once it’s cooled. You could also go with a cherry filling if you wanted to, as cherry and almond are good flavor friends as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 recipe raspberry filling
  • Red food coloring

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • Bat sprinkles

Preparation

Prepare raspberry filling and allow to cool; add several drops of red food coloring, stirring well until you reach your desired color.

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

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Once cupcakes are cool, prepare frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine. Add 1 tablespoon milk and beat well; add additional milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread.

To fill and frost: using a melon baller, scoop out the center of each cupcake. From the core, cut away all but the top 1/4 inch, leaving a small disc of cake. Reserve the scraps for a trifle or other treat.

Place raspberry filling in a zip-top bag and carefully snip one corner; pipe filling into each cupcake, then top with cake discs. This will help the raspberry filling from getting into your frosting, although I suppose for a vampire-themed cupcake, that wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Fill a piping bag with frosting and pipe onto each cupcake; using an offset spatula, flatted the swirls just slightly. You can also just frost the cupcakes by hand if you prefer.

Top each cupcake with one bat.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days; you’ll have some filling left over, which you can combine with the cupcake scraps for a delicious mini trifle.

Makes 12 cupcakes. Below, you’ll see the blood-red raspberry filling.

 

Princess Cupcakes

Princesses have come a long way in popular culture. As a kid, I had the classics: Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and the coolest princess ever, Princess Leia. Since my 1980s childhood, we’ve seen many strong female role models emerge in children’s stories. Today’s princesses aren’t lying around waiting for some rich guy to kiss them; they’re going off to battle, undoing spells from witches to save their families, and discovering that what makes them different is actually what makes them awesome. Even Princess Leia became a general, not that I’m surprised.

Princess cake and cookie flavor is a vanilla-citrus-flavored baking emulsion (read: flavoring that is water-based, so it won’t bake out) that you can find at cake stores and specialty baking suppliers like King Arthur Flour. This is the first time I’ve used it, and I’m very pleased with the results. I decided to go the traditional princess route and tinted my frosting pink, then added some pearl sprinkles as well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3 tablespoons milk

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • Red food coloring
  • Pearl sprinkles, if desired

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add egg and princess cake and cookie flavor and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 1 minute. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Once all the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, then add flavor and 2 teaspoons milk; if frosting is too thick, add remaining milk. Add a few drops of red food coloring to tint frosting pink.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Top with pearl sprinkles.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 6.

Confetti Cupcakes

I work with a great group of smart, hilarious women, and there’s a lot to celebrate on our team right now. Cyndy just had a birthday; Melissa is expecting her second baby; Megan got engaged last weekend, and it’s also her birthday later this month. Naturally, this calls for cupcakes.

You’ve probably had funfetti before – at least, I sincerely hope you have. These confetti cupcakes are a scratch-made alternative to Pillsbury’s brilliant sprinkles-in-the-cake idea, made with a fluffy vanilla buttercream and topped with more sprinkles, because is there really such a thing as too many? This recipe is adapted from one I found at Brown Eyed Baker; I cut the recipe down a bit to make a slightly smaller batch of just 18 cupcakes. You could easily double this recipe for a larger crowd.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • rainbow sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe made 18 cupcakes.

Combine milk and vanilla; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on low speed for about 1 minute, then slowly add butter, a few cubes at a time, beating on low until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low and scraping the sides of the bowl after each. Keep beating on low while slowly adding milk/vanilla mixture, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until batter is smooth. Stir in sprinkles.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop batter into cupcake wells, filling about two-thirds full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool on a wire rack completely.

To make the frosting, using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip butter for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Add powdered sugar one-half cup at a time, beating well between each addition to fully incorporate the sugar into the butter. Once all powdered sugar is added, whip for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed, then add vanilla extract and whip for another 1-2 minutes.

Frost cupcakes and top with sprinkles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 18.

Strawberry Vanilla Cupcakes

Filled cupcakes became a big deal a few years back, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my grandma Zella made filled cupcakes back in the ’80s and ’90s. Long before shows like Cupcake Wars appeared on television, Zella scooped out her cupcake centers and filled them with lemon curd, pudding, and pie fillings. I think this strawberry vanilla cupcake would have made her proud.

If you’re using a fruit or pudding-like filling, you’ll want a sturdier cupcake so that a) the cupcake doesn’t fall apart when you take a bite and b) the filling doesn’t get too absorbed into the cake. These cupcakes are on the drier side, more like a pound cake and able to hold the strawberry filling very well. When paired with a fresh strawberry buttercream, the flavor combination is a delightfully summery treat. I recommend making your filling first and allowing it to cool completely before you bake your cupcakes and make your frosting to save time during assembly.

Strawberry Filling

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces strawberries, pureed
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparation

In a medium saucepan, stir together strawberry puree, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and water. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it to boil for 1 minute, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds – this will take a few minutes, but is absolutely worth it. Allow to cool at room temperature before using; makes about 1 cup.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine milk and vanilla extract; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cake flour, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, then reduce mixer speed to low and add butter a few cubes at a time. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like coarse sand.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the vanilla milk mixture.

Return to medium speed and continue to beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl well.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Scant ¼ cup strawberry puree

Preparation

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar, in half-cup increments, beating until fully incorporated.

Slowly add strawberry puree, mixing until completely incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. If your mixture is too thin, slowly add more powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that will be easy to pipe.

To assemble your cupcakes:

Use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the center of each cupcake.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe strawberry filling into each cupcake.

Fit a large pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto the top of each cupcake. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Here’s a photo of the inside! 

Almond Raspberry Cupcakes

Baking requires instincts, and I should know by now not to ignore mine. Usually when I fill cupcakes with a custard or fruit filling, I scoop out the centers with a melon baller and pipe the filling into the divot, yielding a nice filling-to-cupcake ratio. For cream fillings, I place the filling in a piping bag and injecting it into the cupcake, because cream fillings are heavy enough to push the cake out a bit and yield the same nice filling-to-cupcake ratio.

Because I wanted to save a bit of time, I decided to use the injection method with my raspberry filling in these cupcakes. After I’d frosted them and tried one (because what kind of baker doesn’t engage in quality control?) I realized that the injection method had failed me: my cupcake had a sad little tunnel of filling, not nearly enough for a good flavor or texture balance. I wondered for a moment if I should drizzle the tops with raspberry jam to ramp up the flavor, then decided to use the leftover raspberry filling for drizzling. Another mistake. It looked ridiculous, far too thick and amateurish.

Eager to maintain my baking cred at the office, I carefully scraped the filling off the tops and replaced it with some raspberry jam to cover the gashes in the frosting. My colleagues enjoyed them very much, but I’ve learned my lesson: my instincts are important, and the next time I get the idea not to follow them, I’ll remember these cupcakes.

Ingredients

For the almond cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the raspberry filling

  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries, mashed
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the almond frosting and raspberry jam drizzle

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Red food coloring
  • About 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times during this step.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake wells, dividing evenly and filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the tin; cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

While the cupcakes bake, make your filling. Stir together raspberries, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils, then allow it to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring well, until the mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and press through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds. Allow to cool before using; makes about 1/2 cup.

Once both the filling and cupcakes are cool, use a melon baller to scoop out a small amount of cake from the center and pipe or spoon filling into each.

For the frosting, place butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and add powdered sugar all at once, beating on low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Continue beating on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, then beat on medium-high for another 2-3 minutes. Add a few drops of red food coloring to tint a light pink.

Fit a large piping bag with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe frosting in swirls on the tops of each cupcake.

Stir raspberry jam to make it smooth, then fit a small piping bag with a small plain tip and twist the bottom of the bag near the tip so the jam won’t run out when you pour it in. Untwist the bag and pipe jam over the tops of the cupcakes.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving.