Woodland Creature Cupcakes

woodlandcupcakesI’m a year-round hiker, taking to the woods in all seasons. This past week Mike, Tucker, and I logged more than 10 miles on the trails at our local park. Today’s baking was inspired by the woodland creatures I love, but have never come upon while out on the trails. Granted, meeting a fox or hedgehog would be quite different than meeting a bear, but it’s still something I hope to experience someday.

Flavor-wise, these cupcakes are an orange-cinnamon combination based on my honey cupcake recipe, which originally calls for lemon zest instead of orange. I wanted a bright flavor profile for these treats, and that’s exactly what I got – a nice kick of citrus against the warmth of cinnamon, all in an adorable little cupcake.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the frosting and decoration

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Brown and orange food coloring
  • Mini and regular-sized chocolate chips
  • Candy eyes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch yielded 16 cupcakes when cups were filled about half to three-quarters full.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla extract, orange zest, and beat until well combined, then add honey and beat until well combined.

With the mixer running on its lowest speed, gradually add flour until the mixture is just combined, then add milk and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl frequently to fully incorporate all ingredients.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake pans, filling about half to three-quarters full. Bake for at least 17 minutes, then check cupcakes for doneness; if cupcakes are not done, continue baking for 1-2 minutes and checking after each interval to be sure they don’t burn. My cupcakes baked for about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for just a moment in the pans, then cool completely on wire racks.

When cupcakes are cool, prepare the frosting: beat butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 1 minute, then add all the powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon and beat to combine.

Divide your frosting into three portions: leave one natural, then tint the other two brown and orange. To make my fox color, I combined some of the brown frosting with orange food coloring for an earthier tone.

Frost half of your cupcakes with a thin layer of the natural-colored frosting; these will be your hedgehogs and foxes.

To make hedgehogs, fit a piping bag with a Wilton 233 tip (the grass/fur tip) and pipe fur, leaving a heart-shaped area of the cupcake plain. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make foxes, fit a piping bag with a small star tip (I used Wilton 13) and pipe fur, leaving two patches of the cupcake plain for the fox’s cheeks. Switch to a leaf tip (I used Wilton 352) and pipe on ears. Add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and one for the nose.

To make bears, take a small portion of the natural frosting and combine it with the brown frosting to make a lighter brown shade. Place it in a small piping bag and snip the end; reserve for the bear’s muzzles. Cover the entire cupcake with brown frosting, then pipe on the muzzle; add candy eyes, a chocolate chip for the nose, and chocolate chips for the bear’s ears. Use a sharp knife, pulling upward, to create the bear’s fur.

Frost the remaining cupcakes however you like, or just use the remaining natural frosting and leave them plain (which is what I did). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.