Orange Cream Mini Cupcakes

orange cream cupcakeI’ve just completed a mammoth baking endeavor: 23 dozen miniature cupcakes, of varying flavors. This is the largest single-client baking project I’ve ever completed, and it went very well (as far as I know; the aforementioned cupcakes are likely being consumed right now at a fundraising event). It also left me with two dozen miniature vanilla cupcakes that needed frosting, so I asked Mike to choose a frosting flavor to complement them. He chose orange, for an orange cream-like result.

Rising to the challenge, I did a quick online search for orange frosting. There are many to choose from, ranging from orange cream cheese to orange buttercream to orange drizzle. Because drizzle would have been too glaze-like and cream cheese would have added a tang I didn’t quite want, I chose an orange buttercream and adapted it to my liking, using orange extract, vanilla extract, and orange juice to achieve a delicate orange-vanilla balance. If you don’t have orange extract handy, you can substitute with more orange juice. Mike was very pleased with the outcome, proclaiming the end result “very orange-creamy.”

The recipes below yield 24 miniature cupcakes and 1 cup of frosting, which covered my cupcakes perfectly.

Very Vanilla Cupcakes


  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

Note: to double this recipe for 4 dozen miniature or 2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes, use the quantities in St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one 24-cup mini cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue beating for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Orange Cream Frosting


  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract*
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Yellow liquid food coloring
  • Red liquid food coloring

*Substitute orange juice if you don’t have orange extract. And, this recipe would be very easily doubled if you wanted to make enough to cover 4 dozen miniature or 2 dozen regular-sized cupcakes.


In a mixing bowl, beat butter on low speed for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, orange extract, and vanilla; beat on low speed until well-combined. Add second cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice and beat until well-combined. Add additional orange juice, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, to reach a smooth (but not runny) consistency.

With your mixer running on low, add about 3-4 drops of yellow liquid food coloring, followed by 1 drop of red. Beat on medium speed until color is well-distributed, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, to achieve a pale orange color.

Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.


Black Bottom Mini Brownies (Version One)







People often ask me what I miss about living in DC, and I tell them many things; our dear friends, our cool apartment on the Hill from which, in the winter when there were no leaves on the magnolia tree, you could see the top of the Capitol Dome, the Metro, the ample assortment of activities, the fact that we could walk to almost everything and only needed one car.  Oh, and of course, easy access to Starbucks.

From our apartment, there were three Starbucks shops in short walking distance; from my office on G Street, there were at least five.  While working at Catholic Charities Foundation, my friend Kelly and I literally went to Starbucks every day.  Sometimes more than once.

Among the treats behind the curved-glass dessert case was the infamous black bottom cupcake, a marvelous confection of cream cheese batter and dark chocolate batter that was at once spongy and dense.  I’m sure it had about a million calories, but it was totally worth it.

This recipe reminded me of the black bottom cupcake, though I have to wonder if the author actually tested it before it was published.  The original baking time needed to be nearly doubled, and when I popped each brownie out of its muffin cup after they cooled, they basically fell apart.  I’d suggest many changes, including baking in full-size muffin cups or a rectangular pan, reducing the quantity of mini chocolate chips in the cream cheese layer, or spooning significantly less batter into each mini muffin cup.  Let’s call this recipe Version One and keep trying, eh?


Cream Cheese Layer

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened and cut into chunks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Layer

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat a 24-cup mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, sugar, butter, egg yolk, and vanilla until well blended and completely smooth.

Pour into a bowl and add the mini chocolate chips, stirring to combine; set aside while preparing chocolate layer.

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

In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine butter and baking chocolate.  Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until chocolate almost melts; remove from microwave and stir until the remaining chocolate melts completely.

Add sugar and stir until well combined.

Add flour mixture and stir until very well combined.

Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of the chocolate mixture into each mini muffin cup.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate layer, distributing batter evenly.

Spoon remaining chocolate batter evenly over the cream cheese layer.

Place muffin tin on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out almost clean; if the bottom is a bit moist, that is okay.

Cool completely in pans on a wire rack, then remove gently using the tip of a table knife.