My roommate normally doesn’t question my baking. She wakes up in the morning, stumbles into the kitchen, and is totally accustomed to seeing me hunched over the stand mixer or anal-retentively trying to make sure each cookie dough lump on a baking sheet is evenly sized and spaced. This morning, however, she piped up, apparently sensing something was amiss when she glanced over and saw me filling a bag to pipe icing.

“What’s the occasion?”

“I need an occasion to make mini cupcakes?”

“You need an occasion to pipe icing.”

Ravaging cherries.

The dialogue ended there because, well, I need an occasion in order to go the extra mile with my presentation. There’s no sense hiding my laziness, hungriness, impatience, etc, but because it was early (and I’ll attribute it to that, instead of my charming personality) I kind of huffed and puffed, claiming that there was no reason at all. Being a Colleen-Yoda and all, she grabbed a cupcake and laughed it off.

But there is a very real reason, or “occasion”, for my going pipe-icing crazy today. For those of you who don’t know (or care?), I’m studying for this crazy BEAST of an exam and am stressed about it. It’d be fine if I were one of those very fortunate people who can sit down to take exams like it’s the most normal thing in the world, but I’m another kind of person who, when they sit down to take an exam, completely blank on EVERYTHING and answer questions like a rock with hands for holding a pencil. [Insert more complaining, whining, and grumbling. I’ll spare you by letting you use your imagination.] The purpose of relaying this information is that a good kitchen project, one that would work for me and make me happy, was in order.

Behold the happy-making power of a mini-cupcake. Ooooh. Aaaah.

Vanilla Cherry Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from Erin Does Cupcakes, originally Vanilla Peach Cupcakes)

Yields about 24 mini cupcakes

Note: I quartered the original recipe in order to significantly curb the final number of mini-cupcakes, and wrote out the recipe exactly as I made it. I always suggest clicking over to the original recipe, but in this case I especially suggest it if you want to make normal-size cupcakes!

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup cake flour (not self-rising)

½ cup granulated sugar

Heaping ½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

¼ cup butter, room temperature, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 egg

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

(Optional: 1/8 teaspoon almond extract)

1/3 cup cherries, pitted and finely chopped

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a mini-muffin tin with cupcake papers.

2. In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and stir just until cubes of butter are coated in flour.

3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and extract(s), until combined.

4. Add wet mixture to dry in three parts, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. After third addition, stir just until combined and fold in chopped cherries.

5. Fill each liner 2/3 of the way full and bake, in preheated oven, 15-17 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

6. Let cupcakes cool in pan at least 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Let cupcakes cool to room temperature before frosting.

 

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

(Recipe adapted from the Cupcake Project, originally Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting)

Note: Split recipe in half if you don’t plan on piping.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup powdered sugar (adding more or less depending on desired consistency)

½ unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

(Optional: ½ teaspoon almond extract)

1 tablespoon milk

Method:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy, between three and five minutes.

2. Add extract(s) and milk, and continue to beat for another minute or so.

3. For a stiffer consistency, add more powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.

 

Does it ever happen to you that the busier your week is the more you crave a project? I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy on things that are necessary but aren’t necessarily my favorite things to think about, and I figured it’s time to re-calibrate by a baking project from which I would usually back down.

Piping frosting. I think the stigma of piped frosting comes from growing up in a household where such steps as those were deemed a pointless use of time in the face of enjoying delicious cake. If you look through the archives of this blog, even, you’ll see that I rarely, RARELY pipe frosting and almost always mention how much I dislike doing it, and if you know me, you’ve probably heard the rant a billion times before. The reality is that I don’t mind the piping part, it’s getting the frosting in the darn bag that gets me every time. I always end up with frosting all over me and all over everything else, everything besides the cupcakes. A few months back I got some Julia Child cooking DVDs from the local bookstore and have watched her put frosting in a piping bag countless times. But as you all know and have experienced, she makes things look really easy, especially when you’re a novice.

This time around wasn’t so bad; my mess was contained and I managed to have extra frosting after successfully frosting my cupcakes. The piping itself needs a little practice, to be sure, and I might be convinced to do it more often now that I’m confident enough to face a bag with frosting without being terrified of the impending mess. I would suggest clicking through to the original recipe, her cupcakes are filled with lemon curd! Even though I wanted a more elaborate baking project, the lemon curd was overshadowed by my desire to pipe some frosting. Because the two are mutually exclusive? I’m just talking all over the place, now. Go, enjoy some cupcakes, and I’ll work on formulating some thoughts!

 Lemon Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields 24 cupcakes (but halves beautifully if need be)

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1 ¼ cups milk with about 1 tablespoon vinegar)

4 egg whites, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Zest from two lemons, as finely grated as possible

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cups of a cupcake tin with paper liners or grease with baking spray. Center a rack in the oven.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together egg whites and milk.

4. If using a stand mixer, combine sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of the stand mixer. Combine zest and sugar with your fingers until moist and fragrant.

5. Add butter to lemon/sugar mixture and beat until light, about 3 minutes if using an electric/stand mixer. Beat in lemon and vanilla extracts.

6. Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of one half milk mixture, making sure to start and end with the addition of flour. Beat until just incorporated between each addition, and then beat for an additional 2 minutes after all ingredients have been added, until batter is homogenous.

7. Divide mixture evenly among cupcake cups, filling each cup about two thirds of the way full.

8. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and cupcakes spring back when touched.

9. Move cupcake pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from cups and cooling completely on a wire rack.

 

Lemon Buttercream

(Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

Yields a lot of frosting – if you don’t plan on piping, you might want to halve it

Ingredients:

2 cups, or 4 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of one lemon

1-3 tablespoons milk (to add until you reach desired consistency)

**½ cup blueberries, pureed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

**I added the equivalent measure of strawberry syrup from these baked strawberries, made last week. Can’t wait to try this frosting with fresh, pureed fruit, though!

Method:

1. In a large mixing bowl cream butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes on medium speed (this is easiest if you have access to an electric mixer).

2. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until blended.

3. Add in extract, salt, zest, and fruit puree. Beat frosting, on high speed, until fluffy.

4. Add milk, if necessary, to help reach desired consistency.

 

Assembly: Frost cupcakes with desired amount of frosting!

Storage: Cupcakes are best enjoyed as soon as possible after frosting. Mine lasted pretty well sitting at room temperature, in an airtight container, for one day. Otherwise, store refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days, bringing to room temperature before eating.

 

On our first “date” as friends, this darling girl and I went to Sweet for cupcakes, and it has become a tradition. They switch up their menu with the change of seasons, and have special Valentine’s Day cupcakes (Which is coming up! Rejoice!), which we love because you never tire of the flavors. Conversely, though, you tend to miss the flavors you really enjoy when they are out of season, so to speak. One of those flavors is the chocolate orange cupcake, which I want to reproduce for her so she has a foolproof, easy to make recipe to use year round.

The only thing that I am deliberately changing about the chocolate orange cupcake is the cake itself. The Sweet version is a chocolate cake with orange buttercream frosting, but I would like to up the ante and find a recipe for chocolate orange cake. The first reason is personal, because I love zest in cake, but the second and REAL reason is that, just in case she doesn’t feel like making the frosting, she can simply make the cake and eat it plain. Although I’ll take this opportunity to say that I want to eat this frosting until the sun devours the Earth. Just sayin’.

All in all, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way the cake turned out. The cupcakes were very, very crumbly, yet not overcooked. I’ve made vegan chocolate cake a few times before this, and was able to manage a moist cupcake, so naturally I was a little disappointed. The flavor was fantastic, even if it was super rich. The next time I make a vegan chocolate orange cake, I’m going to turn to Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Random excitement, before turning over the recipe over to you, though! These cupcakes gave me a chance to use my cupcake corer!! It’s kind of a dream come true. As hard as it is to admit (because this is a baking blog, after all), I’m a frosting girl. So cupcakes filled with frosting, then topped with frosting? Yes. A thousand times, yes. I suppose you could fill them with anything you wish, but, again, this frosting is amazing.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (vegan)

(Adapted from momofukufor2)

Yields 12 full-size cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

3. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together all other ingredients.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the liquid into the dry.

5. Mix the batter until everything is just combined.

6. Fill the cupcake liners with about ¼ cup batter, or at least make sure they all have even amounts of batter.

7. Bake tins in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, testing them at 20. When a butter knife or toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out dry, you’re done!

8. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for at least 5 minutes, then let them cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature.

Orange Frosting (Note: NOT vegan)

(Adapted from All Cakes Considered)

Yields more than enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, if you aren’t doing any crazy piping.

Ingredients:

½ cup, or one stick, unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ½ to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange extract

(Optional: 3 tablespoons of dried orange peel, or finely grated orange zest)

Method:

1. Using a mixer, cream the butter until it is smooth and fluffy.

2. Add 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, and while mixing on low, add the evaporated milk.

3. When the sugar is incorporated, beat the frosting at a high speed for at least five minutes (I beat mine for 8 or 9 minutes, which was almost overkill). Add more confectioners’ sugar to get your desired texture.

4. Add the extracts and zest, if using, and beat on high for another minute or two until even distributed through the frosting.

To assemble cupcakes:

Exhibit A. This is what happens when you do not let the cupcakes cool to room temperature, when you don't let the ganache cool to a reasonable temperature, and when you don't even make the ganache properly because you're so intent on eating.

1. Wait until the cupcakes are room temperature!

2. Frost the cupcakes.

3. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. If kept in the fridge, bring to room temperature or let sit for 10 minutes before eating because the frosting gets a little stiff when it’s cold.