It’s been a while since I baked a batch of cupcakes, but I started to get the itch for some of the miniature cakes this weekend and pulled out my trusty cupcake pan. Some freshly picked oranges – plucked from the tree before the orange-loving squirrels could get to them – were my inspiration to make some orange and chocolate cupcakes.
I used a simple cake recipe that I come back to time and again. I’ve heard it called wacky cake and eggless cake before, but it’s just a good one in my book no matter what name it goes by. The cake uses no eggs and no butter (it’s vegan, actually), and it can be mixed up in just one bowl. Typically, it gets its leavening from a combination of baking soda and vinegar added to the batter and is moistened with vegetable oil. Since orange juice is acidic, I left out the vinegar and introduced a good amount of orange juice to the cake. The resulting cupcakes rose beautifully and had a great texture: soft, but not crumbly, and moist.
Using cocoa powder in the cupcakes gives them a really good, strong chocolate flavor. The orange juice, if used alone, contributes a surprisingly mild flavor that doesn’t stand up to the chocolate that well. I remedied this by adding in the zest of one orange to the cake batter to boost the citrus flavor of the cake and by topping the cupcakes with a zesty orange frosting. The frosting was quite bold and, in the end, everything came together perfectly.
These are tasty and easy to make – especially since you don’t have to wait for butter to soften before you can start mixing. Try to use freshly squeezed orange juice for the best flavor. You’ll need to have fresh oranges on hand for their zest, so you might as well make the most of the fruit in this recipe.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa power, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, vegetable oil, vanilla and orange zest. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain.
Distribute batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting
Zesty Orange Frosting
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
2-3 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and orange zest.
Beat in milk, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar if you desire a thicker frosting; consistency should be thick but still somewhat runny.
Spread onto cooled cupcakes.