Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vanilla bean + orange cupcakes

Can I confess something? I sometimes make cupcakes out of box mix, because I usually think people can't tell the difference if you top it with homemade frosting.

cupcake liners

But I may change my position on that. Because making cupcakes from scratch is fun, and not very hard, and you really can taste a difference. The only trick I've ever found for making good cake is to never short yourself on the amount of time you beat the butter, then add the sugar slowly and beat until it is nice and fluffy. This provides the structure. Also, you should be scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently, to make sure everything is getting mixed.

vanilla bean + orange cupcake

Vanilla bean + orange cupcakes (makes 12 - 14, original recipe from Martha)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Cream butter for about 3 minutes, then slowly add the sugar, vanilla seeds, and orange zest and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. With mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl.

**Combine cream, orange juice, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cream mixture, ending with flour; beat until just combined. Make sure you are scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

**Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted in the centers come out clean, about 25 minutes.
Martha suggests using her swiss meringue buttercream recipe, which is wonderful, one of my favorites. For no real reason, I opted to use my other favorite recipe, the Magnolia Bakery creamy vanilla frosting. It has a flour base, which makes it slightly unusual, but the texture is amazing. It is light and fluffy and perfect for people who might not be completely sold on buttercream frosting.
Magnolia Bakery creamy vanilla frosting (makes enough for 3 dozen generously frosted cupcakes, slightly modified, original recipe from this book)

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (my addition)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar (I only use superfine baker's sugar for this recipe)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one orange (my addition for this particular cupcake)

**In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Do this by adding a tiny bit of milk to the flour, whisking it into a thick paste and then slowly adding a bit more and stirring until it is all incorporated. This takes a bit of time, but if you try to do it too quickly you will end up with a lumpy mixture that is even more of a hassle. If using vanilla beans, add them here. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature.

**In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well. Add orange zest if desired.

**Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes before using. I always pipe my frosting on because it is much faster and less messy than any other method I've found. No pastry bags or tips? Just load your frosting into a ziploc bag, cut off one corner and you have an instant solution.


  1. I know what I'm doing on Saturday..

    I love to make cupcakes, but my diet is keeping me from indulging. I think I'll make them and take them to a retirement home!

  2. oh wait, you scrape the sides of the bowl and don't just shovel that into your mouth? maybe that's why i've never successfully made cupcakes. these look AMAZING.

  3. That looks super yummy and I agree with the comment above me, what's left on the sides of the bowl is for eating... LOL

  4. How delicious! Thank you for all the yummy recipes!

  5. Please feel free to drop by anytime with these!

  6. I would like to order a dozen please. Oh, these look delicious.

  7. wow - shows I'm not much of a baker really when I've never heard of using flour in frosting. But Im willing to give it a try.

  8. these look SO GOOD.

    i'm going to have to try them out soon. like, really soon.

  9. these look gorgeous & scrumptious at the same time.
    wonderful work, rachel!

  10. Did you see that article in February's Martha about the mix and match cupcakes? So amazing. Love these--thanks so much for sharing!

  11. You always have the best cooking tips! I've never made cupcakes from scratch, but this recipe has inspired me to try.

  12. OH MY GOSH Rachel...this sounds amazing!! I don't know whether to be upset with you or thankful. How about this...I'll be thankful, and my waist will be mad at you!! : )
    Can't wait to try these.

  13. how sweet are these little cupcakes, will definitely be making them soon! :)

  14. those look so good!
    i'm dying for a good cupcake now..

  15. This is the perfect spring cupcake recipe! It is finally warm in Chicago today and this totally has me in the mood to celebrate the warmer weather.

    PS- AWESOME JOB getting on Design Sponge! Did they happen to find your before + after?

  16. i made cupcakes kind of from a box last night (i add a few things, i can't help myself) with homemade frosting. though these look mighty fine i won't scoff at from a box cupcakes ... or any cupcake for that matter.

  17. They look amazing - as usual. Ever thought of opening a little cafe and running craft classes? Am glad to see your work on Design Sponge too - yippee! I love that 'message centre.'

  18. Yum! I love your frosting recipe! I love frosting but not the buttermilk or heavy cream, as I don't eat dairy -- so your suggestion is perfect!

  19. These look fabulous! And ps -- yea you on design*sponge!! If i didn't comment on those projects of yours before, they look sooo cute!

  20. I use Martha Stewart's basic buttercream, and Sprinkles cream cheese as my go-to frostings...happy to say I can now add a vanilla to the mix! This recipe looks sooooo yummy, and you always post the best photos! :)

  21. Oh definitely going to have to give this one a try! they sound very yum!

  22. These look absolutely delicious! I am hopelessly addicted to cupcakes so I will be making these soon :)

  23. One of your cupcakes sound just about good right now.

  24. I love orange flavored treats.

    I saw your chalkboard on Design Sponge. Looking good famous friend.

  25. Congrats on your design*sponge appearance! You deserve the pat on the back for your before/after projects.

  26. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Why is everything you do so PRETTY?! It's so wonderful.

  27. Magnolia frosting is for. real. Sad I can't eat cupcakes anymore :(

  28. Design Sponge AND apartment therapy on the same day? Wowee--do we get to say 'we knew you when'?

    oh, and nothing makes my mouth water like a perfect splodge of frosting on a cupcake--so you can imagine how I'm feeling about these little lovelies!

  29. WoW! I'm blown away by the icing recipe! It is one of the first recipes in my mother's collection of
    recipes. She started her handwritten collection when she was first married 65 years ago. :) That icing has been on every birthday cake she has ever made. (birthday cakes are always "silver white")(why fuss with perfection? she would say.) My very favorite! Now I need to get the magnolia cookbook & see what other treasures I can find. ;-)

  30. I made 2 dozen of these for my birthday party, and they disappeared in record time. I wanted to top them with little edible blossoms, but I couldn't find any, so I topped them with little candy orange slices intstead. Yummy!

  31. i can t do the frosting! there is no way for me to make that frosting like yours! help plz

    1. What's going wrong? I can try to troubleshoot!

      Make sure that the cooked milk mixture is completely cool before you try beating it in. Stick it in the fridge if you have to!


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