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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

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Grocery shopping, or cupcake concocting?

You can guess how it turned out, but that was the dilemma I toiled over last night as I made my way home from work. Sensibility was gaining the lead as I considered all of the preparation I need to do for Christmas Eve dinner, which I'll be hosting at my house. I very sensibly considered all of the things I could accomplish early by getting my grocery shopping done that very night. Frivolity, however, edged out a narrow win - I think the bumper to bumper traffic and kamikaze-esque drivers wore me down. By the time I got home, I was in full denial mode. Christmas Eve, looming only three days away? No big deal. I have LOTS of time, right??

In eager anticipation of a fulfilling night of procrastinating cupcake concocting (and NOT battling a grocery store full of frazzled moms, screaming kids, grumpy old men, grumpy people in general - bah, humbug!) I arrived at home and was greeted by my dancing dog, who became increasingly excited once she realized I was baking. Bella has a sweet tooth, which I take great pains NOT to indulge, but she is very sneaky. And very tall.

Bella brought me every one of her toys, one by one, hoping to negotiate a trade for a cupcake. No dice, Bella.

These chocolate orange cupcakes are inspired by those fun little chocolate oranges (classic stocking stuffers), and also Ellen's Kahlua cake.  Since I DIDN'T go to the store, I didn't have ~exactly~ everything the recipe called for, but I wasn't about to let that stop me. I'm all about adventures in substitution, as you know!
I would have taken my own photo, but I didn't actually HAVE a chocolate orange, since, you know, I didn't go to the store.


For the cupcakes (this makes about 22):
1 pkg chocolate cake mix (yes, a MIX! This really is an easy recipe. By the way, I think Pillsbury is the best.)
1 pint plain yogurt (it was actually supposed to be sour cream, but I didn't go to the store, remember? Plain yogurt worked very nicely.)
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs (the Pillsbury mix called for 3, but Ellen's recipe only called for 2...and I only HAD 2, because...I didn't go to the store. I think the texture was great with just the 2 eggs.)
3/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup Patron Citronge
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Zest from about 1/2 an orange (make sure you wash the orange really well to remove as much wax as possible!)

For the frosting (adapted from Ellen's go-to recipe for perfect buttercream):
1 cup butter (I used unsalted) softened to room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream (though I'm sure half and half would work just fine!)
2 Tbsp Patron Citronge (this is my favorite orange liqueur, but you can use whatever kind you like)
3 and 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar ('s no fun and makes a mess, but it does make a difference!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
Zest from the other half of the orange

Dump all of the ingredients into a large bowl (told you this was easy).

Mix all of the ingredients together. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then mix a little more.

This batter was very thick, and I noticed it kind of had the consistency of chocolate pudding. 
I used an ice cream scoop (4 Tbsp) to distribute the batter into the cupcake liners. I filled them nearly to the top, and ended up with 22 cupcakes.

Bake at 350 for 22-24 minutes.

Look at these lovely domed beauties! That's the cream of tartar at work.
Why yes, these cupcakes ARE cooling inside my microwave. Otherwise, vigilant hovering is required to keep Bella at bay. Seriously, she's sneaky and TALL. And I really did need to do a LITTLE Christmas prep work.

While the cupcakes cool, you can mix up the frosting. I use my stand mixer, with the whisk attachment.

Place the butter, cream, vanilla, orange zest, and booze into the bowl.
Mix on med speed until it starts to come together (should take a couple of minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).
Scrape the sides of the bowl (with the mixer off, of course).
Mix on med-high speed for another couple of minutes until the ingredients look almost emulsified.
Add the sifted confectioner's sugar and cocoa.
Mix on low (to prevent powdery, chocolatey clouds from forming) until the ingredients start to come together.
Scrape the sides of the bowl, and slowly increase the speed to medium. Keep an eye on the consistency, and add a little more cream (or booze, whatever) if it's too thick for piping (or spreading, if that's more your style).
Gradually increase to high speed and give it a good minute or two of whipping to incorporate some air and make your frosting light and fluffy.

Pipe or spread onto completely cooled cupcakes, and if you like, add some sprinkles. I like sparkling sugar, and have a ridiculous stash of every color imaginable in my cupboard.

This is what they looked like before, in my sleepy stupor, I put the cupcake carrier lid on upside down and squished some of them a little bit.
And there you have it. 20 out of the 22 made it to work with me this morning; aren't you proud of me? My coworkers seemed to like them. I was definitely a fan. The texture is great (must be the pudding), the chocolate flavor is intense, and I think there's just the right amount of orange tartness. Not bad for a Wednesday night procrastination project! The only bad news it's Thursday, and as soon as I save this writeup, I really need to read up the house for Christmas Eve dinner. Oh well. Denial was fun while it lasted! Don't get me wrong...I'm very excited to celebrate with family; I just wish I could Jeannie-blink my house into a more presentable state.

Have a very merry Christmas, and a happy & safe New Year, dear readers!

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1 comment:

  1. These were amazing. And, as I told Jacqueline in my FB response...Amazing and for better than anything I've ever made, hands down. I don't even like chocolate and fruit combinations. Give these a try! Happy Holidays, J!!!


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