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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes

I think orange is an under-appreciated flavor. It seems like candy dishes always run out of the "popular" flavors, like cherry, chocolate, and lime - leaving a surplus of rejected orange candies languishing at the bottom of the dish. I'm always happy to snatch them up for myself. I like to root for the underdog. And I really, really love orange-flavored everything.

These cupcakes were partially inspired by Icing on the Cupcake's orange cupcakes - which I love - and partially inspired by childhood memories of savoring orange dreamsicles on hot summer days, and swigging orange-flavored Triaminic. Wait, what??! 

I tried IOTC's creation on a whim one day when I stopped by to take advantage of one of their "whisper" sales. Of course, by the time I get there, after a long day at work and a long commute, many whisperers have come before me so the pickins can be slim. I try to call ahead when I can to reserve a couple of my favorites. On this day, I had called in my order earlier, but when I walked in and saw that the display case was nearly empty, save for two entire rows of beautiful, pastel orange cupcakes, I kind of felt sorry for them. I even said so to the girl behind the counter, who definitely thought I was a little crazy. I ended up walking out with twice as many cupcakes as I'd intended to buy, because those poor, under-appreciated orange cupcakes needed a home. Do you think anyone at home was as excited about those lonely orange lovelies as I was? Nope. I'm pretty sure I ate them all myself. Which brings us back to the orange-flavored Triaminic.

It seems that I have poor self control around orange-flavored sweets. This weakness first manifested when I was a toddler. I'd recently had a cold, and apparently developed a taste for Triaminic cough syrup. My poor mom found me sitting on the kitchen counter - I'd climbed up there when she turned her back for a minute - covered in sticky orange cough syrup. I was chugging from the nearly-empty bottle, there were orange puddles all over the counter, and a Triaminic river was running down the front of me into a bright orange lake on the floor. I believe a call to Poison Control was involved but it soon became clear that I'd poured more of the cough syrup ON myself and all over the kitchen than down my throat, so everything was OK. And ever since then, my self control evaporates in the presence of orange treats.

These cupcakes are no exception. They're based on my favorite summertime treat: orange dreamsicles. Do you call them dreamsicles? Creamsicles? I've heard both. I've also heard them called 50-50 bars, but I think that's the cheapy creepy generic version. 50-what and 50-what? It just sounds nondescript and much less romantic than a dreamsicle.

Here's how to make these dreamy orange confections:


**Orange cake mix, if you can find it. I couldn't. So, instead, I used:
**1 box yellow cake mix
**1 small box orange Jell-o
**zest of 1/2 an orange
**substitute 1/3 cup orange liqueur (I like to use Patron Citronge, but Grand Marnier or triple sec or any other kind will do!) for some of the water - the mix I was using called for 1 & 1/3 cups of water.
**I also used 1 cup of orange juice instead of the other 1 cup of water.
**other ingredients called for by cake mix: probably eggs and oil.

Vanilla filling:
**10 oz white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate bark)
**1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream
**2 Tbsp butter
**2 tsp vanilla (vanilla bean paste is best)

Orange-vanilla buttercream frosting:
**1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature salted butter (if using unsalted, add about 1/2 tsp salt)
**2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
**2 Tbsp orange liqueur
**4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Candied orange slices:
**1 orange, washed and dried, thinly sliced (go for about 1/8"), with seeds removed (I found that quarters were easier to work with than the full rounds or half-moon slices, but do what works for you)
**1 cup sugar
**1 cup water


(1) Mix all ingredients together and bake as directed on the box. Easy!
(2) After the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a cupcake corer or small knife to cut a hole in the top of the cupcake, about 1.5 inches deep. This is where the vanilla ganache filling will go. 

Vanilla filling:
(1) Place the white chocolate into a heatproof bowl (I like to use glass and I'll explain why). Add the vanilla.
(2) Place the half and half (or cream) and the butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then pour over the white chocolate.
(3) Let it sit for a few minutes, then stir with a spatula until smooth. If you're like me and there are a few unmelted chunks that refuse to become smooth, and if you're using a glass bowl, just throw it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and try stirring again. You can repeat this a couple of times as needed. I mean, you could rig up a double boiler system with your bowl and a saucepan of simmering water, but you don't really need to go to the trouble. I'm sure this would make a fancy pastry chef roll his eyes, but hey, I get results.
(4) Let the mixture cool and thicken a little, but not harden.
(5) Carefully spoon the ganache (you could let it cool longer and pipe it if you REALLY want to, but, why??) into the holes you've carved in the tops of the cupcakes. If you want to, you can replace the pared-down tops, could eat them. They won't show after you frost the cupcakes, anyway.

Orange-vanilla buttercream frosting:
(1) Place butter, orange liqueur, and vanilla in a bowl.
(2) Mix on low-med speed until it starts to break down and come together, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then mix on medium speed for another minute or so, until the mixture is mostly emulsified.
(3) Increase mixer speed to med-high for another minute or two so you get an even emulsification.
(4) Decrease mixer speed to low. Add confectioner's sugar, about 1 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl now and then. Once the sugar is added, slowly increase the mixer speed to medium for about 30 seconds, then high for another 30 seconds. If the frosting seems too thick, you can add a little milk or corn syrup (about 1 tsp at a time) until you achieve a nice piping consistency.
(5) Frost cupcakes, covering up the ganache-filled holes.
(6) Optional: if you want to kick up the booze factor a notch, you could brush the tops of the cupcakes with a little orange liqueur. 

Candied orange slices:
(1) In a large saucepan or skillet (you want lots of surface area), combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar.
(2) While stirring, bring to a boil. When liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low.
(3) Add orange slices (try not to overlap) and simmer (uncovered) until rinds are translucent, about 1 hour.
(4) Transfer to a nonstick surface (a baking sheet lined with parchment paper works well), using tongs.
(5) Let stand until set. Popping them into the refrigerator until you're ready for them helps. They need to be completely cool before you top your cupcakes with them.

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*Posted by Jacqueline*
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  1. You, my friend, should enter Cupcake Wars--luscious looking mouth is watering.

  2. Love the story about the cough syrup - made me laugh! Well, I probably wouldn't have laughed if I was your mom, but you know what I mean. ;) Love these cupcakes too! YUM!

  3. thank you! I'm making these again this week because they were just that good, and the pastel orange is so pretty and springy/Easter-y!

  4. How did I miss this?! I LOVED the orange naked muffins at Icing when I worked there--so yummy. These look awesome!

  5. These cupcakes seem gorgeous. Yes, I also very much like orange as a flavour.

  6. I am drooling over those photos and have saved the recipe to try. Yum!

  7. A 50/50 bar was 50% orange sherbet and 50% vanilla ice cream.


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