Last week was my last week of full-time work for the planning department, so I brought some cupcakes to the office. The flavor was a variation on a birthday cake I’d tried and really liked, orange and cream.
The orange taste in these is pretty subtle; doing it again, I might add even more zest. The vanilla pastry cream in the middle is a great surprise. You can go ahead and lighten the pastry cream (fold in whipped cream) for this recipe.
I frosted these with orange Swiss meringue buttercream, and I added some store-bought marshmallow fluff to the piping bag to swirl some white color on the top. I’ll never do it again! Buttercream has a very different texture than the fluff, and they fought in the piping bag. It was impossible to frost these in any kind of pretty way. In the future, I’ll just reserve some buttercream before I color and flavor it, and add vanilla extract to it.
This is a basic 1-2-3-4 cake, with zest and extract added for orange flavor.
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. orange extract
zest of two large oranges
Preheat oven to 375˚.
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beating after each addition until smooth. Stir in the extract and zest.
Scoop with a large ice cream scoop into standard cupcake liners.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from muffin pans to cool.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
Orange Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 sticks room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces cooled, melted white chocolate
If you have a copper mixing bowl, set it over a saucepan of simmering water, and put in the egg whites and sugar. If you don't have a copper bowl, use the bowl of an electric mixer.
Cook the sugar and egg whites, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 160˚.
If you're using a copper bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat the mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form (if you're using a stand mixer's bowl, just use the stand mixer). Continue beating until it is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Put meringue in your stand mixer now. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the white chocolate, one teaspoon at a time. The white chocolate will help to stabilize the frosting and keep it from melting once it's on the cake.
Your buttercream may separate when you add the fat; this is called "breaking." Ever since I've started using a copper bowl for my egg whites (which chemically stabilizes the meringue), I haven't had a buttercream break. However, if it does break, beat it on medium-high speed for a few minutes, and it will eventually come back together.
Stir in the zest and orange extract, and a few drops each of red and yellow food coloring.
Beat on lowest speed, to remove air bubbles, and then stir with a rubber spatula until buttercream is very smooth.
It may be too soft to work with immediately. Put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula every few minutes, until the buttercream is firmer.
To assemble the cupcakes:
Let cupcakes cool. Using a small paring knife held at an angle, cut a cone into each cupcake, about 2/3 of the way deep into the cupcake. Pull the cone out, and cut off the end. Use a very small ice cream scoop to scoop vanilla pastry cream inside the cavity. Replace the cone.
Fit a star-shaped pastry tip into a pastry bag, and fill with buttercream. Frost each cupcake in a spiraling motion.