I have been making and writing Chocolate Mondays for over three years and I am always happy with the recipes I share, but occasionally one really makes me sit up and take notice. Today’s recipe is one of those. These are seriously some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made – and they are gluten-free!
One of my favorite fruits is the blood orange, a delicate citrus with deep crimson flesh and juice. They are very sweet and arrive in stores in the middle of winter as a delightful change from apples and pears. Look for oranges with a darker skin – they look fairly normal until you cut into them. The first time I saw one I was shocked at the beautiful rich color. I love to use them in salads, on breakfast plates and of course in baked goods.
The Artist also loves blood oranges – his preference is to juice them to serve with breakfast. I had to arm-wrestle him to keep a few for today’s recipe, but as soon as he tasted one of the cupcakes, he was very glad he left some for me to create these treats.
The cupcakes have a deep chocolate flavor from the combination of cocoa powder and melted chocolate, which is highlighted by the freshly grated orange zest. Orange and chocolate are often combined in desserts, but using blood oranges is more subtle than the typical Naval orange.
While the cupcakes get all of their orange flavor from the zest, the frosting has both zest and juice. It is the perfect complement to the cupcakes and the two together make one heck of a dessert. The Artist doesn’t usually like frosting, but with these cupcakes he preferred the frosted ones. That is really remarkable.
Don’t judge these cupcakes on their appearance – they are much better tasting than they appear! The frosting broke on me, the first time this has ever happened. I’m not sure why it happened – I may have overbeaten the butter, the orange juice and zest may have been too acidic (I doubt that), or it just wasn’t my day for the perfect buttercream. Whatever the reason, the frosting looks grainy but tastes perfectly smooth and has a lovely orange flavor that lingers on your tongue long after you’ve finished eating the cupcake.
If you want a lot of frosting, double the recipe. The frosting would be great on just about any dessert and it would also be fantastic as dip for cookies. All you have to do is add a little more cream to thin it out slightly and it would be perfect dipping consistency. Basically, The Artist and I could have eaten the whole batch with a couple of spoons.
It is a really good thing that this recipe only makes 12 cupcakes – otherwise I would gain a ton of weigh because there is no way these are going to be hanging around our house very long!
Have a fabulous week my lovely friends – Happy Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you want beautiful cupcake paper liners, bake the cupcakes in the first layer, and then when cool enough to handle, pop them out of the muffin tin with the liner intact and set them in a clean cupcake liner. They are clean, pretty and bright!
Using Authenic Foods Superfine rice flours in your gluten-free baked goods makes all the difference in texture. No more grainy or sandy bites, just pure, tender heaven!
Chocolate-Blood Orange Cupcakes with Blood Orange Buttercream Frosting
© 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: 12 to 14 standard-size cupcakes
Despite there being no orange juice in the cupcakes themselves, the flavor comes through thanks to the zest. The frosting is where you get a double hit of the orange with zest and juice. If you’ve never tried blood oranges before, you will fall in love with the deeply colored flesh and rich, sweet/tart juice.
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) butter
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (gluten-free if needed)
3/4 tsp baking powder (gluten-free if needed)
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp finely grated blood orange zest, from about 1 orange
1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (gluten-free if needed), or as needed
1 tbsp freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tsp finely grated blood orange zest, from about 1 orange
Up to 1 tbsp cream, if needed
Blood orange wedges or mini chocolate chips, for garnishing (gluten-free if needed)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.
Prepare the Cupcakes: In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with 1-inch water in the bottom, melt the butter and chocolate together over medium heat. Let the mixture start to melt and then stir regularly until nearly all the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth and completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until evenly blended. Set aside.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of your standing mixer. Beat on medium speed, creaming until smooth, fluffy, and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and blood orange zest, blending until evenly distributed.
Stop the mixer and pour in the melted chocolate mixture. Beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl and beaters, making sure there are no unmixed ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients and alternating with the sour milk. Mix lightly between each addition just until new ingredients are incorporated. (Add 1/3 of the dry ingredient and beat in. Add half of the sour milk; beat in. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients; beat in. Add remaining sour milk; beat in. Add remaining dry ingredients.)
Beat until everything is smooth, but do not over-beat, you do not want to develop the gluten in the wheat flour (this is not an issue if you are using gluten-free flour). Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl and beaters, especially the bottom of the bowl where the beaters may leave some ingredients unincorporated. Mix quickly again if needed.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Place pan in the hot oven and bake 9 minutes, then carefully spin the pan so the front is now facing the back of the oven. Continue baking another 9 to 11 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack; let cool completely.
Make the Frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the orange juice, zest, and vanilla. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, mixing well. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and beater. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. If needed, add more sugar or a little cream until you get the consistency you are looking for.
If the mixture “breaks” and starts looking grainy, beat the mixture on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. The friction of the mixer will help to soften the butter again and re-emulsify the ingredients.
The frosting will be a light pinky-orange color from the blood orange juice, but if you want a deeper color you can add some food coloring.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting over the tops. Set a small wedge of blood orange on the top or sprinkle with chocolate chips.
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