Orange Cardamom Cupcakes

Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

While in Gainesville, Florida visiting my sister with my family, she took us to Sweet Dreams Homemade Ice Cream. They had a variety of interesting flavors, including a peanut butter curry ice cream. I ordered the orange cardamom ice cream. I immediately loved the flavor combination and thought to myself that orange-cardamom would make a great cupcake. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices because it is extremely versatile. It has a spicy warmness that complements both sweet and savory dishes. You can use cardamom with meats, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, chili, pies (I highly recommend adding cardamom to these pies), chocolate, ice cream, and of course, cupcakes. Just use it sparingly since it is somewhat expensive and a little goes a long way. Too much cardamom can give things a slightly metallic or medicinal flavor. To make orange cardamom cupcakes, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Cointreau
  • 1/2 cup milk
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges
Fresh Orange Zest from Florida-Grown Oranges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cardamom, orange zest, and salt) together in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar with the room temperature butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the Cointreau. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the milk. Pour the cupcake batter into the baking cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until they are a golden color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake. This recipe makes a dozen regular-sized cupcakes. If there is any batter left over, you can to make a few mini-cupcakes; just bake the mini-cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes.

These cupcakes can be eaten without any frosting and taste amazing. But who doesn’t like a little frosting on their cupcake? For these cupcakes, make this cream cheese frosting, but add in the zest of one orange (about a teaspoon), a pinch of cardamom (about 1/4 teaspoon), and a splash of vanilla (about 1/2 teaspoon).

Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Jill frosting Orange Cardamom Cupcakes
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Horchata Cupcakes

The Friday before Cinco de Mayo this year, I stopped by a local cupcake shop to pick up a few cupcakes for dessert that evening. They did not have any of our regular favorites, but they did have a new flavor to celebrate Cinco de Mayo — Horchata cupcakes. After eating some crispy black bean tacos, we each broke into our cupcakes. Although the flavor of the cupcakes was enjoyable, we agreed that they were too sweet. Inspired by these cupcakes, I decided to venture out and make my own, less sweet version of horchata cupcakes.

I wavered between making horchata, a rice and milk based beverage flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, so I could use actual horchata in the cupcakes, or focusing on the key flavors of horchata and weaving those flavors into different elements on the cupcakes. I finally settled on the latter. I opted to use rice milk in the cupcake recipe instead of soaking rice in water with cinnamon overnight and adding milk and vanilla, as is traditionally done when making horchata. I incorporated the vanilla and cinnamon into both the cake and the frosting.

Ingredients to capture the flavors of horchata
Basic Horchata Flavors

To make the cake portion of my horchata cupcakes, you need the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used double-strength)
  • 1/2 cup rice milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) together in a mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the sugar and the room temperature butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla extract. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the rice milk. Pour the cupcake batter into the baking cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until they are a golden color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cupcake. This recipe makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes, but there is usually enough batter left to make a few mini-cupcakes as well (bake the mini-cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes).

Mixing rice milk into the cupcake batter
Using rice milk captures the flavor of horchata without having to soak rice in water overnight

For the horchata frosting, you need:

  • 1 pound confectioners sugar (1 box)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting the cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used double strength)

Sift the confectioners sugar and the cinnamon together into a mixing bowl. Blend in the room temperature butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and mix until the frosting is smooth.

Cinnamon and vanilla frosting for the horchata cupcakes
Cinnamon and vanilla frosting for the horchata cupcakes

Top the cupcakes with the frosting and give the cupcakes a light dusting of ground cinnamon. Serve and enjoy. Buen provecho!

Horchata Cupcakes
Horchata Cupcakes

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcakes

The inspiration for this recipe came from a text message from my friend Joshua. He came across a bar of white chocolate flavored with key lime and Bolivian Rose sea salt and challenged me to incorporate it into a cupcake with tequila. I accepted his challenge.

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake Challenge
The Challenge

Tequila laced cake? Yes please. I opted for white cake with a hint of lime and tequila.

To make this cake, you need the following:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Hawaiian red sea salt)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used organic low fat milk)
  • 1 ounce Tequila
Lime zest for the white chocolate margarita cupcakes
Lime zest gives the cupcakes a bright, citrus flavor

Preheat an over to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper baking cups. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lime zest, and salt.

Dry ingredients for white chocolate margarita cupcakes
The red salt and the bright green lime zest add a bit of color to the dry ingredients.

In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and the softened butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix the dry ingredients in slowly, then add the milk. Mix until the batter is a uniform consistency. The batter will be thick.

Batter for white chocolate margarita cupcakes
The lime zest is mixed throughout the batter

Fill the baking cups up about 3/4 of the way full. The recipe should make about a dozen cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the cakes are a light golden color. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool to about room temperature. Once cool, use a toothpick to poke small holes into the top of each cupcake. With a pastry brush, brush each cupcake with tequila. An ounce of tequila was enough for all of the cupcakes. When the tequila has soaked into the cupcakes (and the tops are no longer wet), frost the cupcakes with the white chocolate frosting (recipe below).

Brushing tequila on the cupcakes
Brush the cupcakes with tequila

We all know that the favored part of a cupcake is the frosting. The added white chocolate and tequila make this cream cheese frosting especially flavorful. For the frosting, you will need:

  • 2 ounces World Market white chocolate with key lime and Bolivian Rose salt
  • 1 teaspoon tequila
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (1 block), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar (1 box), sifted
Lime and Salt White Chocolate
The inspiration for the cupcakes

Using a double boiler or a small glass bowl set over a small pot of gently boiling water, slowly melt the white chocolate. Stir continually to avoid scorching the white chocolate. Once the white chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in the tequila. Let the melted chocolate cool to room temperature.

Gently melt the white chocolate for the frosting
Gently melt the white chocolate

In a mixing bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese and the softened butter. Mix in the melted chocolate. Slowly mix in the sifted confectioners sugar. Whip until the sugar is incorporated into the frosting. Top each cupcake with the white chocolate frosting. Garnish with a little Hawaiian red salt.

White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake garnished with red salt
White Chocolate Margarita Cupcake

These cupcakes reflect my favorite elements of a margarita — the salt, the lime, and the bite from the tequila. Unlike the cheap, happy hour margaritas from many Mexican themed restaurants, these cupcakes are not syrupy sweet. The margarita flavors are subtle and the salt balances out the sweetness of the frosting. Of course, if you want the added sweetness, just add another spoonful of frosting to the cupcake. Or eat the frosting straight out of the bowl.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes – Batch #1

With Autumn just around the corner and pumpkin ales starting to show up in grocery stores and at my local Coop, I decided to preview the season and experiment with making pumpkin ale cupcakes. I took notes as I made the cupcakes to keep track of the recipe. For Batch #1, I used Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale. Although these cupcakes were quite tasty, I have a few tweaks in mind for the next experimental batch.

Recipe notes
Recipe notes

For batch #1, the ingredients I used were:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 and 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 bottle Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  • 3 eggs
  • 7oz container 2% Fage Greek yogurt

To replicate this recipe (for anyone who can’t wait for a revised Batch #2 recipe), preheat the oven to 350 degrees and mix together the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.

The Dry Ingredients

In a separate mixing bowl, add the melted butter and let it cool to room temperature. Pour the pumpkin ale into the butter. Mix in the three eggs, one at a time. After mixing in the eggs, add the Greek yogurt and mix until well blended.

Butter and Beer
Melted butter and Pumpkin Ale

Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until a smooth, slightly liquid batter forms.

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake Batter #1
Pumpkin Ale Cupcake Batter

Pour the batter into lined muffin tins, filling each about 3/4 full. I had enough batter to make about 28 cupcakes.

Uncooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
Uncooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Test the cupcakes by inserting a toothpick into the center of one. If the cupcakes are done, the toothpick will come out clean.

Cooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
Cooked Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes

Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature before topping them with frosting. For Batch #1, Jill make a frosting by mixing a softened 8 oz block of Neufchâtel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese), 1 stick of butter (softened), and a 1lb box of confectioners sugar. As the frosting mixed, she add a couple of shakes of cake spice (a combination of cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves).

Pumpkin Ale Cupcake with Spiced Frosting
Pumpkin Ale Cupcake with Spiced Frosting

Although I am posting this recipe on the blog, the recipe is not perfect. The cupcakes were good, but there are a few things I will do differently in Batch #2. To help elevate the flavor of the cupcake, I will probably add a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the batter. Jill also recommended that I add some canned pumpkin to the mix. For the frosting, I will probably go with a buttercream frosting with some added cinnamon instead of the cream cheese frosting with cake spice. The cake spice was a little too spicy for the cupcake. I opted for Neufchâtel cheese instead of cream cheese, hoping that it would not be as rich. Unfortunately, the texture of the frosting was too gluey, probably because Neufchâtel cheese has a higher moisture content than cream cheese. With some of these modifications, I hope to improve this recipe and share it on the blog soon.