Celebrating the Recession-Friendly Cupcake with Citrus

Cupcake lovers, rejoice! You can now invest in the country’s cutest culinary confection. Congratulations, Crumbs Bake Shop. I heard on NPR the other day that gourmet cupcakes have been on the rise thanks in part to their ability to deliver the perfect, recession-friendly dessert. Lacking the spare change to purchase a whole cake or go out for a sundae, America has embraced the cupcake. No longer the primary food object of children’s birthday parties, the single-serving cupcake has taken center stage at everything from catered corporate events to wedding receptions, influencing the mass-marketing of intriguing cupcake-accoutrement kits like these.

I am by no means immune to the cupcake fad (you’ve probably already read this post in which I reviewed a Sprinkles cupcake mix). And when organic oranges were on sale today, I was inspired to turn Julia Child’s Gâteau à l’Orange (Orange Spongecake) into cupcakes.

Orange Cupcakes (adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Note: The original recipe is designed for one 9-inch cake pan. Lacking this, I opted for cupcakes and ended up with the correct amount of batter for 12 cupcakes.

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare cupcake pan.

– 4 eggs
– 2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, separated
– pinch of salt
2. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into one bowl, the whites into another. Add the 2/3 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until light, creamy, smooth, and slightly runny. Whip the egg whites and salt until they almost hold peaks. Add in the tablespoon of sugar and whip until holding stiff peaks.

– zest of 1 orange
– 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
– pinch of salt
– 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
– 3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
3. Add the orange zest, juice, salt, and vanilla to the yolk mixture. Beat until smooth, then slowly add in the cake flour.

4. Add one-fourth of the egg whites and mix in to the batter. Once combined, carefully fold in the remainder of the egg whites. Pour into prepared cupcake pan. Unlike many other cakes, you will want to fill the cup up nearly to the top.

5. Bake 25-30 minutes, then remove to rack to cool.

I was surprised at how light and airy these cupcakes are! I guess that’s the nature of a spongecake, though. The whipped egg whites serve as the “leavener,” giving the cake its rise and airy texture. (That, or I’ve been working out at the gym so much that even a smidgey cupcake is a cinch to lift…)

I opted to top my cupcakes with the orange buttercream that Julia Child suggests, but you could also do a chocolate frosting, or a lemon, or vanilla, or raspberry…yum. And in case you’re intimidated by making your own buttercream, I would direct you to a very helpful and entertaining guide on making buttercream here. While it does take a bit of time to make (my mom was appalled that she had to watch me stir together this frosting for over half an hour–really, I think she was just impatient about eating a cupcake), it’s so fresh and so delicious and so worth it.

The frosting I used is a French buttercream (in the past, I’ve opted for the simplicity of Swiss buttercream), and the orange flavor comes from the zest of one orange plus 1/4 cup of orange juice, added during the custard-making phase (again, see here to learn about the different types).

And I suppose I was in such a hurry to slap on the frosting and bite into one that I didn’t really try very hard to frost them “professionally.” Nevertheless, they were a welcome sweet treat this weekend.

Are you crazy for cupcakes? Any favorite flavors out there? Do you think cupcakes are a passing fad or are they here to stay? Do tell!

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2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Recession-Friendly Cupcake with Citrus

  1. Nicole says:

    Mmmmm, those look delicious! My friends and I made some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on Friday as treats for before the med school’s talent show and they were eaten up in two minutes flat! I hope cupcakes are here to stay (:

  2. Nicole says:

    making these cupcakes as i type!! yay!

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