I have a confession: these cupcakes were not completely my idea. The credit goes to someone named JD, who very sweetly agreed to bake some cupcakes with me yesterday. We went to the grocery store with no plan in mind whatsoever (another confession: I brought a cookbook with me in my purse just in case. I can't deal with having no plan.). When we tried to decide what kind of cupcakes to bake, he immediately and conclusively said, "NO chocolate."
... No chocolate?
What else is there?
Luckily for me, still stunned in the wake of his merciless chocolate ban, JD popped over to the fruit section and grabbed a couple of navel oranges. "How about these?" I wasn't convinced, but he seemed really excited so I conceded.
Well, these cupcakes (literally) made me eat my words. They are completely delicious. I don't even really like oranges, and I can't stop eating them. They taste like those ice-cream pops that are vanilla on the inside and orangey on the outside, with just the right balance of sweetness and citrus-y tang. The orange sugar on top adds a yummy crunch. I included the recipe below.
I have another confession: I bought an emergency can of chocolate frosting in case I hated the orange cupcakes. Turns out, I didn't need it.
Here is the recipe:
1. Make 24 of your favorite vanilla cupcakes. If your favorite vanilla cupcakes come from a box, great. One tip for using boxed cake mix is to add between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the prepared batter, just to up the ante that much more.
2. Whip up your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe. If your favorite vanilla buttercream comes from a can, buy two cans. Again, if using prepared icing, you might want to add an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract.
3. Zest 2 medium navel oranges (or whatever oranges you can find]. Add 3/4 of the zest to the frosting and stir until well combined. If you would like, you could add a drop or two of orange food coloring, but I didn't.
4. Combine the rest of the orange zest with an equal amount of sugar. I used a fork to mash the mixture together. If there are still clumps consisting of more zest than sugar, add more sugar. You're looking for a mixture the consistency of slightly moist sand and light orange in color.
5. Frost the cupcakes. I used a plain round tip, but a star tip would look pretty too. You could also spread the icing on if you prefer that look.
6. Divide the orange sugar evenly among the cupcakes. Add more than you think you need.
7. Eat and enjoy!