Orange Curd Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I get a recipe idea stuck in my head, and I have to make it. For the past week or so it has been a fresh orange layer cake, pictured perfectly in my head with its sunshine-yellow hue, tart-sweet flavor, and perfect crumb. I made one several years ago, following the recipe in The Cake Mix Doctor book. You start with a cake mix and “doctor” it up by adding fresh orange juice, zest and the usual eggs and such. I remember that cake fondly and somehow the memory of its deliciousness came back to bug me and wouldn’t leave me alone. Maybe it was because I had three oranges sitting in my fruit drawer, or maybe it was because I had leftover (bottled) orange juice sitting in my fridge, and since I don’t drink OJ these days, it felt like a challenge to use it up.

I ignored the idea for a while mainly because making a layer cake without a real occasion such as a birthday or a party seemed a little extravagant, plus there’s the fact that then there would be a whole cake in the house to eat and I wasn’t even sure if Sam would eat some. I even asked my neighbor, who loves sweets, if she would eat some and she declined. This past weekend, I finally gave in, deciding to make a smaller batch.

The thing is I really wanted a layer cake – not a single layer, not a square cake, a layer cake. What I love about layer cakes is the ratio of cake to frosting or filling, all perfectly portioned out so you can have the perfect bite. So how do you make a smaller batch? You can use smaller cake pans (which I don’t have) or you can do what I did and make one single layer and cut it into thirds (or halves) and make your fraction of a layer cake.

So I did just that. But when I went to stack my cakes, the cake was too dense and moist, and the curd filling I had made wasn’t thick enough, and the layers slipped and slid on top of each other while I desperately tried different ways to fix it. In the end I embraced the fact that it was an ugly cake, but hurrah at least I had made it! (I did not take any pictures of it…)

However, the flavor was also off. The cake I made had the flavor of too much baking soda and it was almost too dense to swallow. So a few days later I decided to try again, but this time I gave up on my layer cake dream and opted for a filled and frosted cupcake instead. The result: perfection. It is so satisfying to finally taste the thing that you craved, even if the original idea changed a little.

The gooey center is not in fact undercooked – it’s homemade orange curd!

This time of year, citrus is at its best, which makes it the perfect time to make these cupcakes. Plus if you live in a part of the country where the earth and trees are brown and barren, the ground is white with snow, or skies are gray, these bright sunny colors arrive at the perfect time of year to add some color to your winter.

Orange Curd Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:

  • 1 +2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 2/3 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed or from a bottle)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add orange zest and rub into the mixture so that the zest doesn’t clump in one spot and it infuses the dry ingredients with the orange oils.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil and juice until blended. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Divide the batter between your paper liners (should make about 14), filling no more than 3/4 full. Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the orange curd:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon or grapefruit zest
  • 2 T. lemon or grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 cup + 2 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 10 T. unsalted butter, cold
  • pinch of salt

If you have a double boiler, get it out. If not, find a pot and glass bowl that fits perfectly into the top of the pot so that the bottom of the bowl does not go more than halfway down into the pot. Fill your pot with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water as it boils. To the bowl add your sugar and zests and rub the zest into the sugar to release the flavor. Add the juices and whisk to blend. Turn the water down to a simmer and leave until the sugar begins to dissolve and the liquid is warmed.

In a separate bowl beat your egg yolks. Once the sugar and juice mixture has warmed, gradually add some, a spoonful at a time, to your egg yolks, whisking the egg yolks as you add (you don’t need to add all of the juice mixture). Once the bowl with the egg yolks feels somewhat warm to the touch, go ahead and add the egg yolk mixture to your glass bowl with any remaining juice and return it to the simmering water. Cook the mixture until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter in small cubes, whisking to melt the butter. Taste and add a pinch salt to bring out all of the flavor.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated, put all of your curd into a medium size bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming and refrigerate to cool. (You will have extra curd so feel free to halve the recipe or save for another use.)

For the orange cream cheese frosting:

  • one 8-oz block of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 T. fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and blend on low until sugar is incorporated enough to not fly everywhere. Scrape the sides and beat until well blended.

To assemble:

Once your cupcakes have cooled, take a small spoon and dig out a small hole in the top middle of each one, removing about 2 teaspoons of cake. (Set aside to eat later!) Fill each hole with your cooled curd. Frost with your cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired. Enjoy!

Catching up on life and cooking…

Seattle summer happened a few months ago and it was beautiful – green, sunny, not too hot. Little humidity! I guess I got so caught up in it that I forgot to post on my blog! We also spent the summer house-hunting and now we are home owners! I guess I can blame that search for taking up a lot of our time. As usual though, I have done plenty of cooking and eating since the last time. Here’s a quick taste of just some of the things I’ve been cooking. (If you follow me on Instagram, however, you can keep up with my cooking and life a little more regularly – @erinthecooker)

Summer Berry Buckle (NYT), Blueberry and Peach Crisp, Black Bean Salad, and homemade Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Jam filling for a former co-worker.

Here’s a photo of our beautiful living room in our new house! (Don’t mind the Zappos box that I forgot to remove when taking the photo.) Don’t you love the orange front door?!


I also made a Snickers pie (no Snickers actually in it, but rather a pie trying to imitate a giant Snickers!) It was rich, but it was a hit! I improvised the recipe off a Pinterest one I had saved months ago. The cake below is a chocolate stout cake.


Having a house also means we now have a backyard and our very our own grill! We got to work right away grilling zucchini, chicken, and sausage. The photo on the right was a delicious Vietnamese-style noodle salad with grilled chicken. In the end, the recipe tasted very similar to one of our favorite Boston food trucks, Bon Me! Thanks again NYT Cooking!

Now that fall is upon us I’m looking forward to making some apple pie, pumpkin bread, and other cozy treats. Hopefully the next time you hear from me will be sooner rather than later!

Happy cooking!

Ming Tsai’s Spiced Ginger Cake

I always look forward to the summers with childlike glee. And not just for the sunshine, warm temperatures, and beach days, but for the summer produce. I think of the piles of emerald zucchini and fuzzy peaches at the farmers’ market stands. I pine for the days when there is fresh corn on the cob and sweet ruby berries. In winter or fall it always seems like summer weather and summer produce holds so much potential for summer magic – spontaneous backyard cookouts with fresh, colorful salads or that shiny, happy feeling when you see a beautiful sunset after the perfect day.


So after all this talk of gorgeous summer stone fruits and squashes, why am I making a ginger cake in August? Here you are nearing the end of a hot and feisty summer season and you’re making what’s essentially a Christmas treat? Okay, okay, let me explain. Continue reading

Post 96 – Raw Vegan Carrot Cake


I don’t know about you, but I have been eating way too much sugar lately. WAY too much. Like I went to a holiday party today and saw cupcakes and wasn’t even interested. Cupcakes! This time of year often becomes all about sweets – Christmas cookies, chocolate candies, gingerbread men, parties and hot cocoa and everything sugary sweet.

I love sweets. I have a great big, dangerous sweet tooth (teeth?) that keeps me going back for dessert again and again, but sometimes even I get fed up with all of the ultra sweet options. Sometimes I just simply want something sweet, but not too sweet. Something that won’t make me feel sick later.

Enter Raw Vegan Carrot Cake.

I want to tell you all the things it is, but I also don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Yes it is gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free, and raw, but I am not one to boast a bunch of labels just to impress you. It may be free of a lot of things, but it is also full of a lot of things – flavor, texture, sweetness, crunch (flavorful, textureful, sweetful, crunchful?) Anyway, let me introduce you.


Fresh carrots, Medjool dates, almond meal, unsweetened coconut, and cinnamon. It’s that simple.

Pulse all of it in a food processor until it comes together and voila.


You should get a nice sticky, but not gooey texture that you can shape with your hand. You might find you need to break up the carrots and dates a little first and then knead it all together, but this will depend on the strength of your food processor. Then once it’s done you shape it into whatever you want (see the “layers” below). You can even make a delicious frosting or just decorate it with coconut.




I also decided to make it into carrot cake snack bites or for the sophisticated carrot cake truffles. Now don’t you feel fancy?


Enjoy the holidays!

Vegan Carrot Cake Bites

adapted from MindBodyGreen

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup pitted and halved dates, about 10

3/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

additional coconut and pecans for decorating (optional)

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until it holds together. Shape into layers or truffles as desired. If making layers, use the icing recipe below. Refrigerate for best results.

Easy Coconut Icing

(I have made this before with much success but I have never measured – oops! Do it to taste and keep in mind that the icing will harden a lot in the fridge. You can use the following measurements and go from there.)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 T. raw honey (or maple syrup for vegans)

Mix coconut oil and honey (microwave for 10 seconds at a time if the coconut oil is cold). Taste and adjust as desired. Spread on your carrot cake and refrigerate until semi firm.

Post 69 – Chocolate Cloud Cake

Going gluten free can be tough. Making and eating this flour-less chocolate cake is not.

photo 4(5)

In fact, going gluten free has become so much easier due to the increasing awareness of and education about gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease. Now pretty much any grocery store you go to sells gluten free cakes, cookies, breads, and flours.

Though for some people eating gluten free is not a choice, going “gluten free” has become somewhat of a trend for others, as people assume it is automatically healthier. While it certainly can be if you cut out processed and refined flours and excess sweets, there are still plenty of unhealthy gluten free foods out there, including the aforementioned cakes, cookies, etc. Moral of the story: If you plan on going strictly gluten free, make sure you do your research. You will find gluten lurking in many unusual and surprising places (meatloaf! soy sauce! chicken soup!) and if you want to be strict about it you have to ask lots of questions.

Why am I talking about gluten free diets? Well because I am entering week four of eating gluten free as a test to see if it improves my chronic acid reflux (so far it’s just okay). I have found through online research that for some people it relieves their reflux symptoms and so I figured it was worth a try.

Anyway… back to this cake.

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Whether you eat gluten or not, you likely love a good flour-less chocolate cake. I mean c’mon. It’s rich, fudgey, chocolatey, and if you fall for the trap that gluten free automatically means healthy, than this cake is totally healthy! I mean dark chocolate alone – hello! Nevermind the butter, sugar, and whole eggs…

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To start, melt your chocolate nice and slowly. I prefer the double boiler method.

photo 4(7)Throw in some butter to melt in the warm chocolate bath.

photo 3(12)Beat a few whole eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until lighter in color.

photo 1(15)Beat egg whites (by hand since your mixer died in the middle of the procedure) until they hold their shape.

photo 5(2)


photo 3(11)

And then carefully combine all ingredients – tempering the warm chocolate into the cooler egg yolks…

photo 4(6)

And gradually folding in your whipped egg whites – folding being the key word to keep you from deflating them. I give my dad credit for teaching me awesome egg white folding skills (and clothing folding too).

photo 1(14)

photo 4(5)

And then you throw that beauty into the oven and let it quietly bake. Make sure not to over bake it to keep it moist. Cool it, top it with whipped cream, and dive right in.

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And don’t forget to do the dishes.

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Chocolate Cloud Cake

from Nigella Bites

9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, 70% cacao recommended, chopped*

1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes

6 eggs – 2 whole, 4 separated

1/2 + 1 T. granulated sugar, divided

1 T. cognac, vanilla, or other flavoring of choice (optional)

1-2 cups whipped cream (store bought or hand whipped)

cocoa powder (garnish)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly and removing from the heat when the chocolate is melted. Add the cubes of butter and allow to melt into the chocolate.

In a large bowl beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar until paler yellow and lighter.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until frothy. Continue to beat while gradually adding the remaining sugar until the egg whites hold their shape, but are not too stiff.

Temper the chocolate by gradually pouring a little into the egg yolks while mixing, to keep from scrambling the eggs. Add the rest of the chocolate mixture once the eggs have incorporated some. Finally carefully fold in the egg whites, one third of the whites at a time. Pour the mixture into a buttered 9-inch springform pan and bake at 350 until the center is no longer wobbly (Nigella says 35-40 minutes but when I made my 2/3 batch pie pan version it was done in less than 20).

The cake should sink slightly as it cools. When ready to serve fill the indent with whipped cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder for garnish.


* I used chocolate chips, but feel free to use a bar of good chocolate and just chop it finely and evenly so it melts well.

Post 46 – Mexican Chocolate Flan Cake

This cake.


It’s the ultimate in cake transformation. Two separate, totally different parts of a cake switch places – seamlessly flip-flop. What am I talking about?

This delicious Choco-flan cake. Have you heard of it?

They say it’s impossible, (who are they anyway?) but somehow it happens every time. You make a thick chocolate cake batter and pour it into the bottom of a bundt pan (which would be the top when you flip it over right? Stay with me here)


Evidence that I put the chocolate cake part in first!

and pour a soupy layer of eggs and milk on top of it (which should be the bottom of the cake when it’s served)



and miraculously when you pull it out of the oven, the chocolate cake is on the top and the custard layer has all but disappeared… until you flip it over (carefully!) and see the beautiful jiggly caramely thing it has become. I’d say there’s probably some serious cake science going on here, but you can just call it magic if you like.

See! How did that happen?

See! How did that happen?

I had a great excuse to make this cake again yesterday: a co-worker’s birthday. She’s a beautiful well-dressed older woman from Columbia, South America, who speaks rapid-fire Spanish. I once spoke a few words to her in Spanish and since then she has spoken to me at her usual pace as if I understood every word. It’s not because she’s cruel, but I think because she assumes I understand a lot more than I do. I don’t, but I appreciate the gesture. Nonetheless her actions and kind smile often speak for her, sweet woman that she is. Her smile told me today how much she enjoyed the cake.

Since I know nothing about Columbian desserts I thought I’d make this cake (which is actually a Mexican recipe) since it was something different from the usual layer cake and I thought maybe she’d appreciate it. The top custard layer bakes into a beautiful egg-y flan and as the cake sits, the once fluffy chocolate cake sinks lower and lower to become a dense chocolate torte. The two layers provide wonderful contrasting textures to each other – almost like cake with ice cream already part of it.

Anyway, the point is – this cake – you probably can find an excuse to make it. And it’s not impossible in the sense that you can’t make it. There’s just a little cake magic involved. But don’t worry – the cake does all the work.


recipe from Scarletta Bakes

For the cake:
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. white sugar, granulated
1 large egg, room temperature
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 1/4 c. buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 c. cajeta or good quality caramel sauce to coat pan (Cajeta is a sweetened goat milk caramel that can be hard to find, but is totally worth it if you do. Or you can make it if you’re super ambitious.)

For the flan:
1- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:
1/4 c. cajeta or caramel sauce
1/4 c. chopped pecans (Note that I did not garnish my chocoflan at all.)

Butter or spray a 12-cup capacity Bundt pan and line the bottom with the cajeta. Place the prepared pan into a large roasting pan and set aside.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.

To prepare the cake, add the butter and sugar to a bowl and, using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa in a medium bowl. Beat 1/3 of the flour mixture, and 1/2 of the buttermilk into the egg mixture. Repeat, ending with the flour mixture. Blend until well incorporated.



Some stuff happens in between these two pictures that I didn’t document. Sorry…


To prepare the flan, beat the room temperature cream cheese with the sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Slowly add the eggs, beating to incorporate with the cream cheese. Add the evaporated milk and beat. Alternatively blend in a blender. *

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan and spread evenly. Slowly pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. Cover with foil and put into the oven, leaving the door open briefly. Slowly add about 1-inch of hot water to the roasting pan (don’t splash the cake), slide the pan into the oven and close the oven door.

Or add the water before you put it in the oven, though it's a little more precarious.

Or add the water before you put it in the oven, though it’s a little more precarious.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour out until the surface of the cake is firm or a toothpick comes out clean. When the cake is done, remove it from the water bath and allow it to cool completely to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Use a thin spatula and carefully go around the edges of the cake and a few inches down (if necessary) to help loosen the edges. Invert a large, rimmed serving platter over the Bundt pan, grasp tightly together and flip over. It is important to do this part with confidence and in one foul swoop or you may lose some of your cake. Remove the pan and scrape any remaining cajeta from the pan onto the cake, garnish with chopped pecans and serve (this cake is traditionally served after being chilled for 24 hours, but you can also serve it warm or at room temperature).

*I found that the cream cheese separated into chunks (the eggs were too cold maybe?) and ended up sitting at the bottom of the chocolate cake. It tasted fine overall, but I think incorporating the cheese with the liquid ingredients more slowly will help.

Towel courtesy of my good friend, Natalie!

Towel courtesy of my good friend, Natalie!


And for those of your drooling over the last post’s zucchini squares, here is the recipe:

Zucchini Squares

Adapted from Stillman’s farm CSA newsletter

1 cup Bisquick baking mix**

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

dried basil and oregano (optional)

3-4 cups shredded zucchini (I used 3 cups because that’s what the zucchini yielded)

3 scallions, finely chopped

¾ cup grated cheddar cheese

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup shredded parmesan (or more cheddar)

In a medium bowl mix Bisquick (or see substitute below) with salt, pepper, and dried spices as desired. Add in shredded zucchini, scallions, and shredded cheddar and stir to thoroughly mix. In a separate small bowl beat eggs so the yolks and whites are well mixed. Stir into the flour mixture.

Pour into a greased 8×8 baking dish and spread out. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and springy when touched in the center.

**If you don’t use Bisquick, substitute (as I did) the following: 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt. Rub in 1 T. shortening or butter until it looks well incorporated.