Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

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Now that Halloween is over, it feels like we are hurtling toward Christmas.  Seriously, November is almost half over and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  It’s time to start planning those holiday desserts!  The Cake Blog added fresh cranberries and a hint of orange to these cupcakes and then topped them with orange cream cheese frosting and candied (yes, CANDIED!) cranberries.  Fresh, delicious, and oh so very unique for your holiday feast!

Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

Makes about 36 cupcakes

For the Candied Cranberries

3 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
12 ounces fresh cranberries

  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, water, vanilla and orange zest.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add cranberries and stir.  Remove from heat and let rest until pan is cool enough to handle.
  3. Cover cranberries with a small plate to push berries down into the syrup.  Once pan is completely cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Fill a rimmed dish with remaining 1 1/4 cup sugar.   Strain cranberries and reserve the syrup.
  5. Add strained cranberries into the sugar dish and shake until well coated.  Remove from sugar and let dry on a baking tray for at least one hour.

TIP:  Start candied cranberries at least one day in advance.  Make extra to share as a gift or enjoy later.  They are delicious on their own or as a garnish for holiday appetizers and cocktails.  They can be stored for about one week.

For the Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon reserved syrup from candied cranberries
zest of 1 orange
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Gently toss cranberries in a tablespoon of flour, lightly coating each berry.  Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high using the paddle attachment.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time.  Mixing well after each egg.
  6. Add vanilla extract, reserved cranberry syrup and orange zest.  Mix to combine.
  7. Add one third of your dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined.
  8. Add one half of your milk.  Mix gently.
  9. Add in remaining ingredients, alternating dry, wet, dry.  Do not over mix.
  10. Gently fold cranberries into finished batter.
  11. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full with batter, diving evenly to make 36 cupcakes.
  12. Bake 17-19 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons orange juice

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla, orange zest and juice and mix until combined.
  3. Gradually add powdered sugar until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix again.

To Assemble

Once cupcakes are cool, swirl cream cheese frosting onto each cupcake using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  Garnish with candied cranberries .  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

TIP:  If the icing is not holding its shape while decorating, refrigerate icing 20-30 minutes.  The chilled icing with pipe nicely into a soft swirl.


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