Amidst all the jolly, bright and shiny posts I'm seeing all over the blogosphere these days, I can help but feel a bit like a Grinch. Or rather to be more accurate, like a lump of coal. I really want to like the holidays, I really really do. I love everything about them. The over the top decorations, the carefully wrapped presents, the flurry of warm cookies and hot cocoa. But the best part is that you see all your friends and family, even the ones you haven't seen or heard from in months. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my job, it's also the time of the year when I become a hermit (hence my absence from this blog). The hours are longer and the days are more hectic and I've been trying to get everything in my neglected home back to order during what little spare time I can squeak out of my day. The sun sets almost as soon as it rises so some days I feel like I truly am living in a cave somewhere in the farthest reaches of Siberia. Have you ever felt exhausted even though you've been sitting at a desk all day? That's essentially where I am right now.
I finally got away for a quick dinner with two of my closest friends last night and it was such a great feeling to just sit and chat for a little while without a todo list or somewhere I have to run to next. I want more of that. I want people to drop by for a few minutes and chat over a cup of tea. I want to go outside and make a snowman, or just go for a walk and look at lights. And I want more energy to bake. I keep bookmarking all these recipes and wishing I had the time or the will to try them.
That's not to say that I haven't been baking. I mean what is sleep, after all? No one really needs it, right? So while I don't have festive holiday cookie exchange recipes for you today, I do have these amazingly quick and incredibly easy cupcakes. They have orange zest in them, so they're totally festive. I promise.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
Cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and frosting is adapted from Whipped
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup orange juice*
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange*
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, orange juice, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and zest, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Just use a whisk or a spoon and give your KitchenAid a rest this one time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
2. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 18 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely and revel in the fact that you've only really dirtied one bowl and one whisk. Yay for easy cleanup!
24 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (I used Valrhona), chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
zest of 2 oranges *
Place chocolate in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter and stir until melted, then add sour cream, corn syrup and zest, and whisk until smooth. Let frosting stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes. You can also nuke the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals, until it's melted and warm, and save yourself a few extra dishes you won't have to wash. Guess which version I went with?
Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy. They're actually better if you keep them in the fridge and serve the next day. The orange flavor permeates the cake and frosting giving both a more pronounced flavor. Just make sure you let them come to back to room temp before eating.
* If you just zest 3 oranges and split the zest between the cake and the frosting, you can squeeze out the oranges and use the juice. It should be enough to make the cake and you won't end up with naked albino oranges getting crusty and neglected on your counter.