Orange cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting (recipe at the bottom)
On Saturday I went to a ’90s-themed birthday party, and with the RSVP I had to include a favorite ’90s song, which made up the playlist (perhaps it’s worth noting that the party was for two music writers?). I have many favorites, but for this my pick was No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” from their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom. Just to give you the context of my personal 1990s: It was more or less my entire childhood (I was born in the late ’80s). I started watching MTV in about 1997 when Tragic Kingdom was at the height of its popularity, and the video for “Don’t Speak” won an MTV Video Music Award (it was also the year of Fiona Apple’s famous “the world is bullshit” speech; my 10-year-old self was mad that she beat Hanson for Best New Artist). So, I made cupcakes vaguely inspired by No Doubt, as well as
the my ’90s in general.
“Just A Girl” is about Gwen Stefani being fed up with stereotypes of women — that we’re bad drivers, men are always gawking at us, we are all the same, and we’re supposed to be “pretty and petite.” I figured cupcakes — especially cupcakes that are, well, pretty and petite — were about the most stereotypically girly treat I could make. (And I have to say, these are probably the cutest cupcakes I’ve ever made.) I decided on orange for a couple of reasons: The cover of Tragic Kingdom has an orange tree on it, and there’s also one in the video for “Don’t Speak,” but also when I think of treats I consumed in the ’90s — particularly right after I got my tonsils removed at age 8 — I think of creamsicles. At the party, it was brought to my attention that, “Geez, Laura, creamsicles are so ’80s, too!” (and then I learned that they were actually invented long before that) — but the ’90s were when I ate them. So there! Anyway, these were a hit (enthusiastically named Best New Cupcake by an editor at Pitchfork), as was my T-shirt from my grandpa’s 75th birthday in 1995 and my Angela Chase bottlecap ring (photos below…).
Orange cupcakes; orange buttercream frosting
Adapted from Gourmeted; makes about 60 mini cupcakes
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated (whites in a very dry bowl for whisking)
1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup Greek yogurt
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
• Mix flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.
• In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add and beat the yolks into the mixture one at a time.
• Beat in the orange zest, orange juice, and lemon juice and honey.
• With a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and yogurt, alternating between the two until both are gone.
• In a separate, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites (I did this with the whisk on my electric mixer) until it forms firm peaks. I actually am not sure I did this long enough, but it was foamy and did hold peaks.
• Using the spatula, fold in the egg whites into the mixture.
• Fill muffin cups a little more than 3/4 of the way to the top (about 1 tablespoon of batter) and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of one comes out clean and the edges are slightly browned.
• Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.
Orange buttercream frosting
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
About 10 orange candy slices, each cut into 4-6 pieces, for garnish
• Beat the butter with one cup of powdered sugar, the orange zest, and vanilla. Gradually add the rest of the sugar and the orange juice, alternating between them. I think I used close to 4 cups of sugar, but you can use a bit less. I love that you can see the tiny specks of orange zest!
• Pipe the frosting onto the cupcake and top with an orange candy slice.