Let’s say, hypothetically, that you meet a man. He spends the evening flirting and you find yourself flirting right back. He asks for your number, calls, and you start dating him. Even though it’s early, it feels like the sort of connection that could become something special. Then, you find out that his birthday is right around the corner.
Birthdays, like most holidays, were always show-stopping events at my house. Years later, childhood friends remember how great our birthday parties were. My family inspired a fervent love of celebration. I’ve never understood those people who dread getting older or who stop celebrating at a certain age.
With these two pieces of information, my conundrum takes form. How do you celebrate with someone special, who you happen to have only just met? I decided to treat him to dinner and wanted to do something more, but what?
This man, as it turns out, has an affinity for Gran Marnier. Slowly, an idea started forming. We were going out for sushi and would likely not have dessert. So, I decided to make something. Orange and vanilla is nice but orange and chocolate, now we’re talking. Chocolate orange cupcakes. Yup, that’s a winning combination.
These chocolate orange cupcakes are a more dense cake, but with the icing added I think it’s just about perfect. It’s infused with orange flavor but isn’t overwhelming. The chocolate cake and orange buttercream are an ideal match.
And as for the man? Well, we’re very happily dating now. I’m not saying it’s because of these cupcakes, but I have a feeling they didn’t hurt.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes*
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 orange, freshly zested
3/4 cup sugar
3 ounces dark chocolate
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup Gran Marnier, or other orange liqueur
*Adapted from Cupcake Project’s Chocolate Cupcake Recipe (Stef, aside from having a great name, really knows her cupcake stuff and has some exceptionally delicious recipes!)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Put butter in a stand mixer or medium bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine orange zest and sugar (you’ll need to use your fingertips to really work the orange oils into the sugar.) Add sugar to butter and mix thoroughly. Melt the chocolate (but be careful not to burn it!) and fold into the butter and sugar mix. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time mixing completely between additions, into butter mixture. Stir in oil, orange juice, vanilla, and yogurt. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fold about 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until just combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Stir in Gran Marnier. Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake 16-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
I recommend icing with Gran Marnier buttercream. Easy adaptation on the icing, just use your favorite standard buttercream recipe and replace any milk with Gran Marnier. Delicious!