Summer, even if it feels like we don’t get much of one in Southeast Alaska, still brings back memories of running through sprinklers, wading in too-cold-for-swimming-but-it’s-all-we’ve-got water and popsicles.
One of my favorite popsicles is the orange-vanilla creamsicle or Dreamsicle - it’s probably all branding - those sweet and rich, but still light and perfect treats. Yum. And though Alaskans notoriously consume ice cream and frozen treats at rates almost unfathomable to down-southers who shiver at the thought, there are days when perhaps even the most Alaskan of Alaskans pass on the icy option in favor of something warmer, at least room temperature.
Nostalgia induced by hanging out with my 10-year-old Little, Sophie, got me wondering about how to recreate that sweet flavor in a non-brainfreeze inducing form for a rainy day, since they have been so plentiful. That’s how I ended up with the orange dream cupcake.
I altered a recipe from my favorite dessert blogger (yep, that’s a thing) Stephanie from 52 Kitchen Adventures. Her recipe was for the more grown up Limoncello and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes, which also sound delightful, especially since she made the Limoncello herself.
Part of making up your own recipes involves an understanding of how other recipes work, and the easiest way is to take the foundation for a recipe that can easily be altered to your own needs. In this case, I used her recipe, replacing the limoncello with vanilla extract and the lemon juice and zest with the orange versions. I also changed out the type of milk used, subbing regular old milk for the buttermilk – a common replacement for me.
Orange Dream Cupcakes
Adapted from 52 Kitchen Adventures
Makes about 12 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
• 2 oz. unsalted butter, softened
• 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 1 C sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 2 T vanilla extract
• 1½ C unbleached all purpose flour
•1 t baking powder
• ½ t salt
• ½ cup milk
• 1/4 C orange juice
• Zest of half an orange
For the frosting:
• 2 oz. unsalted butter, softened
• 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 1 T vanilla extract
• 1/2 t orange juice
• 1 t Orange zest
• 1 1/8-1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
Prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the center of the oven and line a cupcake tin with liners. I actually had little silicone cups I used.
Beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar together at medium speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate between each one. Add vanilla extract and mix for one more minute.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In alternating increments, add flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix in orange juice and zest. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool.
(I mixed dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, but wasn’t so meticulous otherwise).
Prepare the frosting:
On medium speed, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and creamy. Add vanilla, orange juice and zest and beat for another minute. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar a little at a time. Beat until everything is incorporated and frosting is smooth. Add more powdered sugar to taste and to increase volume.
Making cupcakes is a great activity to do with kids because it really doesn’t take all that long, the process is relatively simple, and a kid is almost as effective as a Kitchenaid mixer when it comes to mixing batter without tiring your own arms, though a kid consumes significantly more batter and frosting than its mechanical counterpart.
Were it not for Sophie, I may have left the frosting natural in color (cream with orange specks), but food coloring came into play to match the soft orange of the original popsicles.
Frosting is the best part, because it makes the cupcakes look so pretty. I did half and Sophie did half. It takes a little finesse and a little practice to get the perfect frosting technique, but a kid can definitely pick it up.
In this recipe, the cupcakes themselves are just a little sweet and have a somewhat heavy texture. The frosting is light, airy and sweet enough to make the dessert desserty.
For more fun, garnishes can be great — tiny orange slices or candied peels. But even the simple cupcake and frosting combo really hit the spot.