Fresh, tart cranberries, fragrant orange zest, and plenty of cream cheese in the cake and in the frosting. For a fall and holiday dessert which will take you beyond the pie and the cookies, you can’t go wrong with cranberry orange cupcakes.
I’ve been waiting to share this recipe since last year! I had so many other great Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes and only so many posts that I realized in mid-December I would have to wait until Thanksgiving came around again.
Because fresh cranberries? I don’t know about you, but I don’t see them in the stores after Christmas. You get them when they’re fresh or you buy some dried cranberries. And dried cranberries are not what you want for these cranberry cupcakes.
So anyway, last fall I was thinking about my carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and decided that I really wanted another cupcake recipe on the blog. Since it was fall, and cranberries are everywhere, I immediately landed on making cranberry cupcakes. Though it probably helps that I live in cranberry country. You go down the road in any direction from my house and you will soon see a bog. We love our cranberries around here!
That beautiful red color which gives me a holiday feeling, seasonal flavors, the zing of fresh, unsweetened cranberries, and it turns out they are really fun to use for baking. (Check out my Cranberry Cookies for another recipe using fresh cranberries!)
One thing they are not so much fun for, is chopping though. 🙂 You need a large knife, a vigilant eye for strays, and a certain amount of skill to keep them where you want them.
Last year I chopped them by hand (so I know it can be done!), but this year I decided that there were enough cranberries here to justify using the food processor. *whir* *whir* and you’re done. Much quicker!
You can see from the photo that I have larger pieces and smaller pieces. You want a ‘rough’ chop with small bits to infuse the batter and bigger ones to give you than hit of cranberry.
When it came to frosting my cranberry orange cupcakes, it was really a no-brainer to use the same awesome cream cheese frosting I had used on the carrot cupcakes. Especially since this time I went with a cream cheese infused batter as well.
One thing I’ll note here (and I put it in the recipe): If you want to pipe a thick layer of frosting like I have here in the photos, you will need to double the frosting recipe. I call for a moderate amount of frosting, not giant mound. 🙂
Finally, there’s the decorating!
Cute, colorful or patterned liners are great and you can find all sorts of styles if you go to a craft/baking store like Michael’s.
Sanding sugar or sprinkles add another touch. You can get holiday themed-sprinkles or different colored sugars. I like the red since it echoes the cranberries.
And the sugared cranberries make for a fun topping. I’ve been making them for a few years around the holidays and when I mentioned them as an idea for the cupcakes, my daughter thought that was great, and she was right.
On a final note, I want to thank my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for taste testing the cranberry cupcakes. I’ve been told I can bring baked goods to meetings anytime.
– Happy Baking, Annemarie
Tender vanilla cake is filled with fresh cranberries and orange zest, then topped with cream cheese frosting in these cranberry orange cupcakes. Great for Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert!
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 2 cups fresh cranberries, approximately
- 1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 8 tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened but cool
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened but cool
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened but cool
- 4 tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened but cool
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
In a small saucepan bring the sugar and water to a boil and dissolve the sugar completely. Let the syrup rest for 5 minutes to cool it, then pour it into a bowl with the cranberries. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then cover the bowl and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain the cranberries and shake them out a bit to make sure you only have a thin coating of the syrup on them. Spread out the superfine sugar on a plate and roll the cranberries in the sugar. Test out the rolling with just a couple at first. If the coating seems gloppy or thick, shake out the cranberries some more or pat them dry with a paper towel.
Transfer the cranberries to a tray lined with wax paper and let them dry for 1-2 hours. Once they are ready the sugar will have formed a stable crust.
Preheat oven to 350F. Set out a standard sized 12 well muffin tin and fill the wells with cupcake liners.
Using a food processor or a knife, roughly chop the cranberries until you have 1 1/2 cups of chopped cranberries.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a small bowl rub the sugar and the orange zest together until the sugar is fragrant. Using a stand mixer with the flat beater on medium speed, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the eggs one at a time, scraping after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat in.
Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Beat until just mixed together with a little flour still showing. Take the bowl of the mixer off the stand, add the cranberries, and fold them in with a silicone spatula.
Divide the batter among the 12 wells in the tin. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Let them rest for 2-3 minutes, then carefully take them out of the muffin tin and let them cool on a cooling rack. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Using a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese and butter on high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix in. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on low until combined, then increase the speed to high and beat together until smooth.
Pipe or spread frosting over the tops of each cupcake. If you wish, sprinkle a bit of red sanding sugar over to decorate. (Another good idea would be to use themed sprinkles depending on the occasion.) If you made the sugared cranberries, top each cupcake with 2 or 3 of them.
- Butter Temperature: In order for the butter to aerate properly during the creaming step it needs to be pliable but still quite cool. The best temperature for butter when you start is somewhere between 60-65F and it's best to be closer to the 60 degree mark since the mixer is going to warm things up. If your butter is actually soft, get out another stick of butter and try again.
- Filling the Muffin Wells: I use a #24 Disher to scoop out my batter. I fill it up a little rounded and it gives me just the right amount to fill the wells without overfilling. Using the disher you will have some batter leftover. If I'm in the mood I make 1-2 more cupcakes with it.
- Cream Cheese Frosting: Though I use the stand mixer for the cupcakes, I usually make my frosting with the hand mixer. I like having more control over the angle of the beaters and how I'm mixing. Also, you will need to double the frosting recipe if you want to pipe the frosting high on the cupcakes.
- Cream Cheese: You can use standard cream cheese or neufchatel cheese in the recipe. Both work.
- Sugared Cranberries: These are completely optional, but they are fun to do and they give the cupcakes a little extra pop.
- Superfine Sugar: Sometimes you can find this in the store, but not always and it costs more than standard granulated sugar. To make your own, add granulated sugar to a blender and grind for 30 seconds until it is superfine. I usually process it by the cup and make a couple cups at a time to store away.
- Timing: I gave the timing just for making, cooling, and frosting the cupcakes. If you want to make the sugared cranberries, you will need to start them the night before.
Final, final note:
Midnight would like to express his appreciation for the cranberries. They tend to roll onto the floor and they make great kitty toys. 🙂