Orange-Clove Cupcakes with Vanilla Spice Buttercream

I’ve never been a big fan of cupcakes–or cake, in general. But using certain spices in cakes can throw my sweet tooth into bliss. Cinnamon happens to be my favorite, but since it was snowing outside, I thought I’d put a little citrus twist on my normal recipe.
I had decided to make cupcakes because of a lunch break I took with co-workers on Friday, to the Chinatown Holiday Market down the street from the office. It was terribly cold and we had a bit of a windchill, but braved the walk. Red Velvet, a specialty cupcake shop in the area, had sent a poor employee out to the fair to hand out mini cupcakes and hot chocolate to everyone enjoying the craft fair. The poor thing was wearing a sweater and trekking around giving away food and drinks.
… We swarmed her. There were red velvet cupcakes, vanilla bean cupcakes, maple syrup cupcakes, lime cupcakes–the list could go on. I’ve never had such delicious mini cupcakes in my life. And the vanilla frosting actually tasted like vanilla beans. We had died and gone to cupcake heaven. We asked her about them, and if she was getting frostbite in the cold. Her response was “No, I’m running back and forth with this tray, I’m fine.” So naturally, we hid in the fair until we saw her coming back. And we swarmed her again. And again.
The next day, my best friend from elementary school and I were snowed in. Literally–the porch was covered in two feet of snow. So we baked. Rather, I baked, and I invited her and one of my roommates to decorate. I try to make everything relatively presentable and pretty in terms of decorations, and I have a knack for that. Harry and Adriana, on the other hand, enjoyed making abstract cupcakes and giving them inappropriate names. Like “Kama Sutra.” And “Auschwitz,” in memorial of the sign that was recently stolen from the death camp. Then there were the humorous names, like “Zipper,” (featured below) and “Chinese Take-Out Boxes.” You’d think the snow day had driven them mad. I’d beg to differ.

preheated oven to 350 degrees
electric hand mixer
cupcake or cake pan
2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup frest orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup orange juice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
sprinkle of ginger, sprinkle of nutmeg
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

First combine the sugars and the orange zest, and mix thoroughly. The natural oils of the orange zest will release the orange flavor into the sugars. Using the hand mixer, add the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat with the electric mixer for about five minutes. Gradually add the milk and orange juice. Then, in a separate bowl, combine the sifted flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and spices. Stir dry ingredients until evenly mixed. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the others with the mixer on, until the batter is smooth and lump-less.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan.
For the frosting, combine softened butter and a few cups of sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on low until smooth and creamy, then add the vanilla extract and spices, and gradually, the remaining sugar. The frosting should be sweet and fluffy.
Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cooled, and decorate with remaining orange zest or sliced almonds, as shown.