If there ever was a more perfect citrus fruit that embodied winter it is the blood orange. And I can't think of a better way to showcase their light and delicate flavor than with the light and airy chiffon cake recipe of these blood orange cupcakes. Topped with a light, fluffy and creamy mascarpone frosting, these cupcakes are the perfect winter dessert.
What do blood oranges taste like?
So if you've only ever seen one, but never tried one, you are really missing out, my friend. While they are dazzling to look at with their deep ruby color, the flavor is what really sets them apart. Think the best orange you ever had but a bit more tart, kind of grapefruit-y, I guess but sweeter. Overall more intense than your average orange.
Other ways to use blood oranges.
Blood orange cupcakes are just one of the many way I love to incorporate blood oranges into winter desserts. This blood orange creme brulee and blood orange sorbet are two of my faves. And I would be greatly remiss if I didn't tell you how awesome blood orange is in COCKTAILS, that's right DRINK UP. Here is a few of my fave cocktails you need to try:
What is a chiffon cake recipe?
The cake base recipe for these cupcakes is a chiffon cake. A chiffon cake is a light and spongy cake base that is primarily leavened with beaten egg whites. Think, meringue.
Chiffon cakes are also made with oil (which is always my preference in cakes) because it is easier to beat air into the batter.
I like this as a base for this because I think it is the perfect compliment to the light blood orange scent and flavor in this cake. This is not meant to be a rich, decadent and buttery.
It is light and airy...it is like thinking ahead to spring, only in a food. That is probably a terrible comparison, but you get my drift.
- Cake flour. This helps create a lighter crumb. I realize this is not necessarily an ingredient everyone has, so check this out on how to make your own, two ingredients (regular flour and cornstarch), easy as can be.
- Baking soda
- Eggs. Separated. Make sure you separate them cleanly too, no broken yolks, and that the egg whites are in a clean, dry bowl. You will beat the egg whites separately and fold them into the batter, and the egg whites won't whip up if the yolks aren't clean.
- Blood orange juice. You could also use regular oranges or Cara Cara oranges.
- Blood orange zest. See above.
- Cream of tartar.
Making the mascarpone frosting
Ohhhhhh the frosting. The glorious whipped mascarpone cream frosting. Spiked with vanilla bean and the tiniest bit of powdered sugar. Mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) is American cream cheese's classier cousin, with a little less tang and a lot more creamy. The light and fluffy frosting could not possibly compliment these cupcakes more. And the vanilla with the blood orange almost makes this like a creamsicle in a the most elevated form. Here's what you need:
- Mascarpone cheese.
- Powdered sugar.
- Vanilla bean paste. Scrape a vanilla bean or use extract if you don't have vanilla bean paste.
- Heavy cream.
It couldn't be easier. Whip some heavy cream with a little vanilla and some powdered sugar. Whip some plain mascarpone separately and fold together. Super light and super delicious.
Tips for success
You're really going for a light and airy with this blood orange cupcakes recipe. So here are a few tips to get that perfect cake texture and fluffy frosting:
- Buy or make the cake flour. Cake flour is lighter, and will result is a lighter texture chiffon cake.
- Make sure to whip the egg whites stiff. This recipe is all about getting air into these blood orange cupcakes.
- Be gentle when folding the whipped egg whites into the cupcake batter. And absolutely don't mix them in with a mixer. Use a spatula and fold them, this will keep all the air in them and give you that chiffon cake texture for these blood orange cupcakes.
- Don't skip the zest. The zest is what really gets the good oils out the the skin and gives the cupcakes such a fragran blood orange flavor.
- Use cold mascarpone for the frosting. I don't know if it is just me, but I have had mascarpone separate when I try to work with it at room temperature. It is much softer than cream cheese when cold, so you don't need to bring it to room temperature to make the frosting.
- Don't over beat the mascarpone cheese or the whipped cream for the frosting. You want it to be soft and fluffy. Overbeating can separate both the cream and the mascarpone.
When the cupcakes finish baking, turn the oven off, and crack it open about ¼ or halfway to SLOWLY bring down the temperature. This will ensure the cupcakes don't fall and deflate. Cool this way for a half hour and then remove from oven and cool on a wire rack completely.
For the blood orange cupcakes
- 1 ½ cups cake flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs yolks
- 3 egg whites
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoon blood orange juice
- 1 teaspoon blood orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar for the egg whites
For the mascarpone frosting
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or use 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste, or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese NOT at room temperature
To make the cupcakes
- Heat the oven to 350 and have a rack in the middle of the oven. Line 24 cupcake rounds with paper liners.
- Put the sugar in a small bowl and add the zest. With your fingers rub the zest into the sugar really well. This will release the oils in the zest and make for a super fragrant cupcake. Then in a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar/zest combo, baking powder and salt.
- In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks, oil, water, blood orange juice until super smooth and well incorporated. Add the dry mixture to this and whisk to combine.
- With a stand mixer of handheld )whatever you have), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks start to form.
- Using a spatula, GENTLY fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Only do this until mildly incorporated - this part is important because you do not want to deflated the whipped egg whites.
- Scoop batter into the cupcake liners and bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes. They will rise nicely and be springy when you touch the center of the cupcakes. Turn the oven off, and crack open the oven about ¼ or halfway to SLOWLY bring down the temperature. This will ensure the cupcakes don't fall and deflate. Cool this way for a half hour and then remove from oven and cool on a wire rack completely.
To make the mascarpone frosting
- Whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a separate bowl, but using the same whisk attachment, best the mascarpone for about five minutes on high until light and airy. With a spatula, fold the mascarpone into the whipped cream.
- When the cupcakes are completely cooled pipe or spread the frosting on top.