Iron Cupcake November: Cranberry

I decided I really wanted to challenge myself, so I’m jumping into Iron Cupcake, in part because I was so excited about the theme!  I’ve always loved a particular cranberry orange relish that my grandma always makes for Thanksgiving, so I knew I had to make a tangy, orange-spiked cupcake.

Cranberries are interesting…there aren’t too many ways to bake them into a cake without it seeming muffiny, I’ve noticed.  Sometimes that’s good, but I didn’t want to do that.  I wanted something fun, and cute, and cakey, and I wanted to fill it with something delicious and go to great lengths to make tasty decorations!  To keep the cupcakes smooth and as unmuffiny as possible, I decided to use canned jelly cranberry sauce.  And to keep things even easier, I just based the recipe for these cupcakes off of my pumpkin cupcake recipe, figuring, hey, there’s a can of pumpkin in that recipe, I’ll put a can of cranberry jelly sauce stuff in this recipe.  It took a little experimentation…

Oh, wait...that's not right...
Oh, wait...that's not right...

I’ve taken to halving recipes when I test them, just in case things like this happen.  I’m glad I did, though these were really tasty!  A little more muffiny than I intended, and tasting a lot like gingerbread, though there was no ginger in them.  Everyone happily ate them anyway…the cranberry sauce was a little overwhelming (I should have used half a can instead of like 3/4 a can) in terms of the moistness.  These held together, but just barely.  They did not, however, have a lot of cranberry flavor.  So I tried again, this time with a full recipe and a couple extra ingredients:

So pink and puffy!
So pink and puffy!

The results were super cute…but I wasn’t about to try them until they were finished!

Just a comparison...what a difference!
Just a comparison...what a difference!

The thing about these cupcakes is…I didn’t really write down the recipe (or measure the ingredients as I was adjusting them…it was more of a “until it looks good” thing), and was just kind of making it up as I went along.  But I’m going to do my best to write down what I did!

These cupcakes will take a while to put together…I would recommend making the peels, curd and cupcakes the night before, and making the frosting and assembling everything in the morning.

Tangy Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

Orange peels everywhere!
Orange peels everywhere!

Candied Orange Peels:

4 oranges

1 cup sugar, plus more for coating

1 cup water, plus more for blanching

Slice the ends off the oranges, score them vertically and carefully peel the cut sections.  Remove any overly excessive pith, then slice the peels into thin strips.  Place the strips into boiling water and blanch for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Rinse thoroughly with cold water, then repeat.  Put 1 cup water and the sugar into a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Add the peels and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes.  Drain and toss to coat with the extra sugar, then allow to cool and drain on a wire rack.  Once dry, store in an airtight container.

Tangy Orange Cranberry Curd:

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup not from concentrate orange juice, with pulp (I used Tropicana Pure Valencia; fresh-squeezed would also be good but my oranges weren’t terrific)

2 Tbsp 100% cranberry juice (no added sugar!)

2 tsp orange zest

4 oz unsalted butter, cut into Tbsps

In a small saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks, then whisk in the sugar, juice and zest.  Then add the butter and whisk continuously over medium-low heat until thick (between 5 and 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and strain immediately into a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed down to the surface of the curd, and poke a few holes in the wrap to let steam escape.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Cranberry Cupcakes:

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 15 oz can jellied cranberry sauce

1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice

A few drops of red food coloring

3 1/2 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

Cream together the butter and sugars, then add the eggs and cranberry sauce.  Mix well, preferably in a Kitchenaid mixer or with a handheld electric beater, as it’s hard to thoroughly break up the jelly sauce by hand.  Mix in the juice and dye, add the dry ingredients, then mix well.  The batter should be drippy but not runny, and should be a cranberry-mauve color.  Preheat the oven to 350, scoop the batter into cupcake pans, filling 2/3 to 3/4 full, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the top of a cupcake comes out clean (don’t let them get too brown!).  Allow to cool thoroughly (overnight is how I often do it).

Cream Cheese Frosting:

12 oz cream cheese

3 Tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a large bowl until they are light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the powdered sugar.

Assembling the Cupcakes:

Spoon the curd into a pastry bag fitted with an injector tip, a few tablespoons at a time.  Poke the injector deeply into each cupcake and squeeze the curd in slowly but firmly, until the top of the cakes rise just a little bit.  Clean the pastry bag and fit it with a large star tip, spoon the frosting in by half cups. then swirl it onto the cupcakes.  Use a sharp knife to chop the candied orange peel into little bits and arrange on top of frosting.  Keep chilled.

Hello little curd blob!
Hello little curd blob!

Ideally, if i could have found it, I would have used a bit of cranberry extract instead of the cranberry juice, and used a little less flour to balance out the loss of liquids.  The cranberry flavor is understated, but the tang is absolutely there.  The filling is light but strongly flavored, the cake is soft and spicy, and the frosting is sweet, cheesy and absolutely tangy.  The candied oranges add an extra little chewiness and – you guessed it – tang!

I would absolutely make these again, with good reason of course!  For a party or something…at least I got to bring some to someone who was having a birthday.  If you want me to win some fantabulous cupcake-related prizes, you should go to No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner to vote for me!

Some prizes are from Etsy:



LOTS OF SPRINKLES at (cupcake earrings!).

CAKESPY,, woohoo!



The are also some corporate sponsors, apparently:

HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS,, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,, JESSIE STEELE APRONS; the CUPCAKE COURIER; TASTE OF HOME books, Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers,

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