Mini Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Halloween is easily my least favorite holiday. Sure, I liked it as a kid. I mean, it was a chance to run around the neighborhood filling pillowcase after pillowcase with candy, a chance to dress up as a princess or a ballerina or whatever struck my fancy at that time. But nowadays, if I want candy, I can just buy it, and I'm not really into figuring out what costume to wear and dressing up. So until last year, I didn't really have any reason to look forward to Halloween.

But last year, completely coincidentally, Jeff proposed to me on Halloween. (Neither of us were really aware it was Halloween, but that happened to be the day that everything fell into place.) Now I have a new reason to celebrate the holiday... and I'll always remember what day we got engaged.

So call these Halloween cupcakes or engagement anniversary cupcakes, this is my more sophisticated take on a black and orange treat. Chocolate and orange is one of my favorite combinations, so I took my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, flavored it with some orange syrup, topped it with an orange-chocolate ganache, and dressed it up with a candied orange peel.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Mini Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes
Makes about 30 mini cupcakes
Print this recipe


Candied Orange Peels (adapted from Closet Cooking)
3 oranges
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Reserved orange syrup from candied orange peels

Chocolate-Orange Ganache
450 grams bittersweet chocolate chips (or about 16 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier


Candied Orange Peels
Note: The peels need to dry for 24 to 48 hours, so plan ahead.

Trim the tops and bottoms from each orange. Then cut the peel of each orange into 4 vertical pieces. Carefully remove each piece. If the white pith is very thick, trim some of it off.

Cut the peel pieces into thin strips.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and add the peels. Cook the peels in the boiling water for 15 minutes, and then drain them.

Bring the water and 1 cup sugar to a boil over medium heat in a medium pot.

Add the peels, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the peels are tender, about 45 minutes.

Set a strainer over a medium bowl, and drain the peels, reserving the syrup (for the cupcakes below). (You can keep the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.)

Pour the remaining cup of sugar into a large bowl, and toss the drained peels in the sugar.

Spread the peels out on sheet pans to dry. This could take 24 to 48 hours. Once dry, store peels in airtight container.

Candied orange peels

Chocolate Cupcakes
Note: The batter needs to sit for at least an hour before baking, so plan ahead.

Combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a small heatproof bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes, or until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the cocoa-chocolate mixture, and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

In a small measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Whisk this mixture into the chocolate mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Dump the dry ingredients on top of the chocolate mixture, and whisk them into the chocolate mixture until the batter is completely smooth.

Leave the batter out at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners.

Using a small (2-teaspoon-capacity) scoop, fill each cup with 1 scoop of batter. (You may have extra batter, so just repeat with any remaining batter.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Once cupcakes are cool enough to handle (but still warm), remove them from the pan, and place them on a rack.

Chocolate cupcakes

Lightly brush each cupcake with some of the reserved orange syrup, and let cool completely.

Chocolate-Orange Ganache
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache (You can also make it ahead of time, store it in the fridge, and gently microwave it to soften it to a pipable consistency before using, or for a richer ganache that sets up faster, use less cream.)

Place the chocolate in a medium heatsafe bowl.

Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.

Pour the heavy cream over the chips, let sit for 1 minute, and then whisk until smooth.

Whisk in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream.

Then whisk in the Grand Marnier.

Set ganache aside until it sets up to a pipable consistency. (You can speed this along by putting the ganache in the fridge, but check and re-whisk it often, so it doesn't get too firm.)

Pipe ganache on each cupcake. (If you don't want to pipe the ganache on the cupcakes, you can just dip the tops of the cupcakes in it while it's still fluid or frost them with soft ganache.)

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Top each cupcake with a candied orange peel.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

You will have leftover orange peels and extra ganache, so feel free to half those recipes (I always like having more than I need), or you can use the extras to make chocolate-orange truffles.

The cupcakes are rich and chocolaty with a hint of orange, and the candied orange peels pack a punch of orange flavor and give the cupcakes a little sparkle.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Halloween -- love it or hate it?