Iron Cupcake: San Francisco – PEPPER! Spicy Orange Szechuan Pepper Cupcakes

Yesterday I participated in my first Iron Cupcake: San Francisco Challenge! It was super fun, and the cupcakes were awesome! I totally got my ass kicked on the presentation front. 🙂 I’m already looking forward to the next month.

The secret ingredient this month was Pepper. I immediately thought of the Szechuan Peppercorns I’ve had sitting in my cupboard for… well, a really long time. Somehow, my mind immediately went: “orange!” I got this notion in my mind that since Orange goes well with cloves, cardamom, and other similar spices it would probably go well with Szechuan Pepper as well. I didn’t want the cupcake to be too peppery, so I made plain orange cupcakes, and then made an orange frosting spiked with the pepper. It turned out really really well. I ended up adding a little white pepper and a pinch of red chili pepper to add a little extra kick!

The orange flavor in these is really luscious. If you want, you can leave out the pepper and get some kick-ass orange cupcakes!

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Orange Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes or about 24 mini cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
2 Large Eggs
3/4 tsp Orange Oil
Zest of 1/4 Orange
1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp Whole Milk
1 Tbsp Orange Juice

Preheat oven to 375F
Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners

1) In a medium bowl, sift & whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, cream butter and sugar.
2) Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low until fully combined and smooth, then beat in orange zest and orange oil.
4) Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, beating until just combined after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
5) Add orange juice and beat until just combined and no stray flour remains.
6) Divide batter among prepared cupcake liners. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 18-19 minutes for regular sized cupcakes or about 15 minutes for minis. When done, cool on a wire rack for about an hour. Cool completely before frosting!

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You can frost these with my Spicy Orange-Szechuan Pepper Buttercream, below (or omit the pepper to get plain Orange Cupcakes). Or use the frosting of your choice! I imagine a chocolate frosting such as my Chocolate Creme Fraiche Frosting would go really nicely with these. You could even add some orange oil to your favorite chocolate frosting to up the orange-flavor ante!

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Spicy Orange-Szechuan Pepper Buttercream
Makes enough to frost 1 batch of cupcakes (I usually have a little left over)

Ingredients:
2 cups Butter (4 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup Powdered Sugar
Zest of 1/4 Orange
3/4 tsp Orange Oil
2 Tbsp freshly ground Szechuan Peppercorns
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp red chili (cayenne) pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. With an electric mixer, cream together until smooth and fully combined. Add orange zest & orange oil and mix until fully incorporated. Add all 3 peppers, then mix until just combined. Voila! You’re ready to frost.

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