Trio of Citrus Cupcakes


Until I started college, I used to spend every Easter in Florida.

Consequently, I associate the holiday with sunshine, palm trees, and Lily Pulitzer clothing. But in Chicago the late-March-early-April weather is variable—we even had some snow the other day. The trees are still barren. And even if I were to wear a pink and green dress with huge flowers all over it (not likely), I would have to shroud it in some sort of drab overcoat.

So how do I bring the Florida Easters of my youth to Chicago? Citrus.  

To be sure, store-bought citrus won’t be anything like the freshly picked fruits that came from the farmer’s market in Naples, Florida. But if I bake them into cupcakes, I think that more than compensates for the lack of flavor.

My trio of citrus cupcakes are easy to make because they all have the same base batter. When decorated, they look like springtime—perfect for Easter, wherever you spend it.

Trio of Citrus Cupcakes




– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
– 1 1/3 cups sugar
– 3 large eggs
– 1 lemon or orange or 2 tablespoons of frozen lime concentrate plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 cup buttermilk

Buttercream frosting:
– 1 stick butter, softened
– 1 1lb box powdered sugar
– 2 tablespoons milk
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Lime frosting:
– 1 stick butter, softened
– 1 1lb box powdered sugar
– 2 ½ tablespoons lime juice concentrate

Chocolate ganache frosting:
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (optional)



Preheat oven to 350˚F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until it is smooth. Add the sugar to the butter and beat until the mixture is fully combined, with no lumps. Beat in eggs one at a time. For the orange and lemon cupcakes, use a zester to peel the zest off the entire fruit. Add zest to the batter. Then cut the orange or lemon in half and squeeze it completely into the batter. Beat the peel and juice into the mixture. For the lime cupcakes, beat in 2 tablespoons of lime concentrate and a teaspoon of vanilla. Beat half of the flour mixture into the batter. Mix in the buttermilk. Beat in the rest of the flour. Spoon the batter into a cupcake pan lined with paper muffin cups. Fill each cup until it is 2/3 full. Bake 20-22 minutes. To make sure the cupcakes are done, insert a toothpick into the center of a cupcake and see if it comes out clean.


Buttercream frosting:
Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, milk, and vanilla with 3 cups of powdered sugar. Once the mixture is smooth, continue adding powdered sugar until the frosting reaches the desired thickness. Apply to cupcakes with a spreading knife or spoon mixture into a plastic bag, snip off the corner, and squeeze on to cupcakes in spiral shape. Top with raw sugar (I nabbed a few packets at Starbucks when I got my morning coffee).


Lime frosting:
Using an electric mixer, combine butter and 1 box of powdered sugar with 2 ½ tablespoons lime concentrate. Mix until it is a frosting consistency. Apply generously to cupcakes. Top with lightly toasted coconut.


Chocolate ganache frosting:
Heat 1 cup of heavy cream on the stove. Cut heat just before it starts to bubble. Pour 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips into cream. Stir constantly, until the chocolate is completely combined. For a deeper chocolate flavor, stir in 1 tbsp cocoa powder. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip the chocolate for about 2 minutes or until it gets a lighter, mousse-like consistency. Spread a layer of chocolate onto the orange cupcakes. Top with a small orange slice that has been baked at 250˚F until it began to shrivel.



4 thoughts on “Trio of Citrus Cupcakes

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