Chocolate Clementine Cupcakes with Candied Citrus Slices
Chocolate clementine cupcakes topped with candied citrus slices! These are inspired by my favorite chocolate orange candy and are great for the holiday season.
Christmas Day, at my house, is filled with tradition. After slowly waking up and greeting the morning, my family sits down at our kitchen table, where we feast on Italian panettone, fresh fruit and berries, and warm mugs of hot coffee. Pajamas, robes, and fuzzy socks are the official attire of the day. After eating breakfast, we head to the living room, where we grab our stockings and slowly open them, one gift at a time, attempting to prolong the process as long as possible.
Every year, my sisters and I reach our hands deep into our stockings and pull out a fresh clementine. Amidst all the other gifts, it is the most simple, but also the most sentimental. We usually end up munching on tons of fresh clementines throughout the holidays, leaving small trails of peel wherever we go, the smell of citrus lingering on our hands and fingers.
When I saw fresh clementines hit the shelves recently, I knew that I wanted to create a holiday dessert incorporating them and immediately began daydreaming up ideas. Chocolate was the next logical choice. Orange and chocolate is a classic combination and one of my all-time favorites.
Tarts, cookies, and cakes all came to mind, but cupcakes inevitably won for their portability, cute factor, and individual portion size. The next step was getting into my kitchen, cranking up the oven, and whipping up several trial and test batches. It instantly brought back memories of my days working at the bakery!
While some cupcakes can be heavy and leave you feeling weighed down, these cupcakes are surprisingly light and airy, while still being decadent and full of flavor. The cake is infused with clementine zest and orange extract, dipped in rich (72%) dark chocolate ganache, and topped with candied clementine slices (optional). These cupcakes have just the right amount of citrus and chocolate flavor, without either taste overwhelming the other.
When I took my first bite, I was instantly reminded of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, a favorite childhood treat. These cupcakes, on the other hand, are a bit more sophisticated, special, and sure to impress your family and friends over the holidays. Enjoy!
Chocolate Clementine Cupcake with Candied Citrus Slices
Candied Clementine Slices (optional--prepare 1-2 days in advance)
- 3 whole clementines
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sugar, plus more for drying
- 1/2 cup unsweetened good-quality alkalized/Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Callebaut)
- 2/3 cup boiling water (I used my tea-kettle)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract
- 1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated Clementine zest (about 2-3 clementines)
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Dark Chocolate Ganache:
- 5 ounces dark chocolate (72% cocoa content), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Prepare Clementine Slices: (optional)
- Clean each clementine well, ensuring that any wax coating is removed.
- Using sharp serrated knife, cut of top and bottom of each clementine. Cut each clementine into ½ inch rounds, removing any seeds.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop in the clementine rounds. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain the rounds in a colander and rinse immediately with cold water. Refill the pot and repeat the boiling, draining, and cooling once more.
- Rinse out the pot and add four cups of water. Stir in sugar and bring to a boil. Return clementine slices to pot, cover, and reduce heat so that the syrup simmers gently. Cook the clementine slices for roughly 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the slices to sit in the syrup over night at room temperature.
- Remove the slices from the syrup, lay on greased cooling rack and allow to dry. Toss the slices into fine sugar until lightly coated and shake off any excess sugar. Use as garnish on cupcakes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line standard muffin tin with liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Set aside mixture and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Once cocoa mixture is at room temperature, lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa and water mixture, orange extract, and vanilla in a separate bowl. Set aside.
- Add sugar and grated clementine zest to large mixing bowl (or KitchenAid bowl). Using fingers, rub the sugar and zest together until moist and aromatic. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to combine.
- Add the butter and remaining cocoa/water mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula.
- On low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in 3 additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients, scraping down the sides as you go.
- Using ice-cream scoop or spoon, distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake tin. Bake for 15-18 minutes (rotating half-way)—do not over bake!
- Place cupcake tin on cooling rack and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, before removing the cupcakes and allowing to cool to room temperature on rack. Once cooled, dip and cover with dark chocolate ganache (see below).
- Place chocolate in heatproof bowl.
- Heat cream in glass measuring cup (watch carefully!) in the microwave in small increments of 15-20 seconds. Cream should be hot, but not boiled.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the mixture to sit for about 15 seconds. Whisk very slowly until cream and chocolate come together and it becomes very smooth and shiny. Do not over mix.
- Dip cooled cupcakes (ensuring that you do not dip beyond the liners) into ganache. Let cupcakes sit at room temperature to set.
- Once the ganache is almost set, place a candied Clementine slice in the center of the ganache as a garnish.
Candied clementine slices should be prepared a day or two in advance, ensuring that they dry sufficiently before sugaring and being placed on the cupcakes. The cupcakes, themselves, are best served the day of baking.
Inspired by Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.
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