Black-Eyed Susan Cupcakes

Preakness Black-Eyed Susan Cupcakes

The Preakness (the second leg of the Triple Crown) is this Saturday!  I’ll admit that this is the race I most often forget about because after the Kentucky Derby happens, I’m already making my plans for the Belmont Stakes.  This year, I wanted to make sure to show the Preakness some love by recreating its official drink, the Black-Eyed Susan, as a dessert.  I’ve already done Mint Julep Bundt Cake this year, so let’s see if I can make it through the Triple Crown of Baking in 2016!

Like the Belmont Jewel, which I turned into a cupcake last year, I decided to turn the delightfully citrusy Black-Eyed Susan into a flower-themed cupcake as well.  The drink itself is a combination of bourbon, vodka, orange juice, and sweet and sour mix (which is just lemon lime syrup) garnished with a cherry.  The composition varied a bit throughout the recipe drafting process, but I eventually settled on an orange cake with lemon, lime, and orange zest (based on this cake recipe) decorated with lemon lime frosting (adapted from my favorite vanilla frosting recipe), all topped off with half a cherry.

I was a little worried about the cake’s composition from a chemical standpoint because I added a significant amount of acid to the recipe and didn’t change the leavening at all (see here for a helpful discussion of baking powder versus baking soda and when it’s appropriate to use each).  My sources suggested that it would still be ok to use baking soda here, and they turned out to be right.  It was a little tough, but that was more than likely a result of over mixing (I did follow the recipe’s directions, but I’ve corrected for this in my own recipe below) than of the change in acidity.

I was also worried about the increased acid in the frosting because, as you probably know, adding citrus juice to dairy will make it curdle or separate.  You have to be careful about how you add them when using both in a recipe, or else you may end up with an extra chunky texture (yuuuuck).  Sometimes this is exactly what you want (this is how you make your own buttermilk when you’re too lazy to go to the store), but definitely not when it comes to frosting.  This fear led me to leave out the milk from the frosting recipe entirely when I first wrote it, using instead double the amount of lemon and lime juice.  However, I realized that that much fresh citrus juice would probably make the frosting too tart so I changed plans last-minute (thus the missing milk from the ingredients photo below).  I added the citrus juice after the first addition of sugar and before the addition of the milk, and there was a little bit of separation of the butter, but not enough to ruin the frosting entirely.  There was enough sugar in the mix by that point to dilute the citrus juice into so that it didn’t ruin everything.  You could probably reverse the order of adding your liquids without any ill effects.  However, DO NOT add them both at the same time, because the milk will curdle.

That’s enough food science for one post.  I’ve done the experimental part, and now all you have to do is enjoy some kick-ass dessert!  These would be great with any combination of citrus fruits, as long as you follow the basic proportions.  If you change it up, please share.  I love to see creative baking ideas!

You will need the following ingredients:

For the cake:

Black-Eyed Susan Cupcake Cake Ingredients

  • 2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (this took me more oranges than picture, so you may have to use up to 4 oranges depending on their size)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • grated zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime (use two limes if they are particularly small like mine were)
  • 1 Tbsp. bourbon (optional, and I didn’t actually use it)

For the frosting and decoration:

Black-Eyed Susan Cupcake Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. milk or water (not pictured)
  • yellow food coloring (not pictured)
  • 12 dark, sweet cherries, pitted and halved

*Note: Ingredients pictured are enough for a double batch of frosting.*

For baking ambiance:

  • It’s time once again for my annual mix cd!  Take this opportunity to mix it up with all of your favorites, playing them on repeat without the guilt of skipping the songs you don’t like as much.

Let’s get baking!

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with 24 cupcake wrappers.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until all ingredients are well-incorporated.  Set aside.

Grate the orange, lemon, and lime zest and set aside temporarily (I apologize in advance for any grated fingers; currently, I have 4 out of 10).  In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice, and bourbon (if you’re using it) until smooth.  Stir in the citrus zest.

Black-Eyed Susan Cupcake Wet Ingredients

Beat in the dry ingredients until just combined (there shouldn’t be any lumps remaining).

Black-Eyed Susan Cupcake Batter

Fill each cupcake wrapper approximately ⅔ full with batter.  Drop the muffin tins on the counter a few times to bring any air bubbles to the surface.

Black-Eyed Susan Cupcake Batter in Wrappers

As usual, mine are a bit over-full.

Bake the cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden-brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Baked Black-Eyed Susan Cupcakes

To prepare the frosting, place the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or other large mixing bowl.  Beat it on medium speed until it is creamy and smooth.

Beaten Butter

Add in 2 cups of the powdered sugar and stir it in on low speed until it is incorporated into the butter, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is smooth again.

Beaten Butter and Sugar

Repeat the previous step with the citrus juices, and again with the milk.  Beat the mixture on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes.

Beaten Butter, Sugar, and Liquids

Add in the remaining powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating for 2 minutes on medium speed after each addition.

Citrus Frosting

Remove approximately a third of the frosting to a separate bowl and tint it yellow with gel food coloring.  Transfer the yellow frosting to a piping bag fitted with a small, round tip, or a resealable plastic bag (snip the corner for decorating).

Yellow Citrus Frosting

Spread a thin, even layer of white frosting on each cupcake.

Base Frosting Layer

Pipe thin, yellow petals onto each cupcake to form the black-eyed susans.

Completed Black-Eyed Susan

When you are ready to serve, place half of a cherry, cut side down, in the center of each flower (if you do this in advance, the cherry juice will bleed all over the cupcake and make it look a little scary, plus you’ll have to refrigerate them).


Black-Eyed Susan Cupcakes

You can download the printable PDF recipe here: Black-Eyed Susan Cupcakes

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