Grown Up Dark Chocolate Orange Festive Cupcakes

  • For the sponge
  • 200g softened butter, unsalted
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 x medium free range eggs, beaten lightly
  • 200g self raising flour
  • The zest of 2 large oranges
  • For the sugar syrup
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 75 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • For the chocolate ganache topping
  • 200g plain dark chocolate (good quality 70% is best)
  • 75 ml double cream
  • 100g unsalted butter

Christmas always reminds me of my old 80's faves… chocolate oranges. Plus I'm obsessed with Jaffa Cakes, so I came up with this recipe, these decadent grown up Christmas cupcakes. A big hit with the boy’s as they aren't too sickly sweet and girly looking, the glossy chocolate icing makes them look all shiny and jewel like, very festive indeed. With the added bonus of a bit of Grand Marnier to the sponge, what's not to like!?

Preheat your oven to180°C/Gas mark 4.

Make your syrup by mixing the juice and sugar and bringing to the boil, stir occasionally, you can do this in the microwave or on a hob in a pan. Once the syrup is done, stir in the Grand Marnier if using after it has cooled slightly. Set aside and you'll brush your sponges with this when they are cooked.

Beat your butter and sugar together until smooth, creamy and pale white. I should be fluffy in texture. Add your zest in and beat for a few more seconds.

Slowly add your egg into the mix, about an egg's worth at a time, beating until combined. Don't worry if it looks a bit curdled.

Gently mix on the flour on slow or fold in with a spoon.

Pop in your muffin cases, fill just over half way and bake for approx 12-15 minutes, check after 10, all ovens vary, to check they are cooked, test with a metal skewer or sharp knife and this should come out clean.

Once cooked, turn out on a wire rack and then brush the tops of your warm sponge with the orangey syrup, this not only adds flavour but also keeps the sponge moister and prolongs their shelf life.

Now for the fun part, the chocolate topping! Melt your chocolate, butter and cream in a microwave safe bowl for a minute at a time on a low setting in the microwave so the chocolate doesn't burn, stir each time until your pouring ganache is smooth and silky. You can do this the conventional way on the hob over a pan of simmering water of course.

The easiest way to top the cakes is to pour your chocolate into a jug with a lip and slowly trickle the chocolate onto the sponge, taking care not to over fill. Once you have what looks like almost enough, gently tap the cake case onto your surface by picking up and banging carefully, so the chocolate icing ganache neatly covers the top. et voila! Once set for a couple of yours you can go crazy with your toppings, there are loads of options including gold chocolate buttons, glitters, sprinkles or if you feel adventurous, try making some sugar snowflakes! Set around the table or show off at your Christmas parties with these chocolate orange beauties!

Recipe courtesy of Juliet Sear's cookbook, The Cake Decorating Bible, available from Fancy Nancy.

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