Skip the artificial dye by using vibrant, red beets to color your red velvet cupcakes. The sweet cakes and citrus-flavored buttercream make this red velvet recipe a must-have treat.
This recipe is from Diane Morgan's cookbook Roots.
Pure orange oil is an essential oil cold pressed from the rind of oranges. It is different from pure orange extract. Look for pure orange oil in the baking section of natural foods stores, at baking supply stores, or Middle Eastern grocers. Two brands I see often is Boyajian or Frontier.
The cupcakes freeze well and are handy to have on hand for a party. Freeze the cupcakes unwrapped on a baking sheet/tray. Once frozen, wrap them individually, first with plastic wrap/cling film and then with aluminum foil. The cupcakes can be frozen up to 1 month. Unwrap the cupcakes and thaw at room temperature.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the beets, sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, stir in one-third of the flour mixture, and continue stirring just until the flour disappears. Do not beat or overmix. Repeat, adding the remaining flour mixture in 2 batches.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly and filling each cup almost to the top of the liner. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes rest in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely, about an hour.
To make the buttercream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter on low speed. Add the sugar, cream, orange oil, and vanilla, and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add the orange juice, a little at a time, until the buttercream is fluffy and smooth.
When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread a thick layer of buttercream over the tops, swirling the frosting to decorate the tops. Alternatively, the frosting can be transferred to a pastry bag and piped around the tops of the cupcakes. The cupcakes can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store, covered, at room temperature.