Clementine Challenge Cupcakes

So, Laura had a giant box of clementines at home, and wasn’t going to eat them (because mandarins are by far the superior orange). The solution: bake something with a whole lot of clementines in it.

Laura found a recipe for clementine cupcakes with a clementine curd and clementine icing that looked really good. You can find the recipe here:

We didn’t have ricotta cheese, and we weren’t about to go out and get some for one recipe, so we decided to use an orange cupcake recipe and substitute clementines instead. Here’s that recipe:

“Why is it sizzling?” -Mel, as she poured lemon juice into a teaspoon used to measure baking soda.

This one went fairly well, and by that I mean it was a bit of a struggle. First we had to soften the butter, but of course we over-melted it. So into the freezer it went. We took it out about five minutes later to find that instead of hardening the butter had, in fact, melted more. It was the beginning of a long afternoon. When we took out the butter and it had actually hardened, for some reason it had separated. We saved it by whipping it into a fluffy butter, but it was certainly an odd thing. It may have been due to the fact that it was ‘light’ butter, something we discovered much later.


We forgot to get a picture of the separated butter, so here’s one of a pile of butter. It was used for the meringue frosting.

We had another problem when we realized we had to zest the clementines. Easy, right? Wrong. Have you ever tried to zest a clementine? They are not quite as hard as oranges, and a dull grater simply leads to them being squished beyond recognition.


“I feel sticky….” -Mel

We tried a sharper, bigger grater, but that cut through the whole peel which was undesirable. Finally Laura got a paring knife and started painfully scraping the zest off. Eventually Laura realized this was far too slow, so she grabbed a potato peeler and started peeling the zest off. It was a little rough at first, but as she honed her technique, she managed to get beautiful shavings. They were too big though, so into the food processor they went. Success!


“I’m the best clementine zester this side of Kentucky” -Laura

Mel’s job during all this was to get clementine juice from the freshly zested oranges. We don’t have a proper juicer, so a quick knife slit and the oranges were squeezed by hand, leaving an unholy mess. The result of all this was a pile of torn, mangled clementines, sad ghosts of their former selves. But we got enough zest and juice, both for the cupcakes themselves and the custard filling.


“I don’t like it, Laura!” -Mel (Yes, that is a former orange)

The cupcakes went in the oven with no more mishaps. Hooray!


Laura: “It doesn’t make very much, does it?” Mel: “No…” Laura: “It only makes twelve…” Mel: “What?” Laura: “I didn’t read the recipe…”

Next came the custard. This part was fun. We used a makeshift double boiler, but Laura turned the heat down too low so for a long time a very frothy, very liquidy egg mixture was just sitting on top of warm water. Once we got the double boiler actually boiling, things went much better. Into the fridge the custard went and we took a break for dinner.

“Oh, that’s not a small bowl. Whatever, I don’t care.” -Laura, upon using a giant bowl when the recipe called for a small one. “Whatever, I don’t care” became our slogan for the afternoon.

After dinner Mel cut out cones from the cupcakes so she could fill them with custard, and Laura set to work on the meringue icing. Mel was too afraid to cut deep into the heart of the cupcakes, so ended up having to scrape out the insides with a paring knife. It left a lovely pile of crumbs which soon disappeared without us noticing. We didn’t end up flavouring the meringue with oranges because we ran out of clementines, so we used this recipe:

This went well. Surprisingly so. The key here is to not give up, and keep mixing the meringue and the butter, even if it’s soupy. Even if it’s chunky. It came together, unbelievably well in the end.


“I’m going to do it, you have no faith!” -Mel (about the buttercream not coming together)

Then Mel set about piping icing on the cupcakes, as Laura is hopelessly useless at decorating. The things came out beautifully, and then it was time for the taste test.

They were amazing. The icing is very rich and sweet, which is balanced by the tartness of the custard. These would have been tasty without the custard, but the filling really brought everything together. They’re very, very rich though, so I’d suggest only eating one a day. Also our cupcakes were quite high, so biting into them invariably left one with frosting on the nose. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you can save that for a snack for later.


So beautiful, in the end.

Overall, these were very tasty, though they were not a cake walk (pun intended). We started making them around three, and finished at seven. Mind you, the custard had to set, and it can be made in advance. Having a proper zester and juicer would also probably speed things up.


The two remaining clementines in the house after this (mis)adventure.


The final product, cut open to show the custardy goodness.


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