There are some foods with which I’m pretty much obsessed. Bananas are my fuel, the only food I eat every single day. One at breakfast, one at lunch, they give me energy and vitamins for a high performance workout. Not to mention they are super yummy. Even though I eat more than one hundred bananas a year, sometimes they taste so good I want to reach for a third for the day. This is also why you don’t see any banana recipes on my blog. I eat them so much and like them in their truest form that I’d rather bake with other items.
The mere thought of wild Alaskan king salmon makes my mouth water. Whether fresh from the peak of the season or super high quality previously frozen, my week is not complete without a serving or two of king. I typically bake it unseasoned to let the flavor of the fish shine through. After the just baked through fish comes out, I put the skin back in the oven to get it crispy. Mom doesn’t like the skin, so I usually eat hers too. It’s one of my favorite things on earth, and all the healthy omega-3s have made my skin less dry than a few years ago when fish wasn’t a part of my diet.
Nothing gets me more excited than a serving of gummy candy. All the different fruity flavors, some super sweet, others a little sour, they always make me smile as I munch on a few pieces. I have an insatiable appetite for them and am unable to stop myself from buying them when I see some in a store or online that look interesting. The pantry is always fully stocked for when I need a good sugar high.
For the most part I’m obsessed with fruit in general. While bananas are the only fruit I eat every single day, peaches, plums, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, pears, apples, pomegranates, lemons, oranges, mangos, kiwis, and more all make frequent appearance in my diet. I even stash stone fruit in my freezer for a treat during the winter months. Luckily I don’t go through my stash too quickly with all the citrus, including my favorite: the Honeybell.
Only in season in January, true Honeybells most commonly come from Cushman’s. I place my order early to make sure I don’t miss out on the ones I want. This year I ordered 15 of the biggest, nicest Honeybells they offer, received six more as part of the Harry and David fruit of the month club our friends gave us, and have more on the way this week from QVC’s Today’s Special offer. I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m obsessed with Honeybells.
I’ve never baked with them before, but with all those amazing pieces of fruit staring back at me and an orange cupcake recipe I’ve wanted to make for years, it was time to finally take the plunge. And I am so glad I did.
The Honeybell cupcakes begin with candied Honeybells. You could certainly skip this step as they are essentially a garnish, but I highly recommend making them. Crepes of Wrath’s candied clementine recipe is super easy and swapping in the Honeybells left me with an irresistible snack I kept secretly breaking into in the refrigerator to make sure they were still good 😉
The cupcakes have a wonderful light orange flavor with a hint of vanilla and are super moist. They got a little browner than I would have liked, but they were still some of the best cupcakes I’ve had. I meant to brush them with the candied Honeybell syrup when they came out of the oven, but forgot. If you want to go for this step, I think you’ll really like it. I dipped mine in the syrup as I ate it and the added moistness and flavor was insane.
As if all of this isn’t enough, I topped them with vanilla bean Italian meringue buttercream. While it does require a candy thermometer, it is really easy to make following my step by step instructions and I guarantee it will be the best frosting you’ve ever eaten. So smooth and silky, it’s not too sweet or too buttery, with the most delicate flavor. You’ll never want any other frosting.
So celebrate citrus and Honeybell season with these cupcakes. I know you’ll find a new food obsession too!
- 2 large Honeybells sliced about ¼ inch thick
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split and seeded
- 1 tablespoon Honeybell zest
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup fresh Honeybell juice
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 5 large egg whites
- ½ + ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ vanilla bean, split and seeded
- Make the candied Honeybells. In a large skillet with about 2 inch sides, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the Honeybells to the skillet of syrup and cook 12-15 minutes, until soft and cooked through. Make sure the Honeybells are covered with syrup as much as possible and flip them at least once during the cooking process. Pour cool Honeybells and syrup into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make the cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl cream butter, sugar, vanilla bean, and zest together until light and fluffy. I did this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer would work as well. Add the eggs and mix until once again light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture and the cream and Honeybell juice to the sugar mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. I did 3 installments of flour, 1 of all cream, and one of a little cream and the juice. Mix until just combined.
- Using a regular sized ice cream scoop, scoop batter into prepared muffin tin, filling almost all the way to the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out with only a few moist crumbs. If you would like to brush them with the syrup from the Honeybells, this would be the time to do it. Cool completely in pan. Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead of time.
- Make the frosting. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once this happens, stop stirring, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and allow the mixture to come to 240 degrees F on the thermometer. In the meantime, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high until foamy. Once foamy, add the cream of tartar and continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Be sure not to overwhip the egg whites or they will become dry.
- Once the eggs are whipped and the syrup is at 240, turn the eggs to medium-low, immediately remove the syrup from the heat, and begin slowly and steadily drizzling it into the eggs. If the syrup is ready before the eggs, it can be turned down or removed from the heat while the eggs finish, before being replaced on the heat to bring to temperature. If the eggs are ready before the syrup, stop mixing them until the syrup is almost ready. Turn them back to medium-high briefly before turning them back down and adding the syrup.
- Once the syrup has all been added, turn the mixer back to medium-high and beat the frosting (what is basically marshmallow crème and is delectable all by itself) for 10-13 minutes until the bottom of the bowl is barely warm or at room temperature. It is important for it to not be too warm or the next step will not work.
- Once cooled, add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate before adding another. Scrape down the bowl occasionally. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla and vanilla bean and mix to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer and mix briefly by hand to make sure there are no clumps of butter. If the frosting is a bit soupy (because it was too warm when the butter was added) stick it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes, beat it again with the stand mixer. It should come together.
- Assemble the cupcakes. Using an offset spatula, smooth a heaping helping of frosting on the cupcakes. Place a whole, half, or quarter candied Honeybell on top of the cupcakes. May be stored at room temperature for 1 day, in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours, keeping them wrapped in the plastic until serving.