It’s already late April, which in Los Angeles means that Spring is quickly sharpening into the heat and light of summer.
For most of us, summer and childhood are nearly synonymous. I think of the days I spent as a kid, reading for hours inside my room, surrounded by a gaggle of stuffed animals and porcelain dolls inside the hot summer air simmering through the walls of our circa 1970s A-frame house. I think of my grandmother taking my sister, my cousins and I to the beach. We would stay all day and pack deli sandwiches and juice boxes in a blue Coleman cooler. At the end of the day, when the sky flushed with pink and the air turned cold, we would make the hike back down to the parking lot where she would have us stand until we each took our turn of having her beat our legs with a rolled up beach towel to remove the sand from our legs and feet.
We were allowed to walk a few places in the neighborhood during the day when our parents were at work. Most often, we walked to the Thrifty a few blocks away. To get there, we had to walk down to the end of our street, through a cinder block bridge bordered by a chain-link fence and wild fuchsia bougainvillea. At the end of the bridge mouth, was another neighborhood that we had to cut through to get there. The heat of the summer air swelled around us as we walked across the steaming white asphalt, walking straight into any front lawn sprinkler run-off we were thankful to find on our path. When we got to Thrifty, we were greeted by the bell that rang twice when the automated double doors opened, the shock of the air conditioning and the speckled linoleum floors that sparkled under the fluorescent store lights. We would always go down every single aisle, even though all we were going to buy was an ice cream cone each. When we were done walking around, we would head over to the ice cream section. The ice cream man would click the scoop through ice cream clouded water before asking us what flavors we wanted. Usually, we would get a double. I loved rainbow sherbet and orange sherbet, but sometimes I would also get something chocolate- like chocolate malted crunch or midnight madness (this had pieces of Three Musketeers candy bars- my favorite).
I still remember the day I first ordered a double scoop with orange sherbet with French vanilla.
“Just like an Orange fifty-fifty bar,” the ice cream man said.
At that the time, I had never heard that term, but I smiled like I knew exactly what he meant. And, once I tried it, I didn’t care what it was, I just knew that I was going to order it again because it was delicious- similar to the orange Julius drinks I got every year at the county fair.
I hope that eating one of these orange fifty-fifty cupcakes will bring a rush of nostalgic memories of summer like it did for me. We may not get the same summer vacation we had as kids, but at least we can still enjoy the slow burning summer light after work and the treats it still inspires us to enjoy.
For the cupcakes (Makes 24 full-size cupcakes)
- 2 cups unsalted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, plus one white
- 1/3 cup orange zest
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 3/4 cups sour cream
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Gluten free flour blend (or sub 3 cups AP flour)
- 1/2 cup white rice flour, 3/4 cup sweet rice flour, 1 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup oat flour
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with 24 regular sized liners. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Set aside. Zest 4-5 oranges and 1 lemon. Juice oranges and set aside. Cream butter, sugar and citrus zest together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then add egg white last. Add vanilla extract. Add 1/4 of the dry ingredients and alternate with the sour cream and orange juice until fully combined. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until cupcakes spring back at touch.
For the orange 50/50 buttercream:
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 2-3 tbsp cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 2 1/2-3 cups powdered sugar
- Combine 3 sticks of unsalted butter with 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature cream cheese. Add powdered sugar half a cup at a time, until desired sweetness is reached. Beat on high until fully incorporated. Split buttercream into two bowls. Add vanilla bean paste or extract to one of the bowls. To the other, add 3 tbsp orange zest, 2 tbsp orange juice and a few drops of orange food coloring. Using disposable pastry bags, put each flavor of icing into separate bags, snip the tip of the bags and combine into another icing bag fitted with tip of choice.
NOTE: I would also suggest making a simple syrup of equal parts fresh orange juice to sugar (add a bit of lemon zest too for more of a kick) to really give these cupcakes a moist, orange-y flavor.