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A super moist vanilla orange cupcake with a surprisingly nutty, crunchy bottom, and a sweet, creamy and luscious cream cheese frosting. Make these Orange Crunch Cupcakes once and they'll be your forever go-to recipe when you need to make cupcakes!
These Orange Crunch Cupcakes are inspired by a cake that's served at a beloved local restaurant in the area where I live called The Bubble Room. They're pretty famous for their desserts, since they're amazingly delicious and decadent.
It's a bit of a trek to get all the way out to the end of the island where the restaurant is, so this is my solution to get my favorite cake without the long drive. They taste pretty darn close to the real thing!
Making these cupcakes is super simple, as the the cake is made with a box cake mix, with some slight variations. The frosting is completely homemade though.
How to Make Orange Crunch Cupcakes
- Make the Crunchy Bottom
The first step is to toast the almonds in a dry pan over medium heat. Make sure to keep a constant watch on the almonds, and remove from the heat when they turn brown. It can happen really fast, and they'll burn very easily if you leave them on the heat too long.
I love to use this skillet when toasting any kind of nuts or spices.
After you toast and chop the almonds, place the graham crackers into a ziploc bag and crush into a fine crumb. I like to use a rolling pin for this. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the brown sugar and toasted almonds.
- Make the Cake Batter
Mix the cake batter according to the instructions on the box, BUT replace the water with orange juice and add orange extract. You can also use orange essential oil but make sure the brand you use is safe for human consumption. Also keep in mind the essential oil is way more concentrated than extract. I would use 1/8th of what is called for when using extract. Meaning, if the recipe says to use 1 tablespoon, use 1/8th of a tablespoon. Unfortunately, there is no 1/8th of a tablespoon measuring utensil that I'm aware of, so between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon would be close.
These bowls are identical to what I use and I love them! The rubber grips to the counter when mixing and there is a handy spout for pouring. Absolute life-saver!
- Get the Cupcakes Ready for Baking
Place the crunch mixture in the bottom of the prepared cupcake pan before pouring the cake batter in.
Fill the wells a little over 2/3rds full to keep the cupcakes from rising and spilling over. These are probably filled a little too much. I did make several batches when preparing this blog post, so I can guarantee you these are not the finished ones!
Bake the cupcakes according to the instructions on the cake mix box. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
-Make the Frosting
Before mixing the frosting, make sure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. This will help to ensure everything blends together smoothly and will help prevent lumps.
I also like to use unsalted butter so I can control the type and amount of salt added to my food.
Mix all frosting ingredients together in a mixing bowl until it's a smooth and pretty thick consistency. You want the frosting to be thick enough to hold on top of the cupcakes.
If the frosting is too thin, you can add additional powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. For frosting that is too thick, add milk a teaspoonful at a time until you get the desired consistency.
Orange Crunch Cupcakes
- ¼ cup almonds sliced
- 5 graham crackers
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 box white or yellow cake mix
- 1 tablespoon orange extract
- 1 cup orange juice
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 16 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 2 sticks unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tablespoon orange extract
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
Prepare Crunchy Bottom
- Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast sliced almonds in a dry skillet until light brown, stirring constantly. Remove from the skillet immediately when browned. Finely chop the almonds.
- Place graham crackers in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine crumb. Mix in a small bowl with the chopped, toasted almonds and brown sugar.
- Prepare cupcake pan (either with cooking spray or liners). Add 1 tablespoon of the crunchy mixture to the bottom of each cupcake well.
- Mix cupcake batter according to the package directions, replacing the water with orange juice. Add the orange extract.
- Fill the cupcake wells ⅔ full with the cupcake batter, on top of the crunchy mixture.
- Bake cupcakes according to the package instructions. Let cupcakes cool completely.
Prepare Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter, orange extract and salt with a hand mixer until frosting is completely blended and smooth. If the frosting is too thin, you can add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved. If the frosting is too thin, add milk a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
- Top the cupcakes with the frosting either with a spatula or piping bag.
If you love desserts infused with citrus, try my Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars.
Another dessert that uses fresh fruit and is perfect for Fall is my Fall Apple Walnut Cake.