Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing

I gussied these chocolate cupcakes up for Halloween, creating pumpkins with little spiders lurking on them, but without the spiders they would be perfect for Thanksgiving Рa real crowd-pleaser. Grand Marnier makes these an adult indulgence, of course, but you can always replace the liqueur with orange juice if you are feeding them to littles.

I’ll go with the booze, thank you very much.

I love Grand Marnier and usually splurge on a bottle every year. Mostly for baking, though a little occasionally makes its way into a small brandy snifter. Who can resist that? What amazing flavor it imparts to buttercream icing! It doesn’t take much, so you could just buy one or two of those mini bottles at the liquor store if your budget is tight, or go with a knock-off version.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing
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Makes about 30 cupcakes Decorating them like pumpkins uses a lot of icing! If you choose to simply frost the cupcakes, you can cut the icing recipe in half.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I use a mixture of regular and extra dark)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup oil (I use peanut oil, but canola would be good too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup hot coffee
  • Grand Marnier for drizzling over cupcakes before icing (optional)
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons shortening
  • 9 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Orange food coloring (optional)
  • Chocolate slivers, green icing for decorating.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
  3. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping the bowl often.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
  5. Stir in the coffee until mixture is smooth.
  6. Fill cupcake liners a little more than half full, but no more than ⅔ full.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack.
  9. Once cool, you may want to poke inch-deep holes in the cupcake tops and drizzle each cupcake with ½ teaspoon Grand Marnier, letting it soak in through the holes.
  10. ICING: beat together the butter, shortening, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar until creamy.
  11. Add Grand Marnier, frozen orange juice, and cream. Beat until well combined.
  12. Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Beat on high until fluffy, adjusting if necessary by adding more powdered sugar or cream to achieve a thick icing that will hold shape when piped.
  13. Add orange food coloring, if desired.
  14. With a pastry bag fitted with large round tip, pipe a mound in the middle of each cupcake. Starting at the base of the mound and working your way around the icing mound, pipe from bottom to top, releasing pressure on the pastry bag as you reach the top. Put a small sliver of chocolate in the center of the top for a stem and, if desired, use a small amount of green icing to add leaves.

Fill a little over halfway.

Poke holes with a skewer and drizzle with Grand Marnier.

Use large round tip to make a flat circle then center mound (like a witch’s hat). Or . . . just make a mound.

Pull icing up from the base of the circle to create a pumpkin.

Now just stick a little sliver of chocolate (or get creative: a pretzel stick, piece of Tootsie Roll, cacao nib, whatever) on top and, if you want, add a few leaves and curlicues with green icing and a tiny writing tip. I piped small spiders on mine with melted chocolate (because the crow requested them) but if you don’t want to get all crazy, you could just do this:¬†

Added bonus to taking this shortcut: you would only need half of the icing recipe for the pretty little floret. A drizzle of chocolate or a few sprinkles, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Enjoy!

Lorinda