Fall is here. For many of us, that means cooler temperatures, a chill in the air, the rustle of warm-hued leaves at your feet, a change back from iced coffee to warm coffee, fragrant spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, creamy butternut squash and pumpkin, and football season.
For me means all of those things, but most importantly, Fall means that Christmas is coming soon. Yes, right around this time, I whip out the Christmas albums. Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song is my personal favorite, and I anxiously anticipate the opening minor chords to the title track. And it is almost as if I can faintly hear the crackling sound that accompanied those chords on the record player that I listened to the album on when I was a young girl. When that album is done, I follow it up with WCBS FM's (a New York Oldies Station) "The Ultimate Christmas Album Volume 1" and dance to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Santa Baby".
But my personal favorite - one that makes me both laugh and smile warmly - is Mr. Hanky's Christmas Album from the TV Show South Park. This album was gifted to me by my father, and as you may have read, my father is quite the "young spirit" to put it nicely.
Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo (I will not show the picture on this blog for fear that even a picture of a cartoon piece of poo wearing a Santa Hat will make your stomach turn slightly, something I don't particularly want on my food blog), is joined by his friend's Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Satan, Wendy, Kyle's Sister, Ike, Mr. Garrison, and Chef, among others, to sing about the wonderful season. Classics such as "Christmastime in Hell", "Carol of the Bells (Mmmmkay)" and "Merry F---ing Christmas" are belted out. But I personally enjoy Eric Cartman's rendition of "O Holy Night".
O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear savior's b-b-b-birrrrth
O Holy Night
um... something something something
It is the night with the Christmas trees and pies
Jesus was born, and so I get presents
Thank you Jesus for being in born!
So you can imagine me in my kitchen, making what can be considered a very "fall" treat, as I danced around to the most twisted Christmas album of all time. But as I took one bite of these, I was pulled right back into the fall season as I tasted hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, enjoyed the chai scent, savored the orange flavor, and devoured the creamy, spiced buttercream frosting. And then "The Most Offensive Song Ever" came on and I was once again pulled back into the Christmas spirit.
And yes, that is the real name of the Christmas song on that album. Google, if you dare, but it is not for the religious, prudish, or thin-skinned. You have been warned.
Orange Spice Chai Cupcakes with Vanilla Spice Buttercream Frosting adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
2 ½ cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
zest of one medium orange
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 chai tea baga
¼ cup water
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two mini cupcake tins with baking spray. Or grease and flour them.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Set aside.
Place sugars in a medium bowl. Add zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. Oils should release and give your sugar an orange flavor.
In a small saucepan, bring ¼ cup water to a simmer. Add tea bag. Leave for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you want the flavor. Remove tea bag. Let cool to room temperature. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, add the oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat at high speed of an electric mixer for 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl often.
In a large liquid measuring cup add cooled tea, buttermilk, and orange juice.
Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk/chai mixture, starting with and ending with the dry ingredients.
Mix until fully incorporated and batter is smooth with no lumps.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and move cupcakes to wire rack to finish cooling. When cool, frost with buttercream.
Vanilla Spice Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 to 8 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.
Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the spices, and vanilla.
On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.
Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Frosting source: Adapted from More from Magnolia by Allysa Torey