You’re probably wondering what has happened to the girl who used to have lukewarm feelings at best towards citrus, what with all the citrus-based desserts I’ve been sharing lately.  No worries, my heart will always belong to chocolate, but I’m glad that I’ve seen the error of my ways and have come to appreciate citrus in all its sweet-tartness.

These orange vanilla bean cupcakes were a recent coworker birthday selection.  Given my own hesitations about citrus desserts, I wasn’t sure how well they would go over.  But, by the end of the day I had received several emails from people raving about them, and was stopped by multiple people in the halls asking when I would be posting the recipe.  The cake is moist and tender with plenty of orange flavor, and perfectly pairs with the light, fluffy vanilla buttercream.

As you well know, I’m a big believer in garnishes and how quickly they can elevate a cupcake from good to great, so take my advice and don’t skip the candied orange slices.  They are beautiful, fully edible, and deceptively impressive – people would never guess how simple they are to make.  With the vivid colors and fresh, bright flavors, I’m sure these cupcakes would be a welcome contribution at any Easter or spring get-together.  Enjoy!


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups heavy cream (or whole milk)
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt

For the candied oranges:

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • About 30 small, thin orange slices

For the frosting:

  • 1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (3 sticks plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream


  • 01

    To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pods and add to the bowl.  (Save pods for another use, or discard.)  Add in the orange zest.  Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

  • 02

    In a liquid measuring cup, combine the cream, orange juice, and vanilla.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In three additions, add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl, alternating with the cream mixture.  Mix each addition on low speed just until incorporated, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Divide the mixture between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.

  • 03

    To make the candied orange slices, combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves.  Add the orange slices to the mixture so that they are in a single layer (none overlapping), reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer about 20 minutes, turning the slices at least once so both sides are candied.  Remove from the heat.  Store in a container with the syrup until ready to use.  (You can repeat using the same syrup for additional batches if pan does not accommodate all the slices in a single layer.)

    *Note: I found the little clementine oranges to be just the right size for garnishing cupcakes, but you can use any type of orange you like.

  • 04

    To make the frosting, add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the bowl and add in the salt.  Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes.

  • 05

    Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip (I used a large, unlabeled closed star tip).  Pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake and garnish with a candied orange slice.

  • 06

    *These cupcake liners are from Layer Cake Shop.

  • Cristina Soares

    Lovely cupcakes!

  • Thank Gawd someone finally chose these! Love the candied orange on top. I do candied carrot peels when I make carrot cupcakes. Easy to make, and very impressive. Have a happy Easter, guys!

  • Ella

    I wonder if this would work with lemon (I love candied lemon). Maybe I’ll try it this weekend and report back =)

  • The little slices on top make these so pretty! Awesome idea!

  • The little oranges on top make these so pretty! Lovely job Annie!

  • these look beautiful! I love the contrast between the vivid orange and the white buttercream. I’m sure they’re just as delicious as well!

  • Orange cupcake = health food :-)

  • annieseats
  • I love love love the orange slices! I tried to do this once but my oranges came out too bitter:( Have you ever run into this problem?

  • Connie

    Pretty and tasty! I love how humble orange zest turn something ordinary into something special.

  • These are great for those lovely early spring days!

  • Alli

    Those look yummy! What would you use the leftover vanilla bean pods for?

  • oh my gosh these look AMAZING. i can’t wait to make them this weekend!!!!

  • Krissy@DaintyChef

    These remind me of the Mimosa Cupcakes I have on my blog that I love so much. I love the idea of the orange flavored cupcake, I will definitely be trying these out soon!

  • Mhhh, they look so delicious. I love the colours!

    Greetings from Germany!

  • These look so beautiful, and I bet the orange vanilla bean combination is amazing. I love the specks of vanilla bean in the frosting!

  • Megco320

    I’m wondering how you get your liners to stay so pretty. I usually use the cupcake liners from Michael’s and after baking the color looks faded.

  • Yes, those are perfect for spring. Just gorgeous! Love the candied orange on top.

  • The candied orange slices look beautiful!

  • Vanilla bean and orange is such a dreamy combination, these are the perfect springtime sweet!

  • I’ve been looking for a good orange cupcake recipe for a while. Tried out a few different ones last summer that were okay, but not great. Can’t wait to give this one a shot, it looks fantastic!

  • Katie

    where did you get those orange cupcake holders?? so cute

  • Oh my goodness gracious! I’ll go on and help myself to the whole batch of those!

  • Andrea Lenertz

    Oh my, please do keep the citrus recipes coming! They all look spectacular and I can’t wait to try this one : )

  • annieseats

    It’s listed and linked within the post.

  • annieseats

    It’s the quality of the liners. Michael’s liners are terrible. I used to buy them but always had the same issues as you. Waste of money! See my FAQ page for more info on where I purchase mine.

  • annieseats

    Vanilla sugar, vanilla syrup, etc.

  • annieseats

    You probably just needed to cook them longer, or it’s possible the slices were too thick. I cut mine as thin as possible while keeping them still intact. I hope that helps!

  • Mmck503

    2 Tablespoons vanilla? Just wondering if that’s correct. Thanks.

  • So creative! These sound like a creamsicle in cupcake form! yummmm

  • I’ve seen a few recipes lately for orange creamsicle cupcakes made from a cake mix and I thought I would give those a whirl (Gasp! Cake mix? I know). But, yours look absolutely delicious and just as simple to make! I think I’ll try these instead!

    Thanks for the recipe.

  • Keelin

    They look beautiful as always with your cupcakes!

  • Alvjoann

    Pretty! I made these for tomorrow…thanks for another great recipe!

  • annieseats


  • I just made these (haven’t gotten to the frosting yet) and they are delicious but the bottoms turned out super super oily. Like dripping. Thoughts about what went wrong there??

  • Themessybakerblog

    Wow, these cupcakes are stunning! I love the flavor combination, and the orange on top is a lovely touch.

  • Annie, these are beautiful! It would be such a shame not to photograph the beautiful things you make, so I’m so glad you do! And I love that I get to see them! I have in recent years really begun to like citrus desserts. Maybe with age our palates (sp?) change? Hmmm, I dunno. I’m glad that happened and that I opened my mind to them b/c I love lemon and orange in desserts now.

  • Holly Storm

    I’m trying to Pin this, but it’s saying “Sorry, cannot pin this image” for all of the orange vanilla bean cupcake images. Have they been protected in some way? I would really love to add these to my pinboard (it’s how I collect recipes). Thanks!

  • annieseats

    I’m not sure why that is happening. These cupcake have been pinned many times. If you click on the Pinterest icon at the top of the blog, you can see what has recently been pinned from my site, including these cupcakes. Maybe you could just repin one of those posts.

  • annieseats

    I’m guessing it’s actually wax or something from the cupcake liner you used. I am not sure why that would happen.

  • Kirstyn Smith

    I made these for Easter Sunday dessert and they were a huge hit!!! Such amazing cupcakes and beautiful!!! Thank you for posting these!

  • Karen

    I made these for Easter and they were delicious! Everyone loved the flavors of orange and vanilla bean. The cupcakes were denser than I expected though. Are they supposed to be fairly dense?

  • annieseats

    No, they aren’t meant to be dense. Over-mixing or being heavy handed with the flour measuring are common culprits for dense cake. Glad you enjoyed them anyway!

  • Jen @ Jen’s Favorite Cookies

    These look so amazing! I have a thing for citrus-flavored desserts at the moment. I expect to make this one fairly soon!

  • sweetsugarbelle

    Ha, would it be weird if I left the orange cupcakes and just went with the candied oranges?! I’m resisting the urge to make them TONIGHT!

  • Joanna

    I know Annie said they’re fully edible, but do the peels have a pleasant taste, or is it just softened? Just curious if I should encourage my guests to eat the whole thing!


  • annieseats

    Yes, they taste good.

  • I can’t wait to try these! I love anything with citrus, and I think the candied oranges on top are the perfect finish!

  • Holly Storm

    It must have been a glitch! Thank you.

  • These look awesome! I love orange ANYTHING :)

  • Pinksheas

    These were wonderful. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe

  • Jenny

    Amazing recipe, Annie! One of my favorite cupcakes so far! My husband told me they were so good I should sell them, but I told him it’s really you who should be selling cupcakes! :)

  • Kendra

    Did you use heavy cream or whole milk? or have you tried it both ways?

  • annieseats

    I don’t remember. Haven’t made them more than once.

  • Tina

    Im going to make these for a friend, I dont have vanilla bean but I’m fully confident these will come out just as good. Also, I’m going to cut the recipe in half, I’m 30wks pg and can’t afford any more lbs lol…. My question to you is, would it be ok to use whole milk in the delaying instead of heavy cream??

  • I made these for a baby shower and they were the hit of the ‘potluck’ party! I love that they are different than any flavour of cupcake most people have had. They smell as good as they taste. (I used 10 percent cream for the cupcakes and they were great). Thanks again.

  • I made these for a potluck baby shower and they were the hit of the food table (of course). I love that they are a different flavour of cupcake than most people are used to. I used 10 percent cream and the cakes turned out perfectly.

  • These are gorgeous! I love how sunny and bright they make me feel. :) I bet the effect would be even more pronounced if i were to make these and eat them today! hehe

  • annieseats

    Yes, the recipe indicates heavy cream or whole milk.

  • Charliegirl

    I made these yesterday for my husband who loves a cupcake (though he won’t readily admit it) and they were BEAUTIFUL! I found them really light and fluffy! I don’t have an electric whisk so I work by hand – I think that those electric whisks can sometimes over-work eggs and make cakes dense. I would recommend using proper orange juice rather than just juicing the zested orange as I think it might make it that little bit sweeter – I just juiced the orange I had and I wish I’d used tropicana! I couldn’t find tiny oranges either so I just quartered full size orange slices and made a lot more than I needed (I want to drain them of the syrup a little, dip them in dark chocolate and serve them with petit four at a dinner party later this week) Oh and I didn’t have vanilla pods but I have some quite posh vanilla paste that I recommend as it’s amazing, a teaspoon = one pod and it keeps forever.. Didn’t have unsalted butter so I just skipped the salt out in the recipe and was fine… The frosting was delicious!! I couldn’t get it as white and as fluffy as yours though – I think in the UK our butter is very yellow so it’s difficult to get pure-whte butter cream! If you wanted to serves these as pudding cupcakes you could skip the buttercream frosting and whip up some fresh cream and vanilla to blob on top with the candies oranges – oranges and cream… yummy!! Um so yeah that was my take on the recipe – I hope you don’t mind me adding that! Sorry if it’s rude!
    Thank you for sharing a brilliant recipe, I obviously had lots of fun thinking up ways to play with it…
    xx C

  • Jennygay1984

    above the comment box there is a “pin it” button that will let you do just that :)

  • Jessica Alvis

    Cupcakes turned out great, I did make a small adjustment because they did not seem to pick up enough of the orange flavor that I was looking for. I made a glaze out of orange juice and a touch of cornstarch; when the cupcakes came out of the oven I poked holes in them and dripped a bit of the glaze over the top. It gave me that tart flavor that I was looking for…thank you for sharing your recipes.

  • kirsty

    Hi Annie. Quick question do you think it would taste good if I made a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting with the frosting? Or should I just stick to the buttercream?

  • annieseats

    I really love cream cheese frosting but I personally think that it might be an odd combo with this cake. Just my two cents though :)

  • Lovely recipe. I’d like to make a lime version, can I just swap the orange zest and juice for lime? Or would you recommend using less lime, since it is such a strong flavor?

  • annieseats

    You’ll have to play around and see what works. Good luck and enjoy!

  • StephaniePoff

    Oh these were amazing. I even tried the candied oranges! I knew the moment my mother in law said she used to have orange cake on her birthday that I was going to make orange cupcakes for her. Perfection! I made them Thursday to share at the family cottage Friday night. I knew this recipe was a hit when the grown ups at the table started going for the left over cupcake pieces the neices and nephews left on their plates :) Don’t look any further than Annie’s recipe index when you need to knock peoples socks off.

  • Irini

    Hi Annie! My 3,5 years old daughter saw these pictures yesterday and insisted on making these “no reason, just because we love cupcakes”, the only thing she wanted different was chocolate frosting, so I did what she wanted (as most of the times) and they turned out delicious. We ate some after lunch (your enchiladas). I have baked other vanilla orange cakes but these are the best I have ever tried. Just had two for breakfast… Thank you so much for the recipe and the inspiration!!!!

  • Kat

    When I was in France, my favorite treat was an orange-flavored pastry laced with chocolate bits. I’m looking forward to trying these with the addition of mini chocolate chips. May also dip the candied orange in chocolate. Hoping for a trip down memory lane :-)

  • Kelly Conway

    I made these last night. Looooove the batter. Wow! Nice and soft cupcakes, great flavor. Thanks so much!

  • waldo888

    I hope i am not repeating a question, as per your faq’s, I scanned several comments, so please forgive me if I ask an already answered question…..when baking cakes, cookies, bread, etc. do you sift your dry ingredients?

  • annieseats

    Only when specifically indicated in a recipe. Otherwise, I consider the whisking of the dry ingredients together good enough and don’t bother with the sifting step. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Annie,

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing this recipe. I made it for a baby shower and everyone loved them! I did have to add some more liquids, but I live in high altitude and wanted to make sure the cupcakes would be moist. They were amazing. Thanks again

  • These cupcakes are in my list of things to make. Glad to hear they turned out great!

  • Beautiful cupcakes – I have orange and mandarin trees, with ripe fruit at the moment, so am trying lots of new recipes. I too got the grease on the bottom but also got so e crazy erupting batter on my upper rack pan. I think that I was too worried about over mixing in the dry ingredients, and probably left pockets of the butter egg mixture not properly incorporated. The erupted mess was very sugary and buttery, so, I’m thinking g that for me and anyone else who had separation of some sort, it was probably undermixing of the final step.

  • robin salazar

    would it be possible to make this as a cake instead of cupcakes?

  • annieseats

    Sure! Please see the FAQ page. Thanks!

  • Loretta Karikari

    Hi Annie I wanted to ask the difference in making cupcakes with cake flour compared to all purpose flour? I wanted to make the lemon version and i noticed you referred someone to your lemon recipe ( and that recipe calls for cake flour. I have read your FAQ but haven’t seen the reason behind using cake flour versus all purpose.

  • annieseats

    It gives cakes a more tender crumb because it has less protein/gluten. Recipes designed with cake flour will have best results with cake flour.

  • Ams

    I followed this recipe exactly except I also poked with toothpick and poured orange juice glaze like Jessica said she did. The cupcake tasted floury and still not enough orange. I think I need to double the zest, no sure. I don’t know what to do about the flour taste in the cupcakes.

  • Toni Marie


    I made these cupcakes yesterday, and they were not very good. I felt that the batter was very thick, and they had the texture of a muffin. Not enough orange flavor, and they were too floury. Sorry.

  • Michelle

    These were amazing! I did add extra orange zest and the flavor really came through. The candied oranges took them over the top. Thanks Annie!

  • Heidi

    Hi Annie, I was asked to make orange chocolate cupcakes for an anniversary party in a few weeks. Would you happen to have any great recipes with this combination?

  • annieseats

    Hmm, I don’t have anything specifically like that. I think I would probably make these cupcakes as a base, top with a generous spoonful of dark chocolate ganache, and then use the candied orange slices from this recipe. That would have a good balance of orange and chocolate, I think.

  • Meghan Wyandt

    Can you make recommendations on how to make these gluten and dairy free? I have used almond flour in the past for baking, and it keeps the baked goods moist for well over a week. But not sure how to convert the rest of the stuff. Thanks!

  • annieseats

    I’m not practiced at making such substitutions. You’ll have to experiment. Good luck!

  • Lisa Marchbanks

    Rice flour makes a great, dense cake. Have you tried it? Also, I exclusively use Silk’s coconut milk in all my baking. YUM.

  • Lisa Marchbanks

    I’ve made these cupcakes and they are SPECTACULAR. Best citrus ANYTHING I’ve ever had.