Lose your mind with these Russian tea cupcakes

By Scott Greenberg

I’ll admit: Cupcakes are pretty mindless.

I know a lot of bakery upstarts and soccer moms and frosting jockeys are gonna get all angry when they read that because “I’ve been working on these red velvet cupcakes but they’re blue instead of red and they’re just SO GODDAMNED ORIGINAL” etc. But when you get right down to it, there’s not a lot of innovation going on in the actual baking process. You’re just dumping a bunch of weird shit into some flour, some more weird shit into some frosting and calling it novel.

And sometimes it is novel! Sometimes people put cayenne pepper or mango or rock candy in there, and I’m a fan of that. That’s an interesting thing to eat. But as far as the cooking goes? The actual whisking and stirring and the muscle? It’s the exact. Same. Thing. It’s just as easy to dump that mango in there as it is to dump vanilla extract, so don’t run around thinking you’re the next cupcake genius just because you were the first one to pair licorice with root beer. You’re not. Sorry.

But cupcakes are still really damned delicious, and I’m lazy, too, so I made some.

Here’s what you need:


• 1 1/2 cups flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1 1/4 cups sugar

• One stick softened butter

• Two eggs

• Two blood oranges

• 1/3 cup Greek yogurt

• 2 tablespoons milk

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoon cloves


• 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger

• Two sticks softened butter

• 1 cup cream cheese

• 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar

• Candied ginger

Here’s how you do it:

First, set your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together your flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.

Zest the oranges, then squeeze the juice out. And do it in that order, or you’ll look like an idiot zesting squishy, gross orange hulls. Don’t be that guy.

Mix together the yogurt, vanilla, milk, 1/3 cup of the orange juice and the zest in a small bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then add the eggs one at a time.

Add the flour bowl and the gross yogurt-y juice mess bowl into the stand mixer, on slow, in alternating amounts, until they’re both in there.

Throw the batter in some cupcake liners, then stick them in the oven for 30 minutes while you put together the frosting.

The frosting’s easy: mix your cream cheese, butter and brown sugar together, then add the powdered sugar and grated ginger and mix.

Once the cupcakes are at room temperature, frost the damn things and top with a small piece of candied ginger. You know my feelings on frosting: don’t do that Betty Crocker tiny little tablespoon of frosting crap; get a mountain of flavor up there.

Here’s a mountain of sound to go with it: The late, great Big L with Put It On:

See? You didn’t do anything crazy there, nothing that takes years of French master pastry training in a wood cabin somewhere in freaking France. You got two bowls, dumped stuff into them and then dumped those into a bigger bowl. Boom: cupcakes.

Like I said, this ain’t about making you feel bad for wanting to make some tiny little baked treats. They’re delicious; lord knows I’ve made them a thousand-odd times. I’m just saying to get off your high horse when you start proselytizing over your salted bourbon caramel and homemade marshmallow masterpiece. You ain’t the next Thomas Keller; you’re just a person who knows what good things taste like.

I’ll take one of those cupcakes, though.