Mandarin Cupcakes with Clove Buttercream

I don’t know about you people, but I’m glad Christmas is almost over.

When tomorrow morning finally rolls around, I’ll be relieved — if only because the constant stream of Christmas music will be (nearly) gone from the radio, the rabid tides of shoppers will be gone from my work, it won’t take twice as long for the bus to get places because of all the shopping traffic, everyone I know will be considerably less stressed, and I’ll be able to get some real sleep (if only for a day or two).

There are a few things I will miss about the season, though, like the “dripping icicle” lights at my work, pine tree smell, time off from school, short bread, and mandarin oranges.

These cupcakes are an homage to those sweet, peel-able, imported citrus from across the sea: mandarin (aka: mikan) oranges.

I brought these treats to my work potluck and they were really well received — although most people agreed that, while the mandarin taste was there, it really took a back seat to the lovely clove buttercream.

That’s okay, though. I liked the light, slightly sweet, mandarin cake bottom paired with the strong flavour of rich spices on top.

What a better way to bake with mandarin oranges?

Mandarin Cupcakes with Clove Buttercream

*original recipe by Christine


  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup mandarin juice
  • 1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated mandarin zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped mandarin orange

Clove Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract


Preheat the oven to 350° F (or 175°C). Prepare a muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

Sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and cloves. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the mandarin orange zest and extracts.

Combine the milk and mandarin juice in the same bowl (preferably one with a pour-able spout).

Now, mix 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter + sugar + zest mixture — stir a little. Next, add 1/2 of the milk + mikan juice — mix in completely. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and stir a little. Add the last of the milk + mikan juice and mix in completely. Finally, mix in the remaining 1/3 of flour mixture.

Stir gently and then fold the chopped mandarin oranges into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling the cups approximately 2/3 full.

Bake for 18 ~ 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the center-most cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. Makes a least 18 cupcakes.


In a separate bowl, cream the butter a little.

Beat the icing sugar into the butter in half-cup increments. You might not need all 3 cups of icing sugar — I think I only used 2 & 1/2 cups or so.

Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of your frosting, beat in the ground cloves, fennel, and the orange extract.

Now, frost your lovely cupcakes!

You can always garnish them with sprinkles, a little mint leaf, or a wedge of chocolate orange. Yum!

And happy-holiday-secular-greetings, people… or, y’know, something like that.

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2 thoughts on “Mandarin Cupcakes with Clove Buttercream

  1. This is such a great flavor combination! They look fabulous!

  2. […] to serve at Thanksgiving. We did a search and found many recipes, but this one seemed from the Angry Cherry website looked to be pretty good. We followed the recipe pretty closely and only made two substitutions: […]

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