A Fairy Tale: San Mateo County Fair Cupcake Contest

Once upon a time (Thursday August 16, 2007)
in a faraway land of milk and honey (California),
a young maiden (yours truly, age 29, weight unstated)
ventured into battle (73rd Annual San Mateo County Fair)
supported by countless countrymen (150k attendants)
against hordes of worthy foes (15 registered entrants),
returning home triumphant (winner of the 2nd prize title)
and loaded with riches ($20 and a ribbon).


For those of you who would like to recreate the magic of the County Fair at home (sans piglet races, fried snacks and wild rides), here is the recipe for my winning entry.



Serves 24

    1. Bake Orange Chiffon Cupcakes (recipe below).
    2. Make one batch of Orange Fluffy Frosting (recipe below).
    3. Inject a small amount of frosting into each cupcake. Spread 1/4 cup of frosting onto each cupcake, dipping and swirling with the back of a spoon.


1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs (room temperature)
5 separated eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest and strained juice (~3/4 cup) from 2 navel oranges
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the whole eggs, egg yolks, oil, extracts, orange juice and zest. Blend until smooth.
  3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until very thick and stiff. Fold the whites into the batter.
  4. Divide the batter into the 24 standard-sized cups of ungreased aluminum muffin pans. (The batter needs to cling to the pans and “climb” the sides, so do NOT use non-stick pans or liners.) Bake 25-30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Immediately invert the pans by balancing the corners on top of soup cans so that air can circulate and cool the cupcakes without deflating the centers, about 30 minutes.
  5. Use a sharp paring knife to loosen the edges of the cupcakes from the pan. (Clean the knife between each cupcake to prevent sticking.) Set the cupcakes right-side up on a cooling rack.


1 cup sugar
Strained juice (~1/3 cup) from 1 navel orange
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Zest from 1 navel orange

  1. Beat sugar, juice, egg whites, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl on low speed until foamy.
  2. Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Starting at medium speed and gradually increasing to high speed, beat frosting until it is thick enough to create soft peaks.
  3. Remove the bowl from heat. Add orange zest and continue beating for about 2 minutes to thicken the frosting.

Dreamsicle Cupcake

Merry Kitchen extras: #230 tip

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