When I met my boyfriend, he’d never had an old fashioned cocktail before. Now, this wouldn’t have been strange – I mean, most of us who drink liquor stick to a combo of soda-and-spirit nowadays – except that he loved (loves) Mad Men. And what would Don Draper do? Drink an old fashioned, of course.
So on our first date, he drank one. I’m not sure it’ll replace his standard Jack-and-Coke (especially in the London bars we tried, which didn’t seem to know the recipe), but it’s now been cemented in our heads as Don’s drink.
And with Mad Men starting again for the last time, it seemed right that I pay homage with a bake befitting a ’60s happy hour: brown butter and orange cake with a brown sugar and whiskey buttercream. All the taste of an old fashioned, none of the pain of explaining what ‘muddling’ is.
(Also, how pretty are candied oranges?)
Old Fashioned Cupcakes
YOU’RE GONNA NEED: a cupcake tin, cupcake cases, and 4-5 hours cooling time
For candied orange:
1 medium to large orange
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 bowl cold water (refrigerate until ready to use)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, browned
1/2 cup + 6 tbsp sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4-1/2 cup milk
For the buttercream:
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
2-4 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tbsp whiskey
1. Prepare your candied orange: using a sharp knife, slice the orange into very thin slices. Alternatively, remove the peel and slice into 1-2 inch long thin strips. Place the slices or peel into a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then drain. Plunge the slices/peel into the bowl of cold water and drain again. Set aside. Whisk together the sugar and cup of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer for 8-9 minutes. Drop the slices/peel into the simmering sugar mixture and simmer for 45 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to keep at a simmer. DO NOT STIR – stirring will form sugar crystals! Instead, gently swirl the pan if you feel the slices/peel need to be moved around. After 45 minutes, the slices/peel should have a coating of thickened sugar. Carefully remove the slices/peel from the mixture using a fork and place onto a wire rack to cool for 4-5 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Brown the butter: melt the butter in a saucepan. Once melted, whisk until frothy and allow to boil until browned (it should be amber in colour and will smell nutty). Allow the butter to cool for 10 minutes. In the meantime, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and beat for another minute. Beat in the zest and vanilla. Mix in a portion of the flour mixture.
4. Beat in all of the orange juice. Alternate between the flour mixture and milk until all combined. The batter should be thick but able to pour; add more milk if necessary. Pour the batter into a cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes until a knife can be removed cleanly. Allow to cool completely on wire racks.
5. Prepare your buttercream: in an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the brown sugar and about 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beating until combined. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar, beating thoroughly. Add the whiskey as needed a tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Spread onto cupcakes and garnish with dried candied orange slices/peel.