Orange Honey Browned Butter “Bee” Cupcakes

1 May


I had a lot of fun making cupcakes for a special party a few months ago. Orange Honey Brown Butter Cupcakes with Orange Honey Cream Cheese Frosting and edible “bees” with yellow peanut M&Ms and Tootsie Rolls.

I used seville oranges, which are a bitter/sour orange. Navel oranges or lemon or even grapefruit would also work.

Whenever I plan to bake for a party or special occasion, I try to think about how I can get ahead so I am not stressed on the day of the event. Good news is that these cupcakes can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored at room temperature, or they can be made a week ahead and frozen. Anyway, it is best to frost cakes and cupcakes when they are completely cool or even chilled.

Frosting can be made up to 3 days ahead of time as well. Just re-whip prior to frosting the cupcakes so that the consistency is smooth.


I tried to do a “hive-like” swirl of frosting. You can use a piping bag with a round tip or just cut a hole on the corner of a zipped bag and pipe. I like to start by piping a large dot in the center of the cupcake, then continue piping circles around the dot and upward and lift up to finish.

To fill a piping (or zipped) bag, place the tip inside if using, then put the bag into a large measuring cup or quart container and fold the bag edges over the cup. Spoon in the frosting 2/3 full then gather the bag and pipe. Place back into the cup or container and re-fill as needed.


To make the bees, pinch off a small piece of Tootsie Roll and mold it in your hands or roll it on a hard surface into a long “worm like” shape. I did two small worms for the strips and made little eyes by pinching off very small pieces and rolling into little balls. It should be sticky enough to adhere to the M&M.

You can make the bees a day ahead, storing in a well sealed container. I used slivered almonds for “wings” and added them last minute. Push a bee into a frosted cupcake, then add a wing on each side by pressing gently into the frosting.


Orange Honey Brown Butter Cupcakes with Orange Honey Cream Cheese Frosting and Edible “Bees”

Makes 24 cupcakes (half the recipe if you want fewer cupcakes) and 4 cups frosting (you will probably have some leftover frosting)

Recipes adapted from Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence Cookbook 

*NOTE: For cupcake transportation: I placed the cupcakes in a large rimmed rectangular cake pan (see photo above). You can use a rimmed baking sheet. I like to place toothpicks in the tops of some of the cupcakes then lightly drape plastic wrap over the top so as not to disrupt the frosting too much.

For the cupcakes:


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon grated seville orange zest (or any other kind of citrus)

1/4 cup honey

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh seville orange juice (or preferred citrus juice)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Put racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium stainless steel skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until it begins to crackle and pop as the water cooks out of it, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook the butter until the solids brown and it becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes more. Immediately transfer to a small bowl to let cool slightly.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown butter, sugar, zest, and honey. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the buttermilk, citrus juice, and vanilla and beat well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pans (this is easiest to do with an ice cream scoop).

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

The cupcakes will keep, unfrosted and well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Cupcakes can also be wrapped and frozen for up to 7 days. Once frosted, they should be stored in the refrigerator. 

For the frosting:


2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup honey

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons grated citrus zest

3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (can also add in an optional drop or two of a citrus essential oil that is food grade)

6 to 7 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the butter and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the honey, vanilla, and salt and beat well. Add the citrus zest and juice and beat well. Turn off the mixer and add 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Turn the mixer on low speed so that the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl. Gradually add more sugar, alternately with the milk, until you reach your desired consistency. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.



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