Dark Chocolate, Blood Orange, and Thyme Quinoa Cupcakes

…with blood orange honey buttercream.  YUM.

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participating in mccormick gourmet’s go 4 gourmet contest has been the perfect “external motivation” to create some fun new recipes this fall/winter.  i love the combination of orange and chocolate, and when our local natural foods store filled the bins with blood oranges, i knew how i wanted to play.

it’s almost new year’s, and while like most of us, i’m determined to get moving again on health-i-fying, i’m not completely done baking.  so i’ve worked some delicious, and health-conscious, ingredients into this cupcake.  🙂

quinoa blood orange cupcakes dancing with my father a

steeping thyme into the quinoa and then again into the frosting gives an almost smoky-savory hint to this rich dessert.  the honey in the buttercream adds warmth and depth to the frosting, and the blood orange and orange liqueur add a tart element that brightens the whole thing!  (my next goal is to make a frosting entirely with natural sugars.)  i used my microplane to top these with shaved orange-essence dark chocolate.

quinoa blood orange cupcakes dancing with my father b

my first batch of quinoa cake didn’t turn out so well – i tried doing a citrus glaze pour-over, and i didn’t blend the quinoa, resulting in a chewy-almost-crunchy cake that stuck to the pan.  not-so-yum.  these, though, have a bit of texture from the quinoa, but a near-pudding-ey texture that is hard to explain, but got devoured by my kiddos.  in fact, i let them have the rest of the batch (the frosting had run out!) for breakfast.  herbs and ancient grains, coconut oil and kefir – it’s the breakfast of champions!

Dark Chocolate, Blood Orange, and Thyme Quinoa Cupcakes


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (about 3/4 cup uncooked)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (I used milk kefir)
  • 1 peeled, quartered blood orange
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • For Frosting:
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 peeled, quartered blood orange
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place cooked, cooled quinoa in blender with dried thyme, kefir (or buttermilk), 2 whole eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, and coconut sugar.
  3. Blend thoroughly.
  4. Sift in cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  5. Blend again thoroughly.
  6. In a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  7. Gently fold in blender mixture.
  8. Scoop cupcake batter 3/4 full into well-sprayed or paper-lined muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched.
  10. For Frosting:
  11. Place second blood orange, honey, thyme, and liqueur into small saucepan.
  12. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for five minutes, or until syrup has thickened slightly.
  13. Strain, and allow to cool.
  14. Beat butter with confectioner's sugar, adding 1/3 cup at a time until a thick, creamy consistency is reached.
  15. Slowly stream orange reduction into frosting while beating.
  16. Pipe onto cupcakes.

want the recipe to print for yourself?  here you go.


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