Seville Whole Orange Cupcakes

Five dozen Seville orange cupcakes ready for transport to the Mission Garden Citrus Fest.

This is citrus season in the desert Southwest. All varieties of citrus can be found on trees in backyards, orchards, public gardens, 
college campuses and even street sides. It is a wonderful abundance.  It’s Carolyn today and previously on Savor the Southwest, we’ve given you recipes for grapefruits, oranges and lemons (try this fabulous lemon pie or limoncello) . But one abundant fruit that is underused  is the Seville orange. Sometimes it is called the sour orange. These oranges have bumpy skin, lots and lots of seeds, and a very tart flavor. Seville oranges make terrific marmalade, the kind with a bitter under flavor that is traditional in British orange marmalade.

The history of all citrus is a little murky, but botanists agree that it originated in parts of Asia where gardeners were growing citrus 4,000 years ago. According to plant expert Dena Cowan of Mission Garden in Tucson, as the various varieties of citrus arose, they interbred to produce even more varieties. Eventually, through human migration and trade, citrus made its way to the Middle East and Southern Europe where the various varieties found a home in the Mediterranean climate. One thing is clear though, the sour orange, the ones we call Seville, predated the varieties of sweet oranges we enjoy. Citrus was brought to the New World by the Spanish explorers and Catholic missionaries. Again, the climate was perfect. 

During this season I make many jars of marmalade (recipe here) and store it for use during the year. But I’ve got enough now and was looking for other recipes, specifically something I could sell at the Citrus Fest at Mission Garden. I found a recipe on-line and was able to adapt it to use with the Seville oranges which grow in great abundance at Mission Garden. The five dozen Whole Orange Cupcakes I made sold out and people found them so delicious they wanted the recipe. So here it is along with some tips:

Cut the Seville orange into wedges and trim out the center with seeds and fiber. Discard what you have trimmed and grind the cleaned wedges.

Seville Whole Orange Cupcakes


2 Seville oranges (to make 2/3 cup)

3 eggs

1 1/8 cup sugar

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup softened butter

1/3 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/3 cup orange juice (about 1 orange)

1/3 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a dozen large muffin cups or about 14 smaller ones.

Cut the oranges into 8 wedges. Trim off the interior part with the seeds and fiber and discard. Process the wedges, peel and all, in a food processor until the orange is almost pureed.

Combine the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat for at least 90 seconds until light and fluffy. Don’t cut short this step. 

Sift the flour with the baking powder, then add to the mixture in the bowl a little at a time along with the softened butter. Continue to mix until completely blended, then stir in the yogurt and vanilla extract.  Stir in the orange puree.

Divide into cupcakes papers or tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the glaze. In a saucepan, combine the orange juice and the sugar and heat, stirring until the syrup bubbles. Simmer for just a few minutes until the mixture thickens into syrup.  When you remove the cupcakes from the oven , use a toothpick to prick a few holes in the top and brush or dribble on the syrup.

Note: The longer you beat the sugar and eggs, the better the rise of your cupcakes. This recipe can also be baked in a loaf pan. Line the pan with parchment paper to ease removal from the pan. You will have to bake the loaf from 50-60 minutes.

(This recipe was adapted from one on Christine’s Cocina blog)

A winter breakfast with a grapefruit half, coffee, and a sweet and tangy cupcake.


You can learn more about the history of food in Southern Arizona in my latest book A Desert Feast, the story of the last 4,000 years Want more recipes using  foods of the Southwest? You’d find ideas for collecting and using 23 easily recognized and gathered desert foods in Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Foods.  . Recipes from top Southwest chefs are collected in The New Southwest Cookbook. Just click on the titles for more information. You can learn more about me on my website.

4 thoughts on “Seville Whole Orange Cupcakes

  1. Looking forward to making the Seville orange cupcakes but need to clarify instructions on prep. Cut the oranges into wedges. Then trim out the center core and seed, correct? Then puree the remaining orange pulp and the skin, right? How about the peel? Is that pureed as well, along with the pulp?
    Thank you!


  2. I made the cupcakes today and realized that there’s no measurement for baking powder. I discovered it in the directions. I used 1 tsp. Also no mention of when to put in the vanilla extract. Normally it’s added with the sugar and eggs. BTW: The cupcakes are wonderful. Thanks for the recipe.


  3. Wow! Not many know what ‘Seville’ sour orange is anymore! When I grew citrus, the only two cultivars that were not grafted were the ‘Meyer’ lemon and the ‘Seville’ sour orange. The ‘Meyer’ lemon was our most popular cultivar. The ‘Seville’ sour orange was our least popular cultivar. We grew only a few for the few English people who wanted them. They were not pretty while canned on the farm, but developed into very pretty trees in home gardens. A long time ago, they were actually installed as street trees in Campbell. Unlike sweet oranges, they grew up and over roadways and sidewalks, and displayed their colorful fruit on the exteriors of their canopies. (Sweet oranges may develop a similar high branched form if not grafted on dwarf understock, but with a lighter foliar canopy. I do not know.) The problem was that the fruit was very abundant, and no one knew what to do with it. Most people thought that they were some sort of sweet orange with some problem that made their fruit so sour. ‘Seville’ sour orange was also used as understock for old citrus trees in old home gardens, so it sometimes grew from the roots of an old tree that died or was merely cut down. They were also pretty trees that produced fruit that no one knew what to do with. While growing this cultivar, I was told that it was more popular as an ornamental tree in Phoenix, where it later became just as perplexing as it is here, but on a larger scale. In the future, I might grow it in my own garden. I sort of miss it. Weirdly, ‘Bergamot’ orange is now available from nurseries, . . . and no one knows what to do with it. I never grew it, and probably never will. Yuck.


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