Why We Love Marigolds (and Marigold Cupcakes!)

Battle the winter blues and bake up something flowery and comforting with this treat.

The lovely marigold, or calendula, also cempasúchil — cempoal-xochitl, or twenty-flower (named for its numerous petals) — is a special blossom in Mexico.

So why the marigold? From a practical standpoint, because they’re in bloom during fall. But beyond that, their size matters: marigolds can grow to more than three feet in height, with blooms over an inch in diameter, and are therefore easily visible on altars, as offerings and near gravesites.

So why mention cempasúchil this month? Simple. It’s the end of winter and we could do with a bit of bright, floral cheer — a sign of the coming spring. And what better way to remember all things warm and sunny, than to bake up something comforting and flowery?

Recipe: Triple-Chocolate Cempasúchil/Marigold Cupcakes

Makes 20 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
3.3 oz. tablet Mexican chocolate
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup buttered, softened
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
Orange food coloring, to preference


1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Grease or line 20 muffin cups.

2. Grind your Mexican chocolate into a fine powder, using a rolling pin, mortar and pestle, mallet, or other tool. Then, add the powder to a bowl and combine with cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and chocolate chips.

3. In a second bowl, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and milk until smooth and creamy. Slowly add this liquid mixture to your dry ingredients, and stir well until fully blended.

4. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling each cup half-full. Bake at 400°F for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5. Allow cupcakes to cool completely. (This is very important!)

6. While your cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: In a bowl, combine softened butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, salt and food coloring (to your desired hue, usually 2-3 drops). Beat with a mixer until completely combined — when the frosting is perfectly smooth and fluffy.

7. Place frosting in a pastry bag with a petal tip. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a zippered plastic bag with a very small notch cut out of one corner.

8. Be sure your cupcakes are completely cool — they shouldn’t be even the slightest bit warm, or your frosting will melt — and then pipe small petals together in a circle atop each cupcake. Enjoy!

Share your favorite cupcake recipe in the comments below.


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