Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was delightful. I guess the proper thing to do in January is post about a low-fat/low-calorie dessert. But if you know anything about me you know that I don't do low-fat/low-cal dessert. I believe that you can eat dessert as long as it's in moderation. So even if you're watching your waistline, it's okay to have a cupcake every once in awhile. And if I had to pick just one cupcake in the whole wide world, then this lemon cupcake is the one I would choose.
For the cupcake batter I took my meyer lemon cupcake recipe and tweaked it slightly. I replaced some of the buttermilk in that recipe with heavy cream and lemon juice. I filled the cupcakes with a homemade lemon curd and then frosted it with a nice swirl of lemon buttercream. Even though I have an endless supply of meyer lemons from the tree that keeps on giving, I decided to use regular lemons because I really wanted that assertive lemon flavor in all three components.
The buttercream recipe is based on Dorie Greenspan's Swiss buttercream (from her perfect party cake). I decreased the vanilla, increased the amount of lemon juice and added some lemon zest to really up the lemon factor. When you taste it there is no doubt that this is a lemon buttercream.
The lemon curd is very loosely adapted from a recipe on Helen's website. When I first saw her recipe I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. Most of the time lemon curd recipes have butter, but Helen's recipe has no butter. It's lip-smacking (or should I say lip-puckering?) and absolutely delicious. I could eat a tub of it with nothing but a spoon and smile. (But I have to refrain since I need all of it to fill 2 dozen cupcakes).
Sure, you can use store bought lemon curd. Or you can simplify and just leave out the lemon curd. The unfilled cupcake with the lemon buttercream is still very lemon-y and quite delicious. But if you're going to have just one cupcake it might as well be an awesome one. And the lemon curd filling really elevates this cupcake to awesome.
(makes 24 cupcakes)
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 ounces (3 sticks / 1.5 cups) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces) buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) heavy cream
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 24 (4 fluid ounce capacity) cupcake wells with paper cupcake liners.
Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest and beat for 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Mix in vanilla.
Combine buttermilk, heavy cream and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to your batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
Fill each well approximately 2/3 full. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then gently transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside.
In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon juice, zest, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks to break them up. Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and just begins to become jelly-like, about 5 minutes.
Remove the curd from the heat and press the curd through the strainer. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd (this prevents a "skin" from forming) and let it cool completely before using.
(makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes)
(adapted from "Baking from My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
Mix in the lemon zest (if using). On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny, velvety, white buttercream with flecks of lemon zest.
Fill and Frost
With a paring knife inserted at an angle, gently cut out a cone shaped hole from the cupcake. Spoon about 1-2 teaspoons lemon curd into the center of the cupcake. Slice off some of the bottom of the cone and replace the top of the cupcake. Alternatively, using a pastry bag, insert the tip into the top of your cupcake and pipe the lemon curd into the center.
Frost your filled cupcakes with the buttercream. Make sure to cover the cut marks with the buttercream. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator, but let it come to room temperature before eating.