Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lemon Triple Threat


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.


Lemon Cupcakes
(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.

Lemon Curd

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.

Lemon Buttercream
(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.



Mar said...

Ummmmm, delicious, I want this one for me...
A kiss from Spain

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those cupcakes look heavenly!

Best wishes for 2010!



Rambling Tart said...

Ooeee! I do love lemon curd and these look fabulous :-)

Angie said...

Wow, these look amazing!

Mary--what kind of tip do you use for piping the buttercream?

Romy said...

I adore lemon curd! These look wonderful, and your frosting piping is very elegant!

Mary said...

Angie - I have both the Wilton 1M swirl tip and an Ateco closed star tip (I think it's tip #846 or #847). I can't remember which one I used this time but both tips give a similar look.

Angie said...

Thanks Mary!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I'm in for anything lemon, and if it's triple I cannot resist - these are beautiful, Mary!

Claudia said...

All this lemony goodness in one place - just scrumptious. I fell upon your blog and am so glad I did. It's heavenly.

Dharm said...

HAppy New Year Mary! Dont these cupcakes look just fabulous!

Tia said...

great piping job! professional better than bakery looking cupcakes!

emiglia said...

I agree with both your attitude towards desserts and the deliciousness of this particular one... awesome. Can't wait to try it.

Mrs. L said...

Oh man, with the lemon curd in the middle? Sounds divine!!

shelly said...

What a delicious t(h)reat!
These are perfect looking cupcakes.
Seems like a superb use for some store bought lemon curd that I happen to have, so thank you for sharing your recipe!
Do you think the lemon curd can be spooned onto half the batter, and topped with the other half, so that it's baked with the cupcakes?

Mary said...

Shelly - I've never tried spooning the curd into the batter and baking it into the cupcake so I don't know how it will turn out. If you try that please let me know how it works out. Thanks!

shelly said...

Mary - Thank you so much for your kind response!
I guess it could be baked as a filling, well, jam is, but since an "injured" cupcake top will be covered with Lemon Buttercream anyway, I see no reason for deviating here.
I'd better leave the "great lemon curd experiment" for another day, and am looking forward to trying these out (as they are).
Thanks again for a great recipe!

Tara at Geek Baker said...

I am certainly going to try these. Your lemon bar recipe changed my life. I tried so many recipes...too soggy, too much crust, not enough lemon punch....and then you provided the recipe to perfection! Thanks so much!

Mary said...

Tara at GB - That's quite compliment. Thanks! :)

Lauren Fister said...

Wow, now I don't know which cupcakes to try your meyer lemon or these?? I guess it will have to be both!!

Anonymous said...

I have about 10#s of Meyer Lemons & have been searching for recipies as am getting tired of the ones I have. Anyway, you have some delish looking stuff, I can hardly wait to try them all out! I love your blog, so happy to have stumbled on to it. Keep up the great work, literary and baking! Chefani

Jean said...

I made these tonight (minus the lemon curd) and they were awesome!!! Thanks!

Allie said...

Oh wow, that looks great. And I went back and looked at your lemon tree pictures, I am so jealous! No meyer lemons in my grocery store, so I bought a little dwarf tree online a year ago. Alas, it didn't last the harsh winter here in the northeast, even indoors...

Beki said...

GENIUS! Thanks for sharing the butterless lemon curd find! I love it (and am planning to make other citrus curd) but the butter in others always slows me down. I didn't imagine it was possible without it, great to know it is!

Anonymous said...

I made these to take to a shower. They really weren't very much a hit and I didn't think they were worth the effort. The cake wasn't particularly flavorful. I think I would use a recipe with regular flour. The icing didn't really do much to save them, somehow, although I did get a question about how to make it (and will keep the technique). I wouldn't make them again.