Saturday 8 September 2012

A Tart and Tasty Birthday Treat: Lemon Cream Cupcakes

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It was my mom's birthday a couple of weeks ago, and since I was in town for it for once (had you guessed that the past 6 weeks of radio silence had something to do with me reveling in the delights of the Great Bay Area?), I wanted to make her a little treat.  Of course, my mom being the healthy lady that she is, I knew nothing rich or heavy would be up her alley, which made for a slightly tricky situation when, without thinking, I suggested that my nephew and I should make and decorate cupcakes together...  My mom is so not into buttercream, or cake, really – she prefers fruit tarts and crisps and maybe the odd cookie (just one).

Still, I figured there was one way I could still have bonding time with my nephew (who's nearly 7, and a boy, and not so into grown-up baking like tarts) and serve my mom a dessert for her birthday that she'd actually enjoy: when in doubt, make it citrus.  My mom, like me, loves anything lemon.  And when I found a recipe, it came with an accompanying recipe for a whipped-cream-based frosting, which I figured would be much lighter than a buttercream, not to mention easier.

So we went for it.  I doubled the lemon juice and zest, and roped my friend Kelsey into helping me wrangle the kiddo, and despite making many a mess we turned out some really lovely little cupcakes – the recipe was huge, so we also turned out an 8x8 cake!  The cupcakes were the stars of the show, though.  We found a random medley of old sprinkles in the back of the cupboard, and my nephew and I went at the cupcakes with everything from sanding sugar to teeny tiny dinosaurs.  I think the dinos were my faves:

But to be honest, I'd say the whole batch turned out pretty snappy:

As for the flavor?  Well, I and the rest of the grown-ups – and most importantly, the birthday girl – thought they were delicious: tart and light and citrusy.  But my nephew, although he said they were good, also refused a second one (what 7-year-old refuses a second cupcake??), and later he mumbled something about maybe using less lemon next time, so I suspect they were a bit sour for his palate.  But I think he still had fun making them, and that was the whole point.

PS Please pardon the iPhone pics... I'm back in London now and snapping with the Canon again, so the next ones should be better!

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Frosting:
     barely adapted from Allrecipes

Preheat oven to 375F/190C and line a cupcake pan. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together: 
     3 c flour
     4.5 tsp baking powder 
     1.5 tsp salt

In another, larger bowl, beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy:  
     1 c unsalted butter, at rm temp
     2 c sugar

Beat in, one at a time: 
     4 eggs, rm temp

Mix in:
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     3 tbsp lemon zest

Gently beat the flour mixture into the batter, one third at a time, alternating with:
     1 c milk (the original recipe calls for whole but I used lowfat with great success)
     3.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Beat until just combined; don't overmix. Fill the prepared cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing. 

To make the icing, beat with an electric mixer on low:
     2 c chilled heavy cream

When cream begins to thicken, add, a little at a time: 
     3/4 c confectioners' sugar
     2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

When it's all fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to High and beat until the icing forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Spread on the cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate any leftover icing or cupcakes.

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