My grandmother is a perfectionist. She can make a perfect pie and find fault with it. She’ll be serving slices to guests while grumbling about some perceived imperfection no one else notices. I’m the same, really. I can’t write, cook, paint, draw, or do an arm balance without thinking about how I could improve it next time. Or how it doesn’t measure up. I am capable of criticizing anything I do. (Obviously, the disease runs in the family.)
When my mother asked me to make my grandmother’s birthday cupcakes this year, I knew I would have to practice first. There would be no trying a new recipe on nana’s birthday.
My grandmother loves lemon, so I decided to make lemon cupcakes with a lemon curd filling. On my first attempt, I frosted them with a seven-minute meringue frosting but decided it was too sweet.
After some deliberation, I finally settled on a lemon cream cheese frosting instead. I was initially afraid that would be too much lemon, which is why I tried the meringue first, but a slight hint of lemon flavor in the frosting was the perfect way to tie it all together.
Here’s my nana with my creation, sitting beside my uncle who is being strange.
My grandma told me they were the best cupcakes she had ever eaten, so I guess my practice paid off. Even I was slightly pleased with myself for once.
The recipe is below.
Makes 24 cupcakes
2 ½ C flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ C sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ C whole milk
2 T lemon zest
Preheat oven to 375. Place cupcake liners in pans.
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and the remaining half of the dry ingredients, mixing to blend after each addition.
Add lemon zest and mix to blend.
Transfer batter to cupcake liners and bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes, or until the tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Lemon Curd Filling
3 T cornstarch
1 C cold water
1/2 C sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 T lemon zest
4 T lemon juice
Whisk cornstarch into 1/3 cup of water. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and whisk in the remaining 2/3 C of water. Add the sugar and cook over medium heat, until the mixture bubbles and thickens to a gel-like consistency, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low.
Stir a few tablespoons of the hot cornstarch mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. (This will prevent the yolks from cooking.) Whisk the yolk mixture into the remaining cornstarch mixture and cook over low heat, about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in cubes of butter until they are melted. Next, add lemon zest and juice, whisking to blend. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Note: this makes too much filling for 24 cupcakes, so I might make 2/3 of the recipe next time. The original recipe is from foodess. I modified it slightly.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
½ C butter, room temperature
2-3 C powdered sugar
2 T lemon juice (or 1 tsp of pure lemon extract)
Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla. Add 2 C of powdered sugar and add remaining powdered sugar by ¼ cupfuls until you reach the desired consistency. Add 2 T of lemon juice. Chill the frosting until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
After the cupcakes have cooled and the curd has thickened, transfer the curd to a pastry bag (or a freezer bag with a corner cut off). You can either inject the lemon curd into the cupcake directly or you can remove some of the cake with the end of a straw to make more room for the curd. (I prefer the latter approach. I usually poke the cupcake a few times with a straw to remove some cake from the center.)
After you have filled the cupcakes, frost, and serve.