Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lemon filled Lemon Cupcakes

 Sometimes cupcakes are the best way to tell someone that they are special.  Filled cupcakes are the way to go the extra mile in that regard.  Filled cupcakes from scratch with homemade frosting always do the trick.  These are great for birthdays, parties, and just to say hey, you are awesome.  I urge you to make your lemon curd from scratch.  I have used lemon pie filling from a can for recipes before, but it is nowhere nearly as good as lemon curd from scratch.  After a couple of tries, you will be able to make this stuff in your sleep.  This was my first try with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but it was awesome.  You can pile this frosting high on your cupcake and not worry about killing anyone with a sugar overdose.  Its light and fluffy and contrasts nicely with the tart lemon.  It also pipes like a dream.


LEMON CURD FILLED CUPCAKES adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes

CUPCAKES
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder (my cakes were a tad heavy, I might increase this to 3/4 were I to do it again)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (use buttermilk, it neutralizes the baking powder)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.  Plunk (yes, plunk, this batter is thick) into muffin pan lined with cupcake wrappers.  Fill the wrappers about 3/4 full.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

LEMON CURD
8 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy pan mix the egg yolks and sugar together.  I read in Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Cake Bible that mixing the egg yolks and sugar together helps to keep your curd from curdling.  No curdling equals no straining, which is awesome, because I hate straining.  After mixing the egg yolks and sugar together, add the lemon juice and mix together.  Heat over medium heat until mixture thickens to where it coats the back of the spoon.  Do not let the mixture boil or really even almost boil or you will have curdling problems too.

Once the mixture thickens, remove from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.  If curdling occurred (i.e. there are little bits of scrambled egg in your curd) strain through a fine mesh strainer.  For a long time I only had a splatter screen, which works but is kind of lame.  A fine mesh strainer is like $5 in the grocery store and makes my life much easier when I curdle my curd.

After straining, mix in the extracts.  If you prefer, you can use the zest from one lemon instead of the lemon extract.  I was out of lemons after the cupcakes so extract it was. The high amount of lemon juice in this curd recipe makes it very lemony with or without extract.


SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt (optional)

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set over a pan of simmering water.  Cook until the sugar is melted and warm.  You do not want to feel any of the sugar grain when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Beat the egg/sugar mixture on high speed with whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the mixture cools down.  Switch to paddle attachment if you have one.  Add butter a few tablespoons at time until all the butter is incorporated.  Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.
To assemble:
1. Take cooled cupcake and with a paring knife cut a quarter sized cone out of each cupcake
2. Pipe (or spoon) curd into each hole
3. Pile high with frosting! (I used the Wilton 1M tip)

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