Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cupcake Triumph (Oh so light lemon cupcakes!)

On my first day of cake-decorating class, I remember one of the things my instructor said to me:

"Never EVER use cake-box mix. And if you do, don't tell me."

I gulped, as if I had been caught red-handed. Is it really so terrible? Sometimes I just don't have the time to sift flour. And most of the time, cake-box mix has a better texture than what I can make from scratch. I like fluffy, light cupcakes and the ones I make from scratch often end up as doughy heavyweights. I will admit though, that cupcakes from the box usually lack a bit of flavor.

Looking to use the last of my Meyer lemons, and inspired by the lemon cupcakes on Cupcake Bakeshop I decided once again to make my own. I pretty much used Chockylit's recipe with a few modifications:

Lemon Cupcakes
~20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1-1/2 cups cake flour (yes, there IS a difference from all-purpose flour!)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup grape seed oil or vegetable oil
4 egg yolks (approximately 3 ounces) (I recommend weighing it out if you can)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I prefer meyer so it's less tart)
1 teaspoon lemon extract, all natural (I left this out since I didn't have any)
grated rind from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon bitters (I left this out since I didn't have any)
5 egg whites (approximately 5 ounces) (again, weigh whenever you can!)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar
1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon rind, and bitters. Stir to combine.
3. On a low setting, start to beat the dry mixture and slowly add the wet. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated.
4. Transfer mixture to another bowl. Wash and dry mixer bowl.
5. Whip egg whites with whip attachment on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer on medium speed, add cream of tarter and slowly add sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Scoop a cupful of the stiff egg whites into the batter and stir to combine. This should lighten up the batter.
7. Transfer the batter to the egg whites and gently fold until there are no more streaks of egg white.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups about 2/3s full and bake at 350 F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Oh, how cozy the cupcakes look in their little snug tins! I have absolutely no desire to have kids (yet) but watching these little cupcakes bake kicks in the maternal instinct in me.

Meringue Frosting
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg whites
Sorrel simple syrup
Splash of Bitters (instead of simple syrup or bitters, I used a substitute liqueur...Grand Marnier works well)

Creme Brulee torch

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This only takes only a few of minutes.
2. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
3. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle sorrel syrup into the mixer. Splash in a bit of bitters. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.

I used a pastry bag to swirl the meringue onto the cupcakes. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can also take a plastic sandwich bag, cut off one of the corners, and squeeze the meringue through the hole that way (if you haven't used this method before, I would recommend practicing on a baking sheet first).

If you have a creme brulee torch, slowly torch the cupcakes in a circular motion. It might take a couple of cupcakes to get it right, but whoever complained about eating delicious mistakes?

I was happy. I mean, really happy! The cake part was light and airy (similar to angel food cake) and the meringue tasted like toasted marshmallow. I had some extra lemon curd on hand so I spread some on each cupcake before I decorated them with meringue. I was so excited at the results I called my husband right then and there, and exclaimed that I had finally broken out of my cupcake hole and discovered the light.


Katie B. said...

Gorgeous little cupcakes! Way to break out!

Patricia Scarpin said...

These would make your instructor so proud!

Deborah said...

I admit to using boxed mixes when I need something that I know is going to work. Sometimes you just don't have time for do-overs, and a box mix is pretty safe!

But these cupcakes are so cute!! I could eat one (or 10) of them!

~Madeline~ said...

Nice work, they look delicious! And given that my favorite dessert is lemon meringue pie, these are right up my alley.

I've heard that overmixing the batter will result in a heavy, dense cupcake. Not too sure, but it could be true.

Janice said...

Your photos are absolutely gorgeous! :)

tigerfish said...

I use Betty Crockers to make the crust for egg tarts and chicken pies...does it count? :O

holybasil said...

your cupcakes look lovely. I've been racking my brain with recipes to use with the few meyer lemons I have left. this would would be a real crowd-pleaser!