Lemon Cupcakes, Two Ways

This has been the perfect summer. Post graduating college, pre medical school. The beginning of the end is tomorrow, when I finally get to move in to my new house.

A week and a half from now, orientation begins. After that, well, med school really begins. Hopefully all that work will mean more delicious stress-relieving projects.

I am not the only one with exciting things going on in my family--my sister graduated from high school in May (hooray!) and heads off to college in a month.

All these events are cause for lots of...cupcakes. Mini cupcakes. 

Here's the thing. People are so weird about cupcakes, especially at big parties. If you have out both mini cupcakes and big ones, I guarantee you the mini ones will be gone much faster---they are less messy, cuter, people somehow feel less guilty about eating them (though one should never feel guilty about eating a cupcake at a party!), and the best part? They have a phenomenal frosting-to-cupcake ratio. 

I made three different kinds of cupcakes for my sister's graduation party: lemon-coconut with lemon buttercream frosting, chocolate with raspberry buttercream (mini versions of these, without almond extract), and the always-classic vanilla with vanilla buttercream. Still obsessed with making little roses, I made a whole flowery display.

The lemon coconut recipe is here, and they are awesome, as is. But with lemon buttercream piped on top? Yes-please-thanks-I'll-have-another.

Basic Lemon Buttercream

  • 2 sticks (salted) butter, softened
  • 1 1 lb bag powdered sugar
  • dash of milk
  • 1 or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 or 1/2  tsp lemon extract
  • lemon zest, to taste (I like my frosting really lemony)

Mix butter on high until fluffy. Add vanilla extract, lemon extract, zest and about 1/2 c powdered sugar. Mix until combined. Keep adding increments of powdered sugar and milk until frosting is the consistency you like (usually about a pound for every two sticks of butter).

I was excited to make lemon cupcakes again for another party this summer. The lemon coconut cupcake base was perfect, but I wanted to try a lemon curd filling and I wasn't sure if the lemon cupcakes and lemon curd and lemon frosting would be too much (let me know if you try it though!). So I went and made the vanilla cupcakes and filled them with lemon curd, piping buttercream roses on top. This time though? I figured out the secret to perfect lemon buttercream.........

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Lemon Curd

I used Lauren Chattman's recipe for lemon curd from my go-to baking book Mom's Big Book of Baking (it's awesome, I sing its praises. The vanilla cupcakes are from there too). It uses:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

She says:
"Combine the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest in a heavy medium-size saucepan and whisk the mixture until it is smooth. Add the lemon juice and butter and cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it is thickened, 7 to 9 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil. Pour the lemon curd through a fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the lemon curd until it is cold and thick, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days."
I made these vanilla cupcakes (but mini), and then filled them with the lemon curd. After that, I noticed had a bunch of curd left over. I folded it into the frosting. Good choice. GOOD. CHOICE. Apparently lemon curd is the key to a perfect lemon buttercream.

Moral of the story? When life overestimating recipe amounts gives you leaves you with extra lemons curd, make lemonade lemon buttercream.

Oh, and the secret to these roses? Separate the frosting in two, and make one part a darker yellow than the other. Fill the pastry bag or piping tool half and half with both colors, unmixed. When you pipe the rose, the colors will fade beautifully, adding lovely contrast to the rose.

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