Sunday, April 17, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons, Bake Them.

Lately, winter and spring seem to be having more back and forth fights for air time than presidential candidates at a debate. Last Sunday my husband and I spent the afternoon laying out in the yard soaking up the sun. This Sunday we're hunkered down inside with the heater on. I wish I could just blame eastern New Mexico for this, but it seems to be a country-wide issue (again, just like those darn politicians! Who knew weather and politics held so many similarities? Lots of hot air and inaccurate predictions with both). I hope someday soon I don't have to start my day in a parka and end it in shorts. I feel like that's really not asking for much...but since my power of weather control seems to be nonexistent, the one thing I can do to trick myself into believing spring is really here to stick around is by baking. The power of food, people. So what food group says spring has sprung better than fruit? The day something other than seventy-five varieties of apples hits the produce section, I know to prepare myself for warmer weather. Thanks once again to the betrothed couple that asked me to bake cupcakes for their wedding, I was able to bring about taste bud-related climate change and provide further cupcake tasting samples with these lemon cupcakes with raspberry curd filling and raspberry lemon swirled buttercream frosting. Fortunately, the recipe is much less convoluted than the name.
So bright and cheery that I've forgotten I'm freezing!!
I took these bright and beautiful babies to a cookout last night...once the lid was removed from the cake safe, the smell of lemon and raspberry tickled my nose and immediately caused Pavlovian-style drooling (never has eating dessert before dinner been more tempting). I know lemon scent is usually reserved for cleaning products, but I promise this had a lovely saccharine scent and not one that makes you feel guilty about how long it's been since you've even thought about scrubbing your kitchen cabinets. And the flavor. Wow. If you're a fan of sweet and sour anything, these are perfect. And boy did they ever make me forget (or simply not care because they were so tasty) that it was quite cold out last night during the jacket probably also helped out with that, but I can't eat my jacket, so it is getting no credit here.
Prepare to zest lemon for days.
I found this recipe after tons of searching for lemon raspberry cupcake recipes. Not lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting or vice versa. I wanted a full on fruit storm in these cupcakes, and this recipe was easy to adapt and fit the bill. I went purely from scratch for these, but I've got corners to cut and tricks to share if you're not being quite as Martha Stewarty as I like to be. Gather up:
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 TBS baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick of butter at room temp
  • 1 TBS of lemon zest from a fresh lemon (this is pretty much the whole lemon to get 1 TBS)
  • 2 eggs at room temp
  • 1 TBS of juice from said fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of almond extract (I'm obsessed. I go for broke with almond extract)
  • 1/2 cup of room temp buttermilk
A few notes here for quicker prep: you can use dried grated lemon peel in place of the fresh zest. This stuff is quite potent, so use one teaspoon in place of one tablespoon of fresh zest. I honestly prefer the dried stuff because it is smaller and less noticeable when it comes to texture but not taste...also, I don't have to use a grater, so I save my knuckle skin! You can also use lemon juice from the bottle, but it won't be quite as good as fresh. Use the same amount.

Preheat your oven to 350 and line a muffin tin...this recipe makes 14 cupcakes. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In your stand mixer, place the zest and sugar and use your hands to mix until the bowl is super fragrant; cream the butter in after this for a couple minutes. Then add in each egg, mix well, scrape the bowl, and add the juice and extract. Add in half of the dry mix and blend. Add in the buttermilk and blend before dumping in the rest of the dry mix. Blend well. This batter is nice and thick, so using the ice cream scoop trick I talked about in the last blog works perfectly. Fill your cupcake liners 2/3 of the way and bake for 16-20 minutes. The magic window for me was at 18 with the toothpick test.
So blonde! So zesty!
Once cooked, let cool in the tin for 5 minutes on a cooling rack. Then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on the rack. While cooling, you can make the raspberry curd filling! Few words are less appetizing than "curd," but some of my favorite things involve it...cheese curds, for instance. Now I'm in sad, desperate need of poutine...
At this point, I had grated off most of my left thumb. The joys of baking.
The curd recipe is quite simple, but again, I have more shortcuts:
  • Two egg yolks
  • 1/2 TBS of lemon zest
  • Juice from half a lemon (about 1 1/2 TBS)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2 TBS of cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of raspberry preserves/jelly/jam
To me, texture is as important as flavor. This is why I hate seeds, nuts, pulp, or coconut in my food. If my chocolate cake is randomly chunky, I die inside. I also believe coconut shreds work better as floss than at flavoring things. So what I also hate is regular preserves used in place of jelly. If you don't mind chunks of seeds, go for the preserves for richer flavor. Also, go for the fresh lemon zest. I will say when I make these again, I'll use the fresh zest in the cupcakes (not noticeable at all with texture) but not in the curd filling. So if you've got a tongue that trembles at the taste of twisty textures (say that five times fast), heed my advice!
I see you, lemon zest chunks...
Start by whisking together the yolks, sugar, juice, and zest on medium high heat in a saucepan. You want to cook this until it gets nice and thick...probably around 5-10 minutes. You will need to stir constantly, so prepare for a small bicep workout. Turn off the burner one it has thickened and add in one small chunk of the cold butter at a time and stir until completely melted before adding more. I left my pan on the burner to use the residual heat to help melt things. Add in the food coloring and raspberry jam/jelly/preserves after this. Finally, pour this into a bowl, cover, and place in the freezer to set for 30 minutes.
The Purple People Eater makes a rare appearance!
I will say you could totally get away with filling your cupcakes by just piping in raspberry jelly or a jar of plain lemon curd if you're really looking to cut corners, but this homemade curd...dear LORD. I wanted to sit down and just eat the entire bowl. Tart and sweet...much like salty and sweet, a taste combination for the ages. To pipe you can either load a piping bag with a long narrow tip or a frosting gun like I did.
Simply insert about halfway in to the cupcake and pipe until you feel some resistance. There is plenty of curd for all 14 cupcakes, so don't be shy!

I'm going to refrain from making a joke about how these look like man nipples and move on to frosting.
Whew. Mission accomplished.
I went rogue with my frosting recipe. I knew I wanted a swirl of lemon mixed with a swirl of raspberry. You could easily do just one or the other, but I wanted a balance of flavors. So to do that, you'll need:
  • 1 cup of room temp butter
  •  Initially 4 cups of powdered sugar plus 2-3 cups more for the raspberry frosting
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Juice of one lemon/2-3 TBS (Dear God we've killed so many lemons at this point) 
  • Zest of one lemon/1 TBS (or use 1 tsp of the dried lemon peel which is what I recommend)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  •  Initially 4 TBS of heavy cream plus 2 TBS more for the raspberry frosting
  • 1/2 cup of raspberry jam/jelly/preserves (again, for smooth texture, use jelly or dessert spread)
  • OPTIONAL: yellow and pink dyes
Cream the butter for a few minutes until fluffy and then add in 4 cups of sugar, the vanilla, lemon juice and peel, and salt, and blend on LOW. Once things are mixing together nicely, add in the 4 TBS of heavy cream. Once this is well mixed, take 2/3 of the frosting and place into a medium/large bowl. Add the yellow dye to this frosting and mix by hand. Set aside. Back in the stand mixer bowl, add two more cups of sugar and two more TBS of heavy cream and blend. Then add in the raspberry jelly and pink dye and mix. If things are still runny at this point, add in an additional cup of powdered sugar to get a consistency thick enough for piping.
To achieve the color swirl, you'll need 3 piping bags and a 1M tip. Load a small amount of lemon frosting to a bag and snip the tip off of the bag. Then load a small amount of raspberry frosting to another bag and snip the tip. Gently smoosh one bag into the final piping bag that is fitted with a 1M tip. You want the snipped end to be as far down as possible. Then load the second bag of frosting in on top of the first, again smooshing gently to get the snipped tip as far down as possible.
Like so.

Admire your skills as needed.
I simply piped a swirl onto each cupcake, alternating with lemon frosting on top for one and then flipping the bag so the raspberry side was on top for another. This is why you see some with more prominent lemon frosting and others with more prominent raspberry frosting. If you want to keep it uniform, don't flip your frosting bag. I was able to frost half of the cupcakes before having to reload my frosting bags. As a firm believer that everything is better with sprinkles, I finished up by adding pink and yellow sprinkles on top.
Anyone for some sorbet? Dammit Pavlov, you knew what you were doing...
I was told several times last night how much people liked the initially sour, mouthwatering flavor of the lemon that was followed by the decadent sweetness of the raspberry (okay, so not as many adjectives were used, but you get the gist). People marveled at the secret surprise filling and generally ate these in under three bites. If you see anyone slamming cupcakes in anything under four bites, get in on that immediately or you're gonna miss out on something magical. These are perfect treats for people who like dessert but don't want anything too know, dessert commitmentphobes. Most definitely words I will not use to describe these at the actual wedding (totes inappropes). But if you're looking for a cupcake that packs a scent strong enough to make your Scentsy warmer jealous while also tasting like a springtime miracle, these are the cupcakes for you. I only wish I had more to eat today to whisk me away to a warm paradise, but instead I'm going to roll myself up into a blanket like a human burrito and pray for warmth. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
My only regret is that you all now know I like to eat cupcakes with a fork...

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