Wednesday, August 9, 2017

C'est la Lemon

There were a few blissful mornings last week when the humidity was below "tropical jungle" level and a nice chill swept the air on my early morning dog walks. Hocus Pocus and the Addams Family movies were playing on Freeform in the evenings, August had dawned upon us, and it finally felt like we might be moving into fall. After those lovely 48 hours, Florida punched me in the face with high temps, even higher humidity, and essentially sucked my will to live away from me--much like Winifred Sanderson sucking the soul out of a small child to live forever (I make a reference to Hocus Pocus at least once a day, so just deal with it). Summer still has me in its evil, sweaty clutches, and there's no end in sight. I decided that just to spite it (and because I like cupcakes), I was going to make the most summery dessert I could think of--lemon cream filled lemon cupcakes with Cool Whip and blueberries on top. I promised my husband to at least wait until September to unpack the Halloween decorations and start putting pumpkin into everything we eat. But know that I'm positively dying to put up my new Dia de los Muertos decorations while smelling the sumptuous scents of pumpkin and cinnamon wafting through my house. Summer, you will always be my least favorite season, but damned if I don't also love lemon as much as pumpkin spice.
It's just so zesty.

Since I want to be able to maintain my competitive eater level of appetite whilst still being able to rock a bikini year round (thanks, Florida), each lemon cream filled cupcake is only 100 calories a cupcake. In my head, this means I can eat three of them and still be eating fewer calories than a regular, sugar-laced cupcake. For people who don't have impulse control issues, this means you can eat a very lemony, very creamy, very delectable cupcake with literally no guilt. And dear sweet baby Jesus are these ever amazing. Try to eat just one...I dare you. I made a whole batch of 24 and froze half "for later." Later in this context probably means this weekend.
I'd like to thank the good folks at Coca-cola for making this possible.
To make the cupcakes, all you need is a box of lemon cake mix, 2 egg whites, and 10 ounces of Sprite Zero or other diet citrus soda. Preheat your oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Mix together the egg whites, soda, and cake mix for 2 minutes on medium-high. Take a cookie scoop or a tablespoon and plop the cupcake dough into your liners, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
They will both look and smell lemony.
Fattest. Blueberries. Ever.
 Let your cupcakes rest in your pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to allow to fully cool. Meanwhile, you can gather up the filling ingredients:
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1 box of sugar free vanilla pudding
  • 1 box of sugar free lemon Jello
  • 24 blueberries
  • 4-6 ounces of Cool Whip Free
I had to do some mad science because I couldn't find sugar free lemon pudding; if you can, omit the lemon Jello and make the pudding following box instructions and ingredients. But because I could not obtain lemon sugar free pudding, I had a hypothesis to test--can Jello and Jello pudding be mixed together? Differing temperatures, differing was risky, but ultimately, the answer is a resounding hell to the yes. Go, Science!
Not urine. Promise.
 I brought two cups of water to a boil and then turned off my burner. I stirred in the lemon Jello for 2 minutes with a whisk. I then placed this in a measuring cup and put it in the freezer to cool. You don't want the milk in your pudding mix to curdle, so definitely let this cool to a little above room temperature.
My whisk was working hard that day.
 Then I dumped my vanilla pudding mix and one cup of skim milk into a cold mixing bowl. I whisked until my arms almost fell off. I'm told by box instructions and a kitchen timer that 2 minutes of pure cardio whisking is about all my fragile, bird-like limbs can handle.
Worth it.
Once my Jello had cooled in the freezer, I poured a half a cup into my pudding mix, whisked until incorporated, and then poured another half a cup into the pudding mix, blending well again. You will have another cup of lemon Jello leftover, so pour this into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and enjoy the feeling of eating hospital food at home and have it with your lunch. Let your lemon Jello/vanilla pudding mix rest for about 10 minutes to firm up and then place into a piping bag or a Ziplock bag. Wait to snip the end off for right now.
Now, back to the baked goods.
 Once your cupcakes are completely cool, take a cupcake corer, apple corer, or be janky like me because I don't have these things and use a large round frosting tip to core out the middle of your cupcake and make room for that delicious science experiment we just successfully implemented in the previous steps. I wiggled my piping tip halfway into the cupcake and gently pulled it out of the cupcake to remove the center:
Excellent reservoir for pudding filling.
 Then I grabbed my piping bag of filling, snipped the end off, and filled each of my cupcakes to the brim!
And I was so, so happy there was leftover filling.
Much like the lemon Jello, you'll have some leftover filling. Works great after lunch with a dollop of Cool Whip Free, or straight out of the piping bag and into your mouth. I've tested both options out, and personally, I love it either way. Definitely classier to eat it out of the bowl. Place your filled cupcakes into the freezer for an hour to firm up.
No method to this madness, however.
 Once your cupcake centers have set, load up a piping bag with a piping tip and Cool Whip Free. If you can find the sugar free lemon pudding mix, you can always blend your Cool Whip Free with another 3.4 ounces of sugar free vanilla pudding and a bit of milk. I used a 2D tip to just randomly pipe stars, hydrangeas, whatever my little heart desired in the moment, and finished up with a blueberry on top of each cupcake. I really, really just wanted to see how my lemon cream filling turned out...
Mmm, lemony center...
Oh yes, it was the perfect consistency after these sat in the fridge for a half hour to thaw out from their trip to the freezer earlier. Thick, but still liquid in consistency. Like a Boston cream filled donut, but in lemon form. I'm not lying when I say I feel like something that rich should be way more than 100 calories a pop, but I'm so happy they aren't because I can shovel them away with reckless abandon. I love lemon flavoring, and these cupcakes are the best way for me to grin and bear the remaining days of summer. Hard to complain when you've got a mouth full of cupcake, after all. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I could eat all six right now, just sayin'.

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