Friday, November 19, 2010

lemon butter cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and candied lemon peel

I will preface this by saying I realize that lemon cupcakes and November are not a natural fit, but I made these awhile back and have just not gotten around to posting the recipe until now and really they are too scrumptous to wait any longer to share. For a perfect fall recipe, may I suggest apple cardamom cake with caramel frosting? which, ironically, I originally blogged in May.

These cupcakes were made for a friends birthday. Before I make someone a birthday treat, I like to ask what flavor of dessert they would like. A lot of people prefer chocolate (I can not blame them for that). When my friend mentioned that she really loves lemony things, I was excited to try something new.

I have to admit that I have not always loved lemon desserts. Where I grew up, lemons were not easy to come by and so I am afraid that most things were "lemon flavored"- ie the flavor was obtained from one of the small brown glass extract bottles in the cupboard. I always thought those bottles were magical. However, the first time I snuck a sip of vanilla extract (it smells so good! surely it must taste good!) I was sorely disappointed.

Where I live now has lots of lemons. The valley around me was once full of groves of lemons, oranges, and avocados. Neighbors, co-workers, and friends often have lemon trees in their yard. It is not unusual to arrive at work and find a large paper bag filled with lemons sitting out by the coffee. There is no note that accompanies these bags, people just know that their presence is an invitation to take. It is such a happy thing.

For this cupcake I wanted to capture that fresh lemon loveliness. I also love the voluptuous tang of cream cheese with sharper tang of lemon. The cupcake recipe is a variation of a Martha Stewart yellow butter cupcake. The cream cheese frosting is Ina Garten. The candied lemon peel provides that extra hit of concentrated lemon flavor at the end.

Lemon Butter Cupcakes

makes 36 cupcakes
(I almost never get as many cupcakes as a recipe indicates- I think this recipe yielded 30 cupcakes for me. But then I do tend to overfill cupcake tins.)

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
9 ounces (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (rather than add the vanilla, this is where I substituted the zest of 2 small lemons)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

3) Reduce speed to low. Mix remaining wet ingredients in a bowl (To make the these cupcakes lemony, this is where I mixed in the lemon zest and omitted the vanilla).

4) Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet ingredients and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each full.

5) Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.

6) To assemble the cupcakes: take a cooled cupcakes and slather with a generous portion of cream cheese frosting. Place a little pile of candied lemon peel on top. Enjoy! 

Cream Cheese Frosting
(If ever at a loss for what type of frosting to use, this is always the solution.)

1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/ 2 teaspoon pure almond exract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners sugar, sifted

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts (for these lemon cupcakes, I omitted the almond extract from the frosting). Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Candied Lemon Peel
makes 1/2 cup

4 lemons 
1 cup sugar

1) Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, shred long strips of lemon peel. (I found it helpful here to use a vegetable peeler to strip off the peel and then a small knife to julienne it.)

2) Place strips in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain; repeat two more times with fresh water.

3) Place sugar in a clean saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the citrus strips to the boiling syrup; reduce heat and simmer until strips are translucent, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let strips cool in syrup, at least 1 hour. Remove from syrup when ready to use.

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