Today was about experimenting with lemon cupcakes. A friend of mine requested “lemon cake with lemon frosting” and I found myself at a bit of a loss…do I even have a lemon cake recipe? After a bit of searching, I found that the only ones I have are for a lemon pound cake. Now pound cake is all good and fine – actually, lemon pound cake is delicious – but I wanted something a little bit lighter and fluffier than pound cake. So off to the internet I went.
My initial thought was that I could find a good recipe for a “lemon layer cake,” and adapt it into cupcakes. However, most of these recipes were for a white, or vanilla, cake with lemon curd filling and a white frosting. Not exactly what I was going for. I did find a recipe for a lemon chiffon cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, which seemed interesting, but I was really more interested in a lemon butter cake. At that point, I decided to forget the internet and tinker with my favorite yellow butter cake instead.
I ended up making both the lemon chiffon cake and a lemon butter cake. Both turned out pretty well. Actually, the lemon chiffon cake turned out to be an almost perfect replica of my favorite Chinese sponge cake, which was a delightful surprise – I’ve always kinda wondered in the back of my mind if I could figure out those Chinese cakes. Despite that, I think I preferred the butter cake – it was, not surprisingly, a sturdier cake and easier to handle. However, I think I do want to tinker a bit more with the flavoring.
I also took this opportunity to play with some ideas I’ve had for some upcoming wedding cupcakes:
Lemon Butter cake with sugar pearls
Butter cake with fondant flowers
Lemon chiffon with initials
More difficult to see - a sugar rim around the edge of the frosting
Varying the "swirl" technique
And now, for anyone who is interested, the recipe I used for the lemon butter cake:
Lemon Butter Cake
adapted from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated
1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher)
16 tbsp (2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool and cut into 16 pieces
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Beat eggs, milk, and extracts with a fork. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy, with pieces about the size of peas (about 30 -45 seconds after all butter is added). Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed, about 5-10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture in slow, steady stream. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
3. Divide batter evenly into cupcake pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake about 12-15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating pans midway. Cool pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and continue to cool. Cool completely before icing. Frost with desired frosting.