Friday, June 17, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes

Our Meyer lemon tree in the backyard is starting to fall over because it has so many lemons all on one side. After harvesting a ton of them because I felt sorry for it, I decided I wanted to make lemon cupcakes. It turned out one of the hardest parts of making them was actually picking a recipe. I couldn't decide between 5 recipes, and I ended up just picking the one that I already had all of the ingredients for. I do, however, have the other recipes bookmarked so I can find the best recipe. By the end of the summer I should have one I really like (I have decided I should wait at least a week before I make another batch). 

It seems like lately cupcakes are hip and trendy, and yet I chose to make them because they are incredibly easy to share (so I don't eat the entire cake myself), easy to make, and they are pre-portioned for your eating pleasure. 

This recipe is from here, while the frosting I changed to be less butter and more flavor. 

4 room temperature eggs, separated
3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of room temperature butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup room temperature milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 and a half tablespoon lemon zest

1 stick butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons lemon zest

(I know I usually take a picture that shows all of the ingredients, but I was multitasking when I got started and I completely forgot.)

To start, the recipe has you beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks before anything else is done. I have seen my mom do this for other recipes quite a few times and I figured it wouldn't be a big deal for me. The trouble, for some ridiculous reason, started with cracking the eggs. Normally, I swear, I crack eggs efficiently and without scattering bits of shell everywhere. Not this time. I even broke the yoke once before I could separate it from the whites. I also made a huge mess on the counter when separating them. Not to worry, however! It was a disaster, but my whites turned out really well.

Next I had to mix the dry ingredients separately. This is kind of pathetic, but for some reason I get annoyed when recipes ask for this. I hate having to do the extra dishes. However, it does help incorporate the ingredients effectively. 

I like to use a fine greater to zest lemons. It is quick, efficient, and it gives small pieces so you do not end up with long, stringy pieces of zest. 

Another tool I really enjoy and use often is this lemon juicer. It seriously gets all of the juice out without pulp. I still like it, even after I shot lemon juice into my eye the last time I used it (I might as well have wrung out the lemon into my eye I got so much in there). 

Here is the leftover lemon after its been juiced. I think its interesting to see how it has turned inside out.

The base of the batter is much like cookies, butter and sugar. 

I don't know what it is, but every time I try to shake in flour and add liquid at the same time (in order to incorporate together in equal parts or to alternate liquid and dry like the recipe calls for) I spill it all over the counter. After getting flour everywhere, I decided to use a 1 cup measurer to put it in. Much smarter and cleaner. 

Once I had finished the dough and I was all set to "fold in" the whites, I realized I really didn't know what I was doing. I know that not folding them in right can ruin the air in the whites and make the cake too dense instead of light and airy. I had seen my mom do it a few times before, but I was never paying attention well enough to replicate on my own. It was especially challenging with this recipe because the batter is ridiculously thick and heavy. I am a lifeguard, I swim, I lift weights, I'm not a pathetic, out of shape person... but my arm hurt after "folding" these in because of the weight of the batter. I guess my version of trying to fold worked out well though, because my cupcakes were light and fluffy. 

I used a 1/4 cup scooper to measure out the dough into the regular size cupcake pans and a smaller one to fill the mini-cupcakes. Without the scoop I always fill the tins too much or too little and my cupcakes end up being completely messed up. 

Here are my mini-cupcakes all set to bake. I did a bit more than half a sheet of these and 12 regular cupcakes. 

These rose much higher than I expected. Next time I will fill the tins only half way instead of three quarters to change the excessive round tops. 

I couldn't wait for them to be frosted, but they sure were delicious. I hope our new neighbors enjoyed them as much as I did. 

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