We meant to make strawberry cupcakes, but I procrastinated a little bit and the strawberries started to go bad– oops. I still wanted to make cupcakes, though, so I improvised big time and decided to use some lemons we had kicking around. These came out great– they are dense but moist, and the lemon gives them a great kick. The frosting, though, is the best part; it has the consistency of whipped cream but it tastes like cream cheese. I really heaped on the frosting because it’s so good; this recipe will give you the right proportions to give each cupcake a generous amount of frosting!
Preheat your oven to 350. Start with one half of a cup of butter at room temperature cut into small pieces and mix with two thirds of a cup of granulated sugar until you have stiff peaks. Again, I don’t have a mixer so I whisked by hand and it was a pain but it can be done! Add three extra large eggs, one at a time, and beating each so the mixture is fluffy. Beat in a teaspoon vanilla extract and the zest of three large lemons.
In a separate bowl, whisk together one and a half cups all purpose flour, one and a half teaspoons baking powder, and a teaspoon of coarse salt. Also get a half of a cup of whole milk ready. Mix alternately the milk and dry goods with the butter/sugar mixture in about four or five parts. Don’t over mix.
Take the lemons that you zested and slice into wheels and then small wedges, about the size of a quarter. Remove any white parts (the skin/zest– you just want the inside fruit). Fill your cupcake cups with the batter and insert the little wedge; cover with more batter. Don’t overfill your cups. Bake for 18 minutes; they will be a little goozy in the middle from the lemon, it’s fine, they will firm up when they sit. Let them cool on a wire rack.
To make the frosting, start with an eight ounce package of cream cheese at room temperature. Add two thirds of a cup of granulated sugar, a pinch of coarse salt, and a tiny dash of vanilla (if you add too much it will discolor your icing; another option is to buy clear vanilla extract). Beat these until light and fluffy– stiff peaks! Again; it can be done with a hand whisk. In another large bowl, pour a cup and half of heavy whipping cream and beat or whisk until it is whipped cream. It will take a few minutes; make sure it really stiff or it won’t pipe well! Fold the two together until just mixed and chill for twenty minutes.
Once the icing is chilled and the cupcakes are cool, put the icing in a pastry bag (or a ziplock back with the tip of one end cut off) and pipe on to the cupcakes. We added yellow sugar, but you could add lemon zest or more lemon wedges! Pop these back in the fridge; they are liable to melt if left out and should just be pulled out before eating! Here’s a cross section so you can see the inside. Happy baking!