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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

lemon blueberry cupcakes.

Oh yum. This is probably the best lemon cupcake I've ever had.

It's Dorie's recipe for Perfect Party Cake, puckery lemon curd and creamy blueberry cream cheese frosting all wrapped into a tiny package.

Is it possible to love Dorie even more? Her recipes have never let me down yet and this cake is out-of-this-universe divine. It's a white cake, elevated with the use of lemon zest and essence but I didn't have any essence so I left that out and upped the zest. And the cake is tender, fluffy, moist and all the adjectives that can be used to describe an awesome cake. It's not often that I say this but I will eat this cupcake sans frosting. That's something. Because we all know that cupcakes are just an excuse for frosting. Lots and lots of frosting.

You know how cream cheese frosting can go all soupy on you, and you grit your teeth in frustration and shove the whole bowl into the fridge and will it to firm up or you'll resort to some unspeakable violence? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. I noticed that everytime I start beating the cream cheese, full-fat or low-fat, it lightens up beautifully without turning soupy. But then, once the icing sugar goes in, everything goes wrong. I did a little research, and here's what I found:

 "The issue is the sugar, it's hydroscopic, attracts water molecules and tends to melt when it comes in contact with moisture; that would be, the moisture in the cream cheese. Powdered sugar doesn't melt as much as granulated, but you'll always have soft icing."

Aha! But cream cheese frosting has to have icing sugar, so I chanced upon this technique which basically recommends beating the frosting for a lesser amount of time. Did it work though? Not for me, probably because I used a low fat cream cheese from the tub, which can be another factor for soupy frosting. I have a hunch that this technique really works as my frosting wasn't as liquid-y as usual.

I winged it for my blueberry cream cheese frosting recipe because I couldn't find a recipe that used dried blueberries without tons of butter. I threw a handful of them while the mixer was running until I found the colour I wanted. Looking back, I should have pulverized the blueberries in a blender or something first- it was so hard to pipe! In fact, it was impossible to pipe. The berries got stuck at the tip and I gave up and just used an ice cream scoop instead. Lesson learnt- use a fat tip.

My attempt at the lemon curd was even more laughable. I combined all the ingredients in the saucepan as  the recipe directed and forgot the lemon juice until about halfway through. Then I made the huge mistake of not stirring the mixture for a few moments when it was on medium heat. I very nearly ended up with a lemon omelette. Worse still, I actually let it boil, and the sugar may have caramelized a bit because after an overnight chill in the fridge, I had a thick, jammy lemon curd. I mean really really thick. Ah well, at least it tastes good.

So here is my new go-to white cake recipe- the best and flawless component in this cupcake.

Perfect Party Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours
makes 20

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. 

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter, and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and will aerated.

Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool. 

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