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Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – a lovely cakey version of the classic dessert

I wouldn’t normally post two cupcake recipes back-to-back, but as it’s been National Cupcake Week I asked people on my Facebook page to tell me what their favourite flavour of cupcake is. I got some great responses but the one that really sparked my imagination was lemon meringue flavour. I already had some egg whites in the freezer, left over from making my Apple Pie with Orange Pastry so I decided to give these a go and try making Italian Meringue for the first time. I’m really pleased with how these turned out, and although making the meringue does mean you need a food thermometer, it was actually much easier than I thought.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 170C and line a muffin pan with paper cases. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat again until well combined. Add the flour and baking powder and give it a good mix, then add the finely grated zest of both lemons and juice of just one, plus the vanilla and milk; mix it all together and then use a couple of spoons (or an ice cream scoop for perfectly portioned cupcakes) to dollop the mix into the cases until about two thirds full (I got 10 well-filled cupcakes from this amount, but you could certainly make a dozen, slightly smaller ones). Bake for about 20 minutes – they’re done when they’re golden, spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip or a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and take them out of the tray as soon as possible to prevent the cupcake cases peeling away as they cool.

For the filling/meringue topping:

  • about 4 tbsp lemon curd
  • 2 egg whites at room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 35/40ml water

Once the cupcake are cooled, make little holes in the centre to about half way down the cake; this can be easily done with a teaspoon and doesn’t need to be neat and tidy, but you can buy things called cupcake corers from baking shops if you feel so inclined! Set to one side.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – pre-meringue

Naked Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, filled with lemon curd and awaiting their meringue topping

To make the Italian meringue (a meringue made with hot sugar syrup so that it doesn’t need baking), whisk the egg whites in a large (scrupulously clean) bowl until they form soft peaks. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil until it reaches 121C. Now quickly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk the meringue until it becomes quite cool – this will take a little time. Once cooled, you can either pipe the meringue onto the cake with a piping bag, or mound it on with a palatte knife and then make little peaks with it. If you’re a fancy pants, you may have a little blow torch that I should think you can brown the meringue with, being careful not to set light to the paper cases. If you’re not in the habit of buying all kinds of kitchen gadgetry, just whack your grill on to a high heat and put the cupcakes under the grill for a few minutes until the meringue looks toasted. Whatever you do, don’t wander off! It only takes a few minutes from start to finish, but the difference between lightly browned and burned takes a few seconds so keep and eye on them at all times. Let them cool completely again before serving. A lovely little cakey version of a classic dessert.

Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – light, sweet and tangy

These are best the day they’re made, purely because them meringue becomes less stable after a while. You could always make the cupcakes a day ahead and finish them off with the meringue the day you need them.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Naughty little treat – Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

It’s National Cupcake Week (that’s a real thing, right?) so cupcake baking is happening all over. I used to make cupcakes a lot when I worked in a big office (no squabbling over who gets the biggest slice of whatever treat you’ve taken in), but not so much these days. There’s only one cupcake recipe on here so far, lovely Vanilla Cupcakes that have a secret jam filling; a simple classic. I’m happy to be adding another now, which also has a classic flavour combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

This recipe was born out of wanting to thank a friend for a favour. She sticks (mostly!) to a gluten-free diet, but if you didn’t need to worry about that you could just substitute the gluten-free flour for normal self-raising flour. I have to say, the cakes in this recipe are good, but they’re really a way to justify eating the buttercream, which is (though I say it myself) awesome.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing

For the cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 50g soft dark brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 25g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 100g gluten-free self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat your oven to 170C and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy and the colour of a milky coffee. Add the eggs and beat again. Tip in the sifted cocoa and flour and mix until everything is well combined. Stir in the vanilla, syrup and milk and then spoon (or use an ice cream scoop for perfectly even portions) the batter into the prepared cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes; they’re done when a skewer inserted comes out clean and they have a little spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the cakes from the muffin tray to cool on a wire rack as soon as possible (I use a palatte knife to ease them from the tin); if you leave them to cool in the tin then they have a habit of peeling away from the paper cases.

For the buttercream:

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 280g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter

In a large bowl, mix the butter and icing sugar together. I find it helps to mix them with a wooden spoon to begin with as it means the icing sugar is less likely to leave your kitchen like it’s been in a blizzard. Once they’re combined, go at it with an electric whisk and then continue to beat for a good 3-5 minutes longer than you think you need to. Trust me; this will leave you with far smoother, fluffier, creamier buttercream than you thought you could achieve. Then add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat again.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, ice them with the buttercream using a palatte knife, or if you’re any good with a piping bag, give them a pretty swirl. If you feel like it, and you have some knocking around, grate a little chocolate over the top of the finished cupcakes. Feed them to your gluten-free loving friends and bask in the warm glow of their appreciation!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

There’s absolutely nothing new or fancy about these, just my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, but they’re a great basic to have up your sleeve (not literally, they’re better in your belly).  They’re always popular and the jam filling gives them a bit of a Victoria Sponge quality. The recipe makes 12 generously sized cupcakes, so be sure to use muffin cases rather than standard cupcake cases.

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Raspberry Jam filling

For the cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C and prep a 12 hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in an egg then some of the flour, then another egg and more flour, followed by the last egg and what’s left of the flour and the baking powder, mixing until everything is incorporated. Finally add the milk and give the cake batter a final mix. Divide the mix evenly between the 12 muffin cases (an ice cream scoop is really helpful if you have one – makes it easy to get the same amount in each case) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, a skewer comes out clean or they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; it’s important to quickly take them out of the muffin tray to cool as otherwise the paper cases can peel away from the cakes.

For the filling/icing:

  • about 12 tsp raspberry jam (about 120g but it all depends on how big you make the holes)
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes are cool, hollow out centre so you’re left with a hole that goes to about half way down the cake. You can easily do this with a teaspoon, or there are cupcake ‘corers’ on the market (I have one, but only because my mum bought me one, I was quite happy with the teaspoon method so don’t rush out to buy one). Fill the holes with the jam – I find this easiest with two teaspoons, using one to scrape the jam from the other and guide it into the hole.

Put the softened butter in a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. I’m not normally a stickler for sifting, but it does help with icing sugar as it can get a but lumpy. You need to mix the butter and icing sugar until creamy, but I wouldn’t suggest using an electric hand mixer until you’ve given them a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon first – otherwise you and your kitchen are likely to look like you’ve had an accident in a cocaine plant. Once you’ve got the butter and sugar basically combined, add the vanilla and have at it with the electric whisk. My best tip for making brilliant buttercream icing is to whisk it for longer than you think you need to. When you think it’s done, keep going for a few more minutes. If you keep whisking it becomes light, fluffy and whipped like the kind of icing you’d get in a top notch bakery or cake shop. Use a palatte knife to generously ice your cupcakes; put a big dollop on top of the jam filling and then spread it out to cover the whole of the top of the cake. Or if your any good with a piping bag you can do it that way. There are loads of tutorials online about how to ice cakes, they all explain it far better than I can here; the only way to get good at it is to practice and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a ‘rustic’ looking cupcake. I like to add a bit of edible glitter, but you might want to go for some sprinkles or just leave plain.

You could use this recipe to make smaller cupcakes if you don’t have a muffin pan or muffin cases, but be sure to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.

Vanilla Cupcakes, filled with Raspberry Jam

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with raspberry jam, prior to being topped with buttercream icing