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.
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.
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.