Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cupcake Nirvana

This weekend, I was lucky enough to have a few extra days off of work.  When that happens, I try to carve out more time in the kitchen to bake.  Since I grew up in a meat and potatoes house, I never really learned how to bake. My mom and dad weren't sweets people, so we just never had any around the house.  I was always jealous of the other kids when they'd bring pretty things to bake sales, and my mom would pick up a package of cookies or something. As a child, I vowed that I would learn to bake.  This became especially important because my "new" family is filled with sugar-a-holics!

Now, as an adult, I see why my momma didn't like to bake!  I think the baking gene skipped my family.  I had to work hard to learn how to bake and to decorate. I even went to my local Michael's store to take a Wilton course.  After lots of practice, I think I'm pretty good, but there are still plenty of things that I haven't been exposed to in the baking world--like CURD!

This weekend, I set out to find a recipe that utilized curd.  I knew that the household request was something lemon, and lemon curd inside of lemon seemed a bit much, so I settled on raspberry curd.  Oh-- what is curd, you ask?  I'm not sure exactly how to define it. It's a jelly like or creamy substance made with lemon, egg, and butter, and some people spread it on things and some people pipe it into things. Whatever it is, it's tangy deliciousness that dances nicely on the tongue. Just when you notice the tartness, the flavor pulls back and you experience the sweet.  It's yummy!

Okay-- so lemon curd was out, and raspberry curd was in!

A few tips--this recipe does take a few hours. It's labor intensive between juicing and zesting lemons as well as piping and frosting. Also, buy a bag of lemons. I probably went through 7 or 8 lemons due to juice and zesting.  Finally, make the curd first.  It has to chill.  Here's how to do it:

1 generous cup frozen raspberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg beaten lightly
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (don't skimp!)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir raspberries, sugar, beaten egg, lemon juice, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium to low heat until it bubbles. Using a small strainer, strain the mixture into a small bowl.  Make sure to press the solids in the strainer to get all the clear liquid out. Discard the solids.  Put in the refrigerator until chilled-- at least 3 hours.

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup oil (canola preferred)
2 cup white sugar
4 large room temperature eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
1/4 c  fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp poppyseeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for about 2-3 minutes. Add the oil and sugar slowly. Beat three minutes until light and fluffy.  One at a time, add the eggs, beating between, until blended.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating the milk, lemon juice and zest in about three batches total. Beat well after each addition. (this is a bit time consuming as you add, blend, add, blend, add, blend, repeat forever.....) Gently mix in the poppyseeds. If you've done it right, the batter will be nice and fluffy!

Fill  24 lined cupcake tins about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the top, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The edges will be just slightly golden brown.  If using a convection oven, start testing at about 15-18 minutes.

After slightly cooled, remove from pans and cool completely.  Once completely cooled, pipe the raspberry curd into each cupcake using a pastry bag and tip.  I injected a healthy tablespoon into the top of each one, and I still had a ton of curd left over.  (Note: this was very messy for me! The curd was not like a gel, so be careful!)

Now, for the frosting. If you're not a lemon fan, a simple buttercreme frosting will do. These are lemony and tart enough, but we made lemon buttercreme frosting and LOVED it! It really complemented the curd well.

Lemon Buttercreme Frosting
1 cups softened unsalted butter
2-3 cups powered sugar
3 Tbsps fresh lemon juice (have extra in case your frosting is too thick)
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Combine the butter, 2 cups of the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest with a mixer until blended.  Depending of the consistency, you may need to add more sugar or more lemon juice.  (I actually added a bit more water at one point since I was worried about too much lemon)

Now, using a pastry bag and decorative tip, pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes.  Have fun!  Be creative! 

So, after all was said and done, the family agreed-- this was CUPCAKE NIRVANA!

So, now everyone is asking me "what's next?"  I'm not sure.  I would love to know your favorite cupcake recipes!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think I should try next. I have a three day weekend coming up again, and I'm feeling mighty adventurous now that I've conquered the curd!