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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lemon Drop Cupcakes


     These bright, cheerful lemon drop cupcakes are like a little bit of sunshine - with a little bit of booze. Although we've enjoyed lots of unseasonably sunny weather this January, it looks like the winter weather has finally caught up with us. These cupcakes are a fun way to make use of the beautiful lemons that are in season right now.

     Last summer, I planted a little Meyer lemon tree in our backyard. It was full of fragrant, delicate, pink blossoms, but the tree was so tiny it was hard to imagine actual lemons growing on it. Well, that little tree surprised me, and I ended up with more lemons than I knew what to do with! Not that I would ever complain about a lemon surplus.
     As much as I love lemons, I hate grocery shopping. This was one of those days where I found myself with some really wonderful ingredients, but not quite everything I needed to follow any of the recipes I could find. So, I had no choice: I MacGyvered a new recipe. I've baked many cakes and cupcakes in the course of my lifetime, so I felt pretty confident I could figure out the necessary ratios, using ingredients I had on hand, to create my own recipe. And what do you know - they turned out great!

Oven temp: 350
Yield: About 18.

For the cupcakes:
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup yogurt (I used full fat Greek style, because that's what I had, but I think regular, full fat yogurt or sour cream would also work.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup limoncello
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • zest from 1.5 lemons
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
For the frosting:
**Note: this will make enough frosting for exactly 24 cupcakes, so you can either proportionally increase the recipe, or just grab some graham crackers, or a spoon...Or, save this for sandwich cookie filling. Yum. 
  • 1 pkg cream cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • zest from the remaining .5 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp limoncello
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract is just fine, but for frosting, I love the texture and little flecks of vanilla bean you get when you use this paste)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
Candied lemons, following Martha Stewart's method.

Get the candied lemons started first - they take the longest. While you're bringing 2 cups of water to a boil, wash and thinly slice a lemon. Remove the seeds. Add 1 cup sugar to the boiling water, stir, and reduce the temperature. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon slices. Give them a quick stir, and then forget about them for an hour or so.
Simmer until translucent, then remove with tongs. Lay flat to dry on a non-stick surface. I sprinkled them with a little extra sugar because I like the sparkly appearance.

Like sunlight shining through yellow stained glass windows.

While the candied lemons are setting, mix up the cupcake batter.
Mix the softened butter on med-high until fluffy, then mix in the yogurt and sugar until light and creamy. Mix in the two eggs. Now, add the vanilla, lemon juice, limoncello, and lemon zest. Mix on med speed and watch your beautiful creamy mixture turn into a curdled mess.

Don't worry. It gets better.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. It's a good idea to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl every now and then so you don't end up with pockets of baking soda. Nothing like a baking soda flavored bite to ruin a perfectly lovely cupcake. You'll end up with a very thick, but fluffy, batter. Prepare your muffin tin with cupcake liners, and spoon in the batter. I filled mine pretty full, and ended up with tall, domed cupcakes. I'm partial to that look, but if you can do without the "muffin top", you can probably squeeze a couple extra cupcakes out of this recipe.

 Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine were done at 19 minutes.

For the frosting:
The butter and cream cheese should both be at room temperature. Beat them both together until you have a fluffy and homogeneous mixture. Add the vanilla bean paste, limoncello, and lemon zest. Beat 'em up again until fully incorporated. Then, with the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then mix on med-high for about 30 seconds.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled (I actually recommend refrigerating them first so the frosting stays where you put it and doesn't melt!), frost, and add candied lemons. I found that making a little slit in the frosting to place the lemon in was helpful.

They're still cute without the candied lemons.
...but they do add a nice finishing touch.
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  1. Beautiful presentation, Jacqueline! They look (and sound) delicious! :)

  2. Oh, these sound SO refreshingly good. I love the lemon slices! They are gorgeous. I hope you'll link them to Crazy Sweet Tuesday tomorrow! :)

    1. Thank you for the sweet compliments! These were a lot of fun to make.

      Dorothy, Ellen is the technical wizard who figured out how to link up to your Crazy Sweet Tuesday. If I can figure it out in time, I would love to join the party :) Thanks!

    2. I'm not so sure about being the technical wizard...But, I do know how to link to Crazy Sweet Tuesdays, now! Dorothy helped me a few times...So, we have her to thank! I'm ALL over it tomorrow. J, please ~remind~ me! :)

      P.S. We now have this cool reply function, so more personal, which we love!

  3. And she swoops in, cape billowing behind her! Haha, I will try to remember tomorrow :) Thanks Ellen and Dorothy! Looking forward to see tomorrow's compilation of sweet treats!

  4. okay these look amazing, but those candied lemons are just too pretty!

  5. Ellen, these do look amazing and beautiful. Lemon is one of my top flavors (and was my mother's too).

    A must try, as usual! XOXO

    1. Thanks for the kudos, ladies! Jacqueline is the master baker on these lovelies. They are sooooo good and very lemony. I was floored by their texture and taste, and I LOVE lemon!

  6. Those candied lemons look so pretty and yummy!! Lemon + sugar = match made in heaven. Great job!

  7. I'm attempting these beauties this afternoon, and I'm wondering where do the eggs go? I'm guessing they were supposed to be creamed with the butter, but I wasn't sure. Let's hope it works to add them with the lemon juice, etc. Ah!

  8. I have a question--what size package of cream cheese did you use for the frosting? 3 oz or 8 oz?

    1. Hi! Just checked with Jacqueline, master lemon drop cc baker. It's an 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese. Let us know how they turned out!! :)

    2. Thanks. It's a rainy weekend so I feel like baking. I'll let you know.

  9. What's the chances on getting intoxicated

  10. Are these mini cupcakes or regular size?

  11. The cupcakes pictured above are regular size, but they would be cute in a mini size, too! The same recipe/ratios should apply; you'd just end up with a lot more minis. You'd probably want to use either 1/2 or 1/4 lemon slices, rather than the whole round.

  12. Also - in response to "Anonymous" above - you'd have to eat a LOT of these cupcakes in order to get intoxicated :-) The limoncello is distributed through a whole batch of cupcakes, and a lot of the alcohol will bake off in the cupcakes. The "raw" limoncello in the frosting won't be enough to get you buzzin'; it's just enough to be delicious!


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