These were actually Sue’s birthday cupcakes (which was now over a month ago, and we’re still writing about it, because we cooked a lot and because we are blogging slackers apparently), but the title was already really long. I made the cake part, and frosted them and decorated them, but Sue made the frosting which was hands down the best part. It’s kind of a high-touch frosting, as my boss might say; part meringue which requires you to temper the eggwhites and whatnot, it seems like a lot more work than I would ever, ever do. Which is why Sue made it, because she’s better at complicated cooking. These were a classic Sue choice; one of the things she has in common with my mom is that she never met a lemon-flavored thing she didn’t like. Another thing is a fairly nasty right hook.
So, the cake. The truth is, I was in a hurry when I made these, so I found a recipe online, with the caveat that it include real lemon juice (I was going to put in a whole mess of lemon zest either way) and that it have buttermilk, because I like what buttermilk does to cake. For the record, I gave not one iota of attention to the whole “baking at high altitude” concern. Because I forgot. But they turned out fine, so, eat that Betty Crocker. Here it is:
Lemon Cupcakes, adapted from Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
zest of 2 lemons
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar if you don’t have buttermilk, which I never do)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest until fluffy and pale. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Mix in each egg, one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated. Alternate adding the buttermilk and dry ingredients like this: add 1/3 of dry ingredients, then add 1/2 the buttermilk, then add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the final 1/3 of the dry. Mix until JUST combined, and fill the cupcake papers about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are pretty and golden brown. You can do the toothpick-insertion test, but the best test is the color and poke one with your finger- if it feels like cake, it’s done. Cool completely before frosting.
White Chocolate Swiss Buttercream Frosting
Let me say, before Sue goes forward with her recipe, that it was flingin flangin delicious. It was fluffy, light (a total manipulation, because there was about 14 pounds of butter in it) and beautiful to look at. Most importantly, it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet like a lot of frosting can be; you know, when you leave the frosting in big gobs on the edge of the plate, only eating a little bit at a time as you eat the cake part, and then you try to throw the whole plate away really quick before anyone notices you didn’t eat any of the frosting. Her frosting was NOTHING like that. I ate a whole bunch with a spoon after I was done frosting the cupcakes and realized that I, sadly, had some leftover.
This is Sue now. Everything she said about this frosting is right; this is hands down my favorite frosting ever. Not only to make, but also to eat. Towards the end of the evening, someone found the icing bag in the kitchen and was giving people icing shots- that’s how good this icing is. Yes, it’s not exactly a beginner icing, but you can do it, I swear.
This is a classic recipe from the buttercream family. What makes this kind wonderful is that you are mixing the butter with a meringue which lightens it up significantly. The other kind of frosting that is similar to this is an Italian Meringue buttercream, the big difference with that is you have to cook the sugar, (using a candy thermometer) basically its a big huge process….this one is much easier. Italian meringue is supposed to be a bit more stable…but I wouldn’t know since I always just make this. Do keep in mind though, that this frosting will never set, it will always be soft and shiny (things I like in a frosting, but something to keep in mind for storage and travel).
Swiss Meringue Buttercream with white chocolate
makes enough for 28 cupcakes, or a two layer cake
2 1/2 cups sugar
10 egg whites
4 cups of unsalted butter (8 sticks), cubed
2 tsp of vanilla
12 oz of white chocolate*
Melt chocolate slowly in a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Set aside.
Place egg whites and sugar into a metal bow,l (if you are using a stand mixer, you can use that bowl) place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pot). Whisk gently until the sugar has been dissolved and the mixture has reached 160 degrees. You test if the mixture is ready by rubbing a bit in between your fingers. If it feels smooth it’s ready, if it is grainy the sugar hasn’t completely dissolved. Transfer the bowl back to the stand mixer (or have your hand mixer ready). Using the whisk attachment, whisk until the mixture comes to glossy stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.
With the mixture whisking on medium, add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled, this is common with buttercreams, it will come together. Once all the butter is added, mix on high for 1 minute. Add vanilla and chocolate and beat on medium until combined.
A note about the chocolate: Make sure the white chocolate is real white chocolate, this means that cocoa butter is one of the first ingredients. If you use a imitation version, the oils will separate and will not be good in this frosting. You could also use bittersweet chocolate to make this a chocolate swiss meringue buttercream.
Frost the cupcakes, top with blueberries and serve.
– Cat and Sue