We went to our first social event in our new neighbourhood Monday evening, a backyard gathering where every household was asked to bring a plate of munchies or dessert. I knew right away I wanted to take a dessert, but much thought and analysis went into deciding exactly what. I wanted something that suited the casual, comfortable tone of a backyard party, and that would show I put some effort into my contribution without seeming to try too hard to impress. Not to put too much pressure on one poor dessert, but it needed to say, “Hey, those new people are great neighbours!” And, if all that weren’t enough, my dish needed to stand up to the incredibly hot and humid weather we’ve been having.
My choice? Sweet lemon cupcakes with a lemon blast buttercream. Easy to make (a plus for me), fun and more or less foolproof. Not to mention, lemon is an excellent flavour choice for tropical-type weather.
Now, when I go for lemon, I don’t fool around. I made the cupcakes using the recipe for Sweet Lemon Loaf that I’ve written about before, converting it to 12 cupcakes instead of a loaf pan, and baking them for 25 to 30 minutes.They have an intense lemon flavour, from the use of both lemon zest and juice, and a lovely tender crumb.
The frosting provided another blast of lemon flavour. Starting with my basic buttercream recipe, I added the finely grated zest of one lemon, plus three tablespoons of freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice. Oh yeah, sweet lemon nirvana achieved!
To help the frosting hold up in the heat, I added an extra half cup of icing sugar, and two teaspoons of meringue powder. Using shortening in the buttercream is another trick to provide stability. Even after sitting outside for an hour and a half in 30 degree temperatures (for those of you not familiar with Celsius, that converts to HOT!) the frosting still held its shape.
These are prettiest cupcakes I’ve made yet, and I had a lot of fun decorating them. (I’ve discovered that making cupcakes puts me in a really good mood. Go figure!) The frosting was slightly off-white, with yellow flecks of lemon zest. And to provide a visual cue as to the flavour, I topped each one with an adorable small yellow jelly bean, nestled next to the jaunty swirled peak of the frosting. (Ahhh, that’s so cute!)
We had a wonderful time at the party, meeting many new neighbours and getting reacquainted with ones we already knew. And, I’m pleased to say, we went home with an empty platter at the end of the evening. To paraphrase Sally Field, they liked my cupcakes, they really liked my cupcakes!
Thanks to the Culinary Enthusiast for putting the “blast” into the name of the buttercream. Well done! I would have rewarded him with an extra cupcake, but the neighbours ate them all. Next time!
Lemon Blast Buttercream
- 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 2-1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp meringue powder
- finely grated zest of one lemon
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
- Garnish: 12 small lemon jelly beans
Whip the butter and shortening until well incorporated. Add half the icing sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the remaining sugar, vanilla and meringue powder. MIx slowly until partially combined. Zest the lemon right over the bowl of icing if possible so you don’t lose any of its essential lemon essence, and add the lemon juice one tablespoon at a time, mixing between each one until the desired smooth consistency is achieved.
Scoop the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with the decorating tip you prefer (I like the big fat ones). Roll down the top of the bag, and decorate away! Top each cupcake with a lemon jelly bean.