Triple Lemon Cupcakes

We’ve had our first taste of beautiful weather, and now the cooks in the Cwach kitchen are craving fresh, bright flavors that bring to mind sunshine and summer.

With Easter just around the corner, I’ve been itching to try out new recipes that take minimal effort yet promise to impress. These triple lemon cupcakes fit the bill exactly. Packed with a tangy punch from the lemon juice, zest and curd and topped with a decadent homemade buttercream frosting, these cupcakes will have lemon lovers swooning – all without breaking a sweat in the kitchen.

The from-scratch cupcake batter takes just minutes to prepare and creates a moist, rich cupcake. For best results, I use a large, stainless steel scoop with a squeeze-action handle to uniformly portion three tablespoons of batter into each liner. Once cooled, filling the cupcakes is easy – just take a small, sharp paring knife and remove a dime-sized circle from the top center of the cupcake and spoon about one tablespoon of lemon curd into the cupcake. Alternatively, you can warm the lemon curd in the microwave and place it in a squeeze bottle, then squeeze the curd into the cupcake until full. I used store-bought Dickinson’s lemon curd, which can usually be found by the jams and jellies at your local grocery store, but you can also make your own lemon curd with just a few kitchen staples such as eggs, sugar, lemons and butter.

The real key to wowing with these cupcakes is in the decorating. While piping giant swirls of homemade frosting can seem intimidating at first, it takes just a bit of practice and a few inexpensive tools, and is the trick to turning ordinary cupcakes into show-stopping, professional-looking desserts.

Don’t be afraid to try this at home- it’s actually quite simple. Once the frosting is mixed to a stiff yet smooth consistency, I like to use a 16-inch Wilton disposable decorating bag fitted with a large or jumbo-sized tip (an open star tip makes for a lovely presentation). While you can purchase reusable featherweight decorating bags, the disposable bags make clean-up a cinch and only cost about $.40 each, which is well worth it in my opinion. If you’re only using one type of decorative tip, you can put the tip directly into the bag; if using more than one, you will need a coupler to swap out the tips.

To easily fill the decorating bag with frosting, place the empty bag (already fitted with its tip) in a tall glass and fold the remaining part of the decorating bag over the outside of the glass. Use a spatula to fill the bag while keeping it in the glass, pressing down as you go to remove air bubbles. Once the frosting is completely in the bag, unfold the cuff and twist the bag closed, squeezing the frosting toward the bottom of the bag and eliminating any excess air.

Once ready, hold the decorating bag perpendicular to the cupcake, applying steady pressure. Start on the outside of the cupcake and make a circle, squeezing the bag firmly. Once you make a complete circle, move in slightly and overlap your first circle until a swirl is completed. Once the swirl is complete, stop, stop applying pressure and slowly lift up.

For alternate designs or for a visual tutorial, simply search for and watch one of the thousands of cupcake decorating videos online. With a small investment in tools and time, you can elevate your standard cupcakes to stunning creations that are sure to impress.

To add flair and finish to these triple lemon cupcakes, use small pieces of cut paper straws and gently insert into the frosting at an angle. Garnish with additional lemon zest for an extra pop of color, if desired.

Triple Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients for Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, melted
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about half a large lemon)
1 Tablespoon lemon zest (from about one large lemon)
½ cup whole milk

Ingredients for Filling
½ cup lemon curd (jarred or from scratch)

Ingredients for Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
5-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest (one large lemon)
4 Tablespoons lemon juice (one large lemon)
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 15 paper liners in cupcake tins.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Using an electric mixer, combine melted butter and sugar for 30 seconds. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add in vanilla, lemon juice and zest.

Add in the flour mixture and whole milk alternately just until combined, beginning and ending with the flour. Using a large scoop, fill liners with ¼ cup of batter (until 2/3 full.) Bake for 13-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Mine took about 16 minutes). Cool completely.

To fill: Using a small paring knife, cut a small hole in the center of the cupcake and fill with lemon curd.

For frosting: Beat butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add salt, then sift in one cup of powdered sugar at a time, mixing until smooth. Add lemon juice, zest, and heavy whipping cream. Mix until smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice/zest if too sweet. Add in gel food coloring, if desired. Place frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip, then frost. Add extra lemon zest on top of cupcakes for additional decoration.

Yield: 15 cupcakes.

Source: Modified slightly from http://www.crazyforcrust.com/2014/03/perfect-triple-lemon-cupcakes/

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Waiting, Waiting…

It’s a peculiar emotion, feeling jealous of a cow.

As our herd starts to produce a few of its early calves, I can’t help but stare at my own very pregnant, very uncomfortable belly, anxiously counting down the days until Baby Cwach makes his arrival on the farm and wishing I, too, could speed up my delivery date.

But alas, babies are born when they are good and ready, and not a minute before. And I’m reminded of the injustice of this fact every morning on my way to work, when I drive by our fields and count the adorable new baby calves that have been springing up over the past week, already here ahead of schedule and snuggled contentedly at the sides of their mothers.

These are the slightly-irrational thoughts that run through the mind of an expecting farmer’s wife when the timing of one’s pregnancy aligns with the date when the bulls are released at pasture. (If you haven’t already learned, pregnancy is approached very differently on the farm!)

Now that we are within single digits of our due date, reality is settling in that a baby could be joining our family any day now – although Farmer Dan was kind enough to remind me the other morning that I could potentially go an extra 14 days past my due date, putting delivery at the end of the month- a lovely thought for any pregnant mama-to-be! But although my aching joints, tired back and swollen feet are telling me that this baby is ready to join the world, my farmer continues to (correctly) remind me that the longer our son stays inside growing and developing, the better he will eat, sleep and thrive once he finally arrives.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of reasoning. Trust me. I’ve tried.

And so, we wait. And wait. And wait some more. I silently pray that the cold front that passes through our area brings about labor the way it always seems to with livestock (no such luck for me, I’m afraid).

While we wait, my urge to clean and organize intensifies. Freezers are cleaned and filled with months’ worth of freezer meals. Our concrete storage floor is scrubbed spotless and new shelving is added to organize our stockpile of diapers that has steadily grown over the past few months. Nothing is safe from the scourge of my nesting. My farmer finds me out of bed late at night counting decks of cards, making sure all suits and numbers are accounted for (a low point I’m not particularly proud of, I must admit).

But in the midst of the chaos, I’ve also tried to soak up the last few days of alone time with my farmer and appreciate every minute I have with just him. Our lives are about to change irrevocably – a change we couldn’t be more excited about, but one that will change our relationship and lives forever.

Until that day, I will focus on the exciting days ahead of us as I drive past my still-pregnant bovine comrades, and remember that life is about to get interesting for all of us on the farm.