When life gives you lemons….

…you turn them into cupcakes and cookies. Becky and I have started these periodic bake-capades, as I’ve dubbed them, and this time around the focus was lemon! Light, fruity, and versatile, we decided to tackle two recipes: Lemon drop cupcakes (from the Better Homes and Garden 150 Cupcakes issue) and Lemon Ricotta cookies (courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis, of Everyday Italian).

Lemon Drop cupcakes (in amazing pirate themed, double lined with aluminum cupcake wrappers). I found the recipe online at the Better Homes and Garden recipe index. I’ll paraphrase and paste it here. But if you want the real deal without buying the magazine and misplacing it (like I did, I think it’s in my car)… here’s the link.

Making the frosting. It’s pretty sweet, and doesn’t have a strong lemon flavor, but combined with the cupcake? Scrumptious!

We sorta improvised on the piping. Plop!

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

Makes: 20 ( 2-1/2-inch) cupcakes
Prep: 40 minutes
Bake: 18 minutes
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur) or milk
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 recipe Lemon Frosting

Directions

1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line twenty 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup combine milk and limoncello; set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and lemon peel; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out batter in cups.

4. Bake about 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.

5. Up to 1 hour before serving, generously spread or pipe Lemon Frosting on each cupcake.

Lemon Frosting: Allow 1/3 cup butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl beat butter, 1/3 cup shortening, and 1 teaspoon vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating well. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Gradually beat in 2 cups additional powdered sugar. Beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until frosting reaches a spreading consistency. Makes about 2-1/3 cups frosting.

What surprised me the most about these cupcakes is how absolutely lemony they were! I was skeptical at first of how the flavor would be, as I’ve been dissapointed in the past with other lemon recipes. But I think the addition of the Limoncello, along with a healthy amount of fresh lemon zest and juice, lent to a moist, flavorful cupcake. I’ve decided this will be my go-to lemon cake recipe from now on.

 

Lemon Ricotta cookies

This recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis, as I mentioned above. Same deal- paraphrased recipe and a link.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. 

Sorry guys, no process photos. Just trust me, these are tasty.

I’m usually afraid of eating cookies because (this sounds bizarre considering how much I love to bake and how big my sweet tooth is) I don’t like things that are too sweet. This cookie struck the perfect balance for me. It had a nice light lemon frosting (which was a good touch) but could go either way. I felt like it was more of a food cookie rather than a dessert cookie, as in, it had substance as well as was fun to eat. The ricotta gave  it that oomph to bring it from being a nutritional wasteland to something that could pass as the occasional breakfast treat. Try them, and you’re in for a nice, dense yet soft cookie with a great flavor.

Bon Appetit!

 

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It’s a race car.

I have a backlog of entries to post, which is both awesome and crummy at the same time. Why? Because it means I’ve been baking a lot more lately, but now it is difficult to continue my chronological orderliness of this blog.  So from now on I am going out of order, basically choosing which posts I feel like writing based on my mood. Oh yeah.

It’s been a while since I posted a cupcake cake… and we just so happened to have celebrated our co-worker’s birthday with a cake at work. Megan, Bri, and I got together to bake a cake for the infamous Mickey M. (I’m not going to give full names to protect the secret identity of our friend. 🙂 For those who know Mickey, you know why. I’ll leave it at that.)

Mickey is huge into racing cars… so we wanted to create something that reflected his hobby. Actually, there’s a funny story behind all of this. We initially wanted to create a replica of his face in cake, with fondant and all, because he’s got a great expressive face, and he’s always saying, “I crack myself up,” and we wanted to make him laugh. However, plans fell through on that one halfway through the baking process and we ended up with a race car instead. Count ’em… 12 photos ahead.

Chocolate cake batter, mixing away:

Using a measuring cup to pour this cake batter makes it much easier for distribution, especially because of the runny consistency:

Baked and cooling:

Arranged in the shape of a race car: (We got our idea from another race car cupcake cake online, (thank you last minute googling), but I didn’t want to put it up here, because our car is extra special in comparison… and we were missing some key elements. So if you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, you can’t be too critical, right? That’s what I think and so we shall proceed.

We decided on a green car. Here’s a new technique that I was particularly proud of trying: we covered the cupcakes in a layer of frosting, and then colored sugar to give it a clean, matte finish. Plus the frosting doesn’t melt everywhere. Seems simple, right? Not when you only have white sugar and food coloring! We were able to create our own colored sugar by mixing the two in a ziplock baggie. Good tip for those who don’t have colored sugar just layin’ around.

Since we had to transport this puppy to work, I used a shirt box and made it sturdy with a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil.

Ah, here’s where the creative part set in. We needed to make a person’s face and wanted it to at least resemble Mickey. People make fun of him for having a big head (he’s an excellent sport, did I mention that?) so we used a Ritz cracker shaped like a snowflake. Yeah, I didn’t have round ones. Don’t ask.

Isn’t it a spitting image of him? Yes, Megan printed this reference page from work, and we were being creepy and using it to ensure a resemblance. Of course, this was when we were supposed to create his face. However, it still came in handy. Check out how spot-on that replica is, you can’t even tell it’s a Ritz! Genius. 😉

So the race car is coming together. This is the basic layout, minus the wheels.

Here we added the wheels:

Here’s the completed cake. We piped “HBM” where the fin was supposed to be. (HBM= Happy Birthday Mickey.) We also dipped the wheels in chocolate ganache for that shiny wheel like look. And added a few accessories made out of red fondant and sprinkles. So creative for a last minute change in plans.

He looks soooo happy to be driving! … in our benchmark cake, the driver had a helmet. But, the Ritz cracker wouldn’t allow for that, it was too big. That, and this is way more representative of how Mickey likes to live life on the edge and not wear a helmet. 😉

Happy Birthday Mickey!

Cupcakeretto

Note: I started this post a little over a month ago. I’m finishing it now.

Taking a break from caking, I’m getting back to cupcakes…

Saturday was a boat load of fun as Miss Becky came over to bake with me! She was graciously bringing some of her favorite cupcakes to a birthday celebration that night, and we tried a new recipe for fun.

She picked an Amaretto (almond) cupcake from this gem of a magazine, Cupcakes, which she also gave me a copy of.

The birthday cupcakes were to be a vanilla cinnamon cake with chocolate frosting and some sprinkles (her personal favorite recipe). I don’t have either recipe available to post (I know, then what’s the point?) but I figured I’d start sharing anyways and upload recipes later. At least get the creative juices going and hopefully inspire you to either bake or go on the hunt for new cupcakes!

These are the vanilla cinnamon cakes, fresh out of the oven.

A simple chocolate frosting, consisting of some good Penzey’s cocoa powder, butter, powdered sugar, and a little milk:

Topped off! I appreciated the home-made-ness of this cupcake. There were no frills- just plopped that frosting right on top of the cupcake, no piping necessary.

Add some sprinkles and … I think this is laffy taffy. (Yeah, it was for color)… Birthday cupcakes!!!

Next up: Amaretto cupcakes with a mixed batter. The base of the batters was basically the same- we made the vanilla side spiked with some Disarrono Amaretto, then split the batter and added cocoa powder to half of it. This gave us the black and white look:

It baked up quite nicely with an excellent spongy texture.

You know the frozen yogurt machines that have three handles, with two flavors on the outside and the middle one producing a swirled version of the two? That’s what we tried to do with the frosting! It’s the same process as with the batter: create a regular amaretto base, divide it in half, and add cocoa powder to half to get the chocolatey look. To achieve the swirl, you just fill a piping bag with the two frostings, one on each side.

Yum… this had some great flavor and texture going on.