Lemon Cupcakes with Berry Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve always loved to read. In fact, I loved books before I even learned to read. As a toddler, one of my favorite games to play was “library.” I would stack books on the dining room table and make my parents and my brother “check them out” in order to take them away. I was a strange child. And though I grew out of my eccentricities, (most of them at least), I did not, however grow out of my love for books. Perhaps that’s why my mother always compared me to Rory from Gilmore Girls. My nose, like Rory’s can often be found in a book. But over the years, my book preferences have changed with the times. Elementary school was filled with the stories of Laura Ingalls’ life on the prairie, and high school brought on an obsession with J.D Salinger. But nowadays, I find myself drawn to one unique category of literature. Food centered biographies. It isn’t exactly an easy genre to come by. But I have managed to find some gems hidden among the cookbooks on the book store shelves. My first experience with a “culinary narrative” was Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper the Knife the Less you Cry, which recalls the story of Kathleen’s experience as a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I read it while I was a culinary intern, and related to every story that filled the pages. From the way she learned that a sharp knife can help you chop onions without all the tears, to the ups and downs of being the only female working in a kitchen. That book got me hooked on this genre that I never knew existed. Next came the beautiful and quirky narratives of Molly Wizenberg’s  A Homemade Life. Her stories about her food centered childhood effortlessly weave in and out of the cookbook and biography genres. I fell in love with the way these women could share the stories of their life through food. And in retrospect, these culinary  narratives are part of the reason I started this blog. To keep track of my own culinary adventures, and to share my  life’s recipes with all of you. So thanks again for reading along.

Another benefit of food centered biographies, is that they always come with recipes. And this recipe was inspired by my latest literary cookbook, The Cupcake Diaries, written by the owners of Georgetown Cupcakes. I adapted their lemon cupcake recipe, ever so slightly, because cupcakes as good as theirs don’t need much tweaking. The cupcakes are light and lemony, reminiscent of a slightly denser sponge cake. Rather than their lemon frosting, I decided on a strawberry cream cheese frosting for some contrast. The result was pretty delicious.

Ingredients: Adapted slightly from Georgetown Cupcakes

Makes: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons)

Frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 oz low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely diced strawberries, drained

Preparation:

  1. For the cupcakes, sift flour, baking powder & salt together; set aside
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, measure out milk & stir in coconut extract
  5. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture into the butter mixture, beating well after each addition
  6. Next, beat in lemon juice & zest at low speed
  7. Scoop batter into 24 cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes, let cool
  8. For the frosting, dice strawberries very finely, and squeeze excess liquid out by scraping strawberries against a fine sieve; set aside
  9. Beat butter & cream cheese together until well mixed
  10. Beat in powdered sugar at low speed, one cup at a time
  11. Stir in diced strawberries until well incorporated
  12. Spread frosting over cupcakes, or use a piping bag to decorate

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