As The Golden Rule says: treat others the way you’d like to be treated. I mostly like to be treated with cupcakes.
I had plans of sharing another meatball recipe today, as my last “Super Bowl” themed post before the big game this afternoon. However, I made a double batch of these Vietnamese meatballs before posting them on Friday, so they’ve been dinner for four nights in a row. I told you, they are that good. Thus, I never got around to photographing the other meatball recipe I made for today, so I’ll just have to postpone sharing it until another good opportunity comes along!
I had wanted to wait for a more “seasonally appropriate” time to give you these cupcakes, but I’m too excited to put them off that long. Firstly, it’s been 65-70 degrees here all weekend, and is supposed to stay that way indefinitely. It feels like spring time to me for sure. I know many of you are inundated in snow and ice, so hopefully these cupcakes will bring you some warm, sunshine thoughts! Secondly, I made this latest batch using lemons I picked from my aunt’s tree just two days ago, and isn’t that as seasonal as it gets?
What has me most excited though, is the reason I even came up with these cupcakes in the first place. My cousin, who is also my partner-in-crime, primary culinary consultant, and someone I couldn’t imagine living without, got married a few years back to a really great guy with an equally great last name, “Golden.” So of course my cousin made it hers as well.
This really great guy also happens to be a drill sergeant in the army, and in the short time they’ve been married, army life has moved them from Connecticut to Georgia to the tundra, also referred to as Fort Drum, NY. For the last too-many months, Mr. Golden has been deployed in Afghanistan while my cousin’s been hustling to finish nursing school and take care of their four children. How cute are they?! #bewareofdogs
Well, this past week, not only did my cousin graduate from nursing school with top marks, but Mr. Golden arrived home safely from deployment! Considering the closest thing to dessert he’s eaten in nearly a year has been a prepackaged Rice Krispie treat, my cousin wanted to welcome him back with a cake to celebrate his return. She asked me if I’d come up with some sort of yellow cake with a lemon component for “Golden.” This Golden Cake was a no-brainer, but I was excited to test it out nonetheless. I made the first dozen last weekend before sending the recipe to my cousin, planning to share them with the folks at work.
I did not share. That never happens. Given my limited refrigerator space and my need to bake something nearly every day, I always eat one of whatever I’ve made and give the rest away. Not these. I kept them for myself, and was sad when I had to throw some out because 5 days in the fridge can be hard on a cupcake.
I used my standard yellow cake recipe, which is delicious, versatile, and never fails. For the frosting I made one batch with the cream cheese-mascarpone frosting used on my Solstice Cake, and another batch with a basic cream cheese buttercream I’ve written below. I liked them equally, so I figured I’d let you choose! The cream cheese-mascarpone frosting is a bit lighter, more like whipped cream, and this cream cheese buttercream is well, more buttery. Both have the tangy cream cheese flavor that makes the perfect topping for these bright little cupcakes. Choose whichever you prefer!
As yummy as the cake and frosting are, the lemon-vanilla filling completely steals the show. I’ll take a bowl of it with some cake crumbs on top, thank you. Oh wait… I did do that. I had to; you see, in order to make room for plenty of filling, you’ll carve out a small cone from the top of the cupcakes, leaving you with 18 little cake cones just sitting in a Ziploc bag on your counter. Obviously, they scream to be crumbled over a bowl of ice cream, or in this case, lemon-vanilla curd!
It’s pure lemon flavor, with a hint of vanilla, a buttery-smooth texture, and is neither too sour or too sweet. I’ve never considered myself a big fan of lemon desserts; they usually either wind your face into a pucker, or threaten to give you a cavity. With these cupcakes, I’ve been converted. Once spring rolls around for everyone who doesn’t live in California, I’ll be bringing these to every party/birthday/social event I can.
My cousin made this recipe as a layer cake, and I’ve provided instructions on how to do so if you’d like to as well. It came out beautifully, see? Candied lemon slices on top!
I can’t say I fully trust the tastebuds of a man who’s had to live off of army cuisine for the better part of a year; I’m pretty sure my cousin could have burnt the cake and curdled the frosting and he still would have given it a passing grade. Regardless, I am so pleased to hear both Mr. & Mrs. Golden enjoyed this cake greatly. Make no mistake, if there is one person that will tell you if your food is crap, it’s my cousin. She matter-of-factly informed me she would not now or ever be making my West African Peanut Stew. <– her loss.
I’m so happy she approves of these Golden Cupcakes. Every time I make them I will think of her, and feel grateful for her husband and all the men and women who sacrifice so we Americans may continue to live freely. Thank you.
Now, I won’t tell you whether you should make this recipe as a cake or cupcakes. What I will say is, cupcakes = Ziploc bag of cake cones. The choice is yours.
Yields 18 cupcakes*
Buttery yellow cupcakes filled with bright, silky lemon-vanilla curd, and topped with a swirl of cream cheese frosting.
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 6 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 3 large lemons
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Dash of salt
- 6 Tbs. (85g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 2 1/4 cups (270g) all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 10 Tbs. (135g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/3 cups (265g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
- 8oz. brick-style cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Dash of salt
For the filling:
In a small sauce pan, whisk together the sugar, egg, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set the pan over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly for 2-4 minutes, until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in the vanilla and salt. Gently run the mixture through a fine meshed sieve into a clean bowl. (You could skip this, but this step is what will ensure there are no lumps in your curd). Add the cubes of butter, and stir gently until it’s fully melted and the filling is smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Chill for at least an hour before using.
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Prepare 18 cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
Cream the butter in a large bowl using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Add the sugar and canola oil, then continue to beat until fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, then add the vanilla.
With the mixer on low, begin adding the flour in three batches, alternating each with the buttermilk until everything is incorporated. Do not over beat!
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool thoroughly before filling and frosting
For the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar a half cup at a time.
Once all the sugar is in the bowl, add the vanilla and a dash of salt. Continue to beat the frosting at medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator while the cupcakes cool.
Using a paring knife, cut and remove a small cone from the top of each cupcake. To do this, angle the knife towards the center and insert it about a half inch from the cupcake’s edge, stopping a little below the center. Continue to hold the knife at an angle as you rotate the cupcake, making a circle about one inch in diameter. Lift the knife, and a small cone of cake will come out. Set aside.
Fill the cavity in each cupcake generously with the lemon-vanilla curd.
Pipe frosting over the top of the cupcakes, or simply spread it on with a knife. Decorate with candied citron, little lemon slices, lemon zest, or just leave them as they are! Uneaten cupcakes may be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
*To make this recipe into a two-layer, 8-9″ cake, you will only need to make 1/3-1/2 the amount of lemon curd specified above. That is unless you don’t mind having some leftover. If you’ve read this post, you know that’s not a bad thing! Follow the instructions on this recipe for how to bake layers instead of cupcakes.