Lemon Honey Lavender Cupcakes

I don’t know about you but it seems like this time of year someone is having a birthday every other day.  This time, it was my own birthday cupcakes I was set out to make.  I wanted a cupcake that screamed springtime, and baby, I got it.

I will say this.  It was a slightly complicated cake to turn out.  I made the lemon curd and frosting one day, popped it in the fridge, and made the cake, filled, and decorated on the next.  The frosting and curd will keep fine in the fridge, just make sure you bring the frosting to room temperature before piping it on the cupcakes.  If you take it out when you start to mix the batter you should be fine.

The thing people raved about most was the frosting.  So pile it on.  This may require a double batch.  I just had enough.

fun fact : mini cupcakes fit perfectly inside egg cartons

Lemon Honey Lavender Cupcakes

adapted from Baked’s Lemon Drop Cake, makes about 24 regular size AND 24 minis…this is a party recipe.

Lemon Cupcakes

2 ½ c cake flour

¾ c all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp salt

½ c unsalted butter, room temperature

½ c vegetable shortening, room temperature

1 ¾ c sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

Zest of one lemon

1 large egg, room temperature

1 ½ c ice cold water – before you start mixing, fill a measuring cup with water and pop it in the freezer until you need it.

3 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Cupcake Method

Preheat the oven to 325þ and prepare your cupcake or cake pans.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until creamy (3-4 minutes).  Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy (3 minutes).  Add the egg, beat until just combined, and reduce speed to low.

Start to add the dry ingredients, alternating with the ice water in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.  Scrape down the bottom of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Do not overbeat or the cake will have a tougher texture.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Fill the cupcake tins about ¾ of the way.  Did you see how many rising agents are in this cake – baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar.  It will rise, and it WILL over flow and make ugly cupcakes.  I used my cookie scoopers for the job, it gives the perfect amount.

wanna-bes

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack let cool completely.

Lemon Curd Filling

¾ c lemon juice (from about six lemons)

Zest of 2 lemons

2 large eggs

7 large egg yolks (save the whites and make an omelet!)

¾ c sugar

4 tbsp (or a ½ stick) butter, room temperature

Lemon Curd Method

In a small bowl, pour the lemon juice over the zest and let stand for a while to soften the zest, about 10 minutes or so.

In a nonreactive bowl (don’t worry, you’re bowls are probably OK) whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined.  Add the lemon juice and zest to the egg mixture and whisk until combined.

Place the bowl containing the mixture over a double boiler.  Stir continuously until the mixture has thickened to a pudding like consistency, about 6 minutes.  The key here is to never allow any of the egg mixture to be on the bottom so long that the yolks cook through and harden.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until emulsified.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove lumps (you will have lumps no matter how hard you tried).  Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd so that a skin doesn’t form.

If refrigerating for later use, allow the curd to come to room temperature first.

Honey Lavender Frosting

1 ¼ c sugar

1/3 c flour

½ c honey

¼ c lemon curd

1 ½ tsp lavender extract

1 1/2 cups milk

1/3 c heavy cream

1 ½ c (3 sticks) butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces – I brought the butter to room temperature, then as soon as the milk and sugar mixture started to boil I stuck it at the very back of the fridge where it’s coldest.

¼ tsp Wilton purple gel food coloring

Honey Lavender Frosting Method

Whisk flour and sugar in a sauce pan to combine.  Add milk and cream and place over medium heat.  Whisk occasionally while bringing to a boil.  Cook until mixture has thickened.  Baked says 20 minutes, I’m positive mine didn’t take that long.  Just keep an eye on it.

Once it has thickened, transfer to a bowl and whisk on high speed until cool.  If you are using a hand held mixer this will take a while.  Reduce speed to low and switch to paddle attachment, then add the butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy.

Add lavender, honey, and lemon curd, and food coloring if you’re using it, and continue mixing until combined.

Assembly Line

To fill the cupcakes, use the smallest size round cookie cutter you can or a paring knife, remembering to press as gently as you can so the cake doesn’t get compressed.

Pipe lemon curd into cake cavities.  Pipe frosting atop the cakes.  To ensure the frosting doesn’t slide off while dipping into sprinkles, refrigerate to firm it up, about 20 minutes or so.  Gently hold the cupcake by the paper end and dip and roll into sanding or sparkling sugar.  I used a mixture of white and lavender sparkling sugar.

cavities can be good for you

so stuffed

they fit right in

Enjoy!

charity: water

So, it’s probably no secret that the blogosphere is completely new for me and I’m still trying to figure everything out.

Well today I was playing around with widgets and page layout and found this widget called Social  Vibe.  See it to the right over there?

By posting this badge (and getting you guys to click on it), Dove (the sponsor I chose) will donate money to this charity.

charity : water is a non-profit that helps bring clean drinking water to people in developing nations.  To learn more about it click here.

To help the cause, click on the link in the badge.  It’s completely free.  What happens is a window pops up and asks you to complete an activity, which sounds like those lame “get a free ipod” gags, but it’s not.  An ad for Dove plays while you answer a question.  Once you ‘complete activity’ you have the option of doing another.

I’m also toying around with the idea of doing some pledge-based giving.  It would involve people going to the website and pledging X amount of money per blog entry, or baked good, or what have you – I’m not done researching it yet.  Anyway, give a shout if it’s something you’d be willing to consider.

The Perfect Hangover Breakfast – Ginger Scones

So I’ve been on a bit of a baking spree – even by my standards.  The week before last – the week I didn’t post – I made pita bread, rosemary + olive knots, and ham + cheese filled focaccia.  And I did not photograph any of it…well not really anyway.

fresh out the oven

The thing is, I’ve always found savory baking – particularly the kind that involves yeast – to be especially tricky.  So rather than sucking it up and saying, “I’ll post even if it’s a failure,” or conversely, “I’ll just bake something else and post that if it’s a failure,” I just decided to not post anything.  Every single time.

And I’m sorry.  I really am.  Because the pita bread, for the most part, were light, floury pillows.  The olive knots were salty, fluffy, and so full of rosemary.  And the focaccia.  Oh my god, the focaccia.  I’ll spare you the delicious details.  Needless to say, I have unlocked the puzzle that is yeast, and I will share it when I post a recipe that calls for it.

That said, I kind of spent all my “blog” money on the ingredients for my extracurricular baking.  I was a little bit stumped all week as to what I would make, seeing as even for chocolate chip cookies I would have to go buy brown sugar.  I got out of bed Saturday actually kind of dreading the day in general – I had a whopping headache (thank you Whiskey Ward), few ingredients, and an out-of-town guest to feed.

Then it all came together in a serendipitous moment.  I was flipping through a new cook book and performing a mental checklist of ingredients when I saw them.  Ginger Scones with Almond Topping.  Now if that doesn’t sound like the perfect hungover breakfast, I don’t know what does.

hangover easing breakfast

I’ve read a few things here and there about natural remedies, and these bad boys pack a punch.  Almonds are great for your skin, intestinal health, and cholesterol levels.  And I’m not sure if you’ve heard but ginger is tops when it comes to naturally easing nausea.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I have always felt that a good, heavy breakfast makes be feel loads better…um, most of the time.

I know a lot of people don’t like ginger, though I have no idea why.  On this matter I will say two things.  The first is that I had to warm up to it – I was really overwhelmed by the flavor of a piece of candied ginger AT FIRST.  My how things have changed.  I always keep some in my pantry and munch on it constantly.  Second, for having both ground ginger and crystallized ginger, I did not find the ginger flavor to be at all overwhelming.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  Sweet, fluffy, tender, and with a very subtle spice.  I liked these best directly out of the oven, it will blow away whatever conception you have in your head about scones.  My boyfriend, Zach, just ate his 3 days later and was raving about it.  That being said, I present you with…

not the best picture post ever...blame the Whiskey Ward

Ginger Scones with Almond Topping

Dough

3 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/3 c. sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

6 tablespoons butter, cold as you can get it, cut into roughly 12 pieces

2/3 c. diced crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

3/4 c. milk

Almond Topping

1 TBSP egg white (Weird, no?  Separate the egg, beat the white, then measure.)

3/4 c. sliced almonds (or slivered, or whatever you’ve got)

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 c sugar

Method

1. Set a rack in the middle of the middle and preheat to 400.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pulse several times to mix.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can just whisk these together in a bowl.

3.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is thoroughly incorporated and mealy, 10 to 12 times.  If operating sans FP, you can use a pastry cutter, if you don’t have one of those, get in there with your hands and get messy, baby.  The idea is to get the butter/flour mixture to look kind of like coarse sand.  Add the crystallized ginger.

4.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together, then add to the flour mixture.  Pulse several times to mix, but not until the mixture forms a ball.  Sans FP I like to take AB’s advice and stir with a rubber spatula for ten seconds and then WALK AWAY.

5. Invert the bowl over a floured work surface.  Fold the dough over on itself several times to give it a final mixing.  (My rule of thumb is several = seven…sev…get it?)

6.  Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Pat each piece into a disk, and cut each disc into six wedges…Um, I’m not good at fractions and proportions… I just cut four pieces for slightly larger scones.

7.  Arrange the scones on a prepared baking sheet. (I really hope I don’t need to tell you how to prepare your baking sheet…)  Pop the whole shebang into the fridge while you prep the almond mixture.  Generally with biscuits and other things that call for cold butter, the butter is cold for a reason.  Something to do with steam and puffiness.  Leave them out if you must, because the topping is pretty quick coming together…but I like fluffy things.

8.  Combine the egg white and almonds in a small mixing bowl and stir together so the almond pieces are evenly coated.  Then stir in the cinnamon and sugar.  Top each scone with about 2 tsps of the mixture. and use your fingers to spread it evenly over the tops.

9.  Bake the scones until they are well risen, firm, and the topping is a deep gold, about 15 minutes.

much more delicious than this mere photo can capture

I swear the pictures looked better than this at the time.  It’s not my fault anyway.  Also, I know it seems like a lot of work for a Saturday morning, but believe me I can make them the way I felt on Saturday (and I’m the princess of bad hangovers – Mom’s the queen), then so can you.  And once you make it through the minor ordeal, the payoff is big.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies with Cranberry Jam

I have a HUGE thing for the combination of lemon and poppy seed.  It’s probably the only muffin I can’t resist.  So when I was budgeting out my groceries and picking out recipes to try out, I saw this recipe at the Washington Post website and on the list it went.

But then, Smitten Kitchen posted a poppy seed lemon cake.  Setting aside the fact that Deb’s word is practically kitchen gospel, the cake and accompanying description looked amazing.  I was very tempted to try this recipe, but I’m a stubborn woman.  Plus why would you read my post when most of you probably already read hers?  It’s not like I have adorable monkey photos or anything, so I ended up making these cookies.  I’m also pretty sure I got the absolute last bag of cranberries of the season.

I must say… they were a poor substitute.  I was so smitten (hehe) by that freakin’ cake recipe that when I tried this otherwise fantastic cookie, I was majorly disappointed.  The neighbors loved it though.  My complaints were that it wasn’t moist enough (it’s a dry cookie), it was sweet enough (1/2 c. powdered sugar), and it wasn’t lemony enough (though I was the only who thought that).  That being said, I really just wanted it to be the cake, and it wasn’t.  It was a really good Linzer Torte style cookie take on the classic cake.  I brought them to a Sunday night potluck and they got eaten up, every single one.

Also – I’m still working on being collected enough in the kitchen to take process shots.  So… soon, but not yet.  Till then, bear with me.

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... or the chip in the plate

Lemon Poppy Seed Sandwich Cookies

Recipe from The Washington Post, December 9, 2009

Makes 1 dozen large cookie sandwiches or 18 medium cookie sandwiches, plus 12 to 18 mini rounds

Ingredients:

For the filling

2 cups fresh cranberries

1/4 cup water or orange juice

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

For the cookies

15 tablespoons (1 stick plus 7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at  room temperature

Scant 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Freshly grated zest from 4 or 5 lemons (about 5 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for rolling as needed

Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

For the filling:

  1. Combine the cranberries, water or juice and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid has come to a boil and the berries have popped, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or bowl of a food processor; let cool for 10 minutes, then puree until almost smooth.
  4. Strain out or remove any whole bits, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  A food mill would be useful.  It was a huge pain in the ass to do this with my fine mesh strainer.

For the cookies:

  1. Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed to blend, then on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  2. Reduce the speed to low, then add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and the tablespoon of poppy seeds, beating to incorporate.
  3. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. Add to the butter-sugar mixture and beat on low speed just until a dough forms into large clumps (on the way to becoming a ball).
  4. Divide in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  I suggest a little bit longer.  I found the first ball of dough I did, which chilled for 20, was slightly less manageable than the second ball of dough I did, which chilled for about 40.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  6. Lightly flour a work surface, or place the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Divide each portion in half (again, to form quarters of dough).
  7. Working with one quarter at a time, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/16 inch (or as thin as possible).  Then cut out your shapes.
  8. VERY CAREFULLY TRANSFER THE COOKIES TO YOUR BAKING SHEET.  These are pretty fragile, I recommend using a spatula.

    they're fragile, see the broken one?

  9. Sprinkle the cut-out cookies lightly with poppy seeds and then bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until just set but not browned.
  10. Let cool on the baking sheet while you roll out your other cookies. Repeat the baking and cooling steps until you are bereft of dough.
  11. Spread the first batch of cookies with a thin layer of the cranberry jam, leaving a narrow margin at the edges so it doesn’t smush out. Top with the cooled cookies from the second batch, pressing together gently to form cookie sandwiches.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days…if they last that long.  Mine didn’t.

Coming Soon!

Hello friends + family.

Several of you have suggested I start my own food-related blog, and I’ve finally become motivated to do so.  Probably because of all my recent kitchen based projects… and failures.

My first blog entry will be Hazelnut Espresso Toffee, to be photographed by my marvelous neighbor Rebecca Teal.

Rebecca just got back from London, where she was shooting her first ever ad campaign for an organic underpants company.  Visit her website, then check back here in a few days for my first real entry.

http://www.rebeccateal.com

photographer extraordinaire

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