April 12, 2017

Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Ok I'll admit it: I like Easter better than Passover. I'm aware that this makes me a horrible Jew but I won't apologize for wanting to eat carbs. Brisket and matzo ball soup are delicious, and there are ways to dress up matzo to make it a bit more palatable for dessert (take it in bark or cookie form). However, Easter foods embrace foods of all kinds, especially since Lent ends and you can eat whatever you want again. It also lends itself much better to cute cupcakes than Passover, since there's something about the 10 plagues that just doesn't seem fit for cake decorating. I'd much rather eat cupcakes topped with piles of frosting flowers and Easter bunny ears than bugs and boils, but maybe that's just me.

What's great about these cupcakes is that you can make the base recipe all year round and decorate them how you like. The raspberry lemonade flavors remind me of Spring, but you can get raspberry jam and lemons regardless of the season for an endless stream of tasty cupcakes. These are essentially lemon cupcakes with a swirl of raspberry jam, and you can switch it up with different citrus fruits and jam flavors. The key to infusing the lemony flavor into every bite is my usual trick: rubbing the zest into the sugar so the fragrance permeates every bit of batter. Like a typical cupcake batter, the sugar and butter are beat together, the eggs and vanilla are added, then the dry ingredients are alternated with the liquid ingredients. It's a pretty standard cupcake recipe with upgrades from the lemon sugar and a splash of lemon juice.

If you've read any of my previous recipes you'll know I have a bit of an obsession with buttermilk, and I actually omitted it here in favor of regular milk. That's because all that extra citrus packs an extra punch of acid, and the reasonably acidic buttermilk would be overkill. It would also impact leavening, and these cupcakes are already perfectly light and fluffy.

Now for the raspberry part of the raspberry lemonade cupcakes. I find that a dollop of jam swirled into the center of each cupcake is sufficient. However, if you really like raspberries (and they're almost in season, so you'll be looking for ways to use them), you can add some raspberry puree to the batter or make a raspberry frosting, depending on how you plan on decorating the cupcakes. I usually use a store-bought seedless raspberry jam, but if this cupcake baking gets you channeling your inner Ina Garten, you can always step up to the challenge and make your own. I've been learning all about pectins in my food science classes this year, but homemade jam really isn't that hard, especially if you use it quickly and don't have to worry about microbial growth and spoiling.

I stuck to my basic vanilla buttercream recipe to keep things simple and make decorating easier. Like I said, you can always add some flavoring like raspberry or more lemon, but I wanted special Easter decorations that required a white base that could be dyed the necessary colors. To make my frosting, I whipped some very soft butter with powdered sugar, vanilla, and a splash of milk until soft and creamy. You want it to be soft enough to spread on the cupcakes but stiff enough to hold its shape when piped if you're making flowers, so don't be afraid to split the frosting in two and add a little extra milk or a little extra sugar for softer and stiffer versions of the frosting.

As you can see from all the pictures, I made two types of decorations. The first, the Easter bunny ears, couldn't be easier. I just swiped some of my soft buttercream on each cupcake and topped with a marshmallow. To make the marshmallows look like bunny ears, I cut them in half with food scissors diagonally and quickly dipped the exposed sticky side in pink sugar. You can position them in the frosting so they look like little ears, and it's a quick and easy cupcake topper with adorably festive results. I also like that they're not only edible but you want to eat them; too often cupcakes are loaded with fondant and other decorations that look great but aren't particularly tasty.

My other cupcakes are covered in flowers. I got a set of Russian decorating tips for Hannukah, which are giant metal tips punched so that they pipe out a variety of flowers with minimal effort on your end. I've tried to master piping roses on nails and various flowers with petal tips, and I can honestly say that these are much better. They weren't too expensive and I got a set with at least 2 dozen kinds of flowers, and all you have to do is stick them in a piping bag and squeeze for a variety of intricate blooms. I played around with two of them here and added some foliage with a leaf tip I had lying around. If you're really into cake decorating and love frosting flowers as much as I do, I highly recommend looking into these Russian tips because I was able to pipe tons of flowers in the time it would take me to make one subpar rose on a nail. Please note that I'm not getting paid to advertise these and didn't receive any free samples (but if you want to send me free samples I wouldn't complain).

The way I decorated these cupcakes is perfect for any Easter festivities you're planning for the weekend, but the base recipe and the flowers would be great for any occasion. You could probably repurpose the bunny ears for a themed party or something since they're just so adorable, too. Cupcakes just seem so much more elegant than stuffing your face with a giant slice of cake, though full-size raspberry cakes can look equally gorgeous. These cupcakes make me feel like I'm at some fancy luncheon rather than stress-eating hangrily in my pajamas between endless midterms, so I'd say that's a win.

1 Cup Sugar
1 Lemon, Zested & Juiced
1 Stick Butter, Softened
2 Eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Milk
3/4 Cup Raspberry Jam
Frosting (See Below)

Heat oven to 350F and line a cupcake tin with paper cups.

Rub the sugar with the lemon zest until fragrant. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and lemon sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk the milk and lemon juice together. Add the flour to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions.

Scoop the batter into the cups and swirl with the raspberry jam. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until golden and cooked through. When cool, frost with buttercream or other icing and top with marshmallow bunny ears (see description above), icing flowers, or any other decoration.

Beat 1/12 sticks softened butter in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until fluffy and light. Gradually add 3 cups powdered sugar, then beat in 1T milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Add more milk or powdered sugar as necessary.

Makes 12
Cupcake Recipe Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

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