Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Meringue Cookies

Last week I had a cupcake baking date with a friend.We made vanilla cupcakes and decided to cover them with lemon curd and top them with pink meringue cookies instead of frosting them. They were delicious and if, I do say so myself, quite adorable. We used my go-to vanilla cake recipe and a recipe for lemon curd that I've used before with equally delicious results. This was my first time making meringues, and they were so easy and pretty that I will certainly be making them again. Below are the recipes that we used.

Vanilla Cupcakes (makes approx 12)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside. (We didn’t have buttermilk on hand so we made our own, which is very easy to do and an excellent culinary trick to know!)

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. These next steps are easiest when done with an electric mixer, but doable my hand if you don’t have one! Mix in the butter piece by piece until the texture is uniform and there are no unincorporated bits of butter. Slowly add the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition. When all the wet ingredients have been added, mix on medium-high speed until the batter is light and fluffy.

Lemon Curd
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 stick ( 6 tbls.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
6 large egg yolks
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 4 lemons (should be about 3/4 cup)
zest of 4 lemons

Juice and zest your lemons. Then put all of your ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until all of the butter is melted. At this point the whole mixture will look kind of curdled and gross. Have no fear! Keep stirring over low heat until it becomes smooth and uniform in color. When it’s thick enough to coat the back of your spoon, and when you create a groove in the coating with your finger and it doesn’t run into the track, remove your curd from heat, pour into your storage container of choice, and chill in the fridge! FYI it keeps for a while so make a bunch!

Meringue Cookies
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cup superfine or caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Food coloring of choice

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line sheets with parchment or foil.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Beat egg whites until they form soft beaks, then add the sugar a little at a time. At this point your egg whites should be really shiny. Continue to beat until whites form stiff peaks. Add in vanilla and food coloring. We used a few drops of red to achieve the bright pink we wanted to go with the yellow of the lemon curd. Pipe the batter out onto baking sheets in whatever shape you want, then bake until crispy. This could take up to a hour and a half, so be patient! Once they are done baking I suggest letting them cool for a while before eating in order to get the crispy sweet crunch meringues are known for!