But for now, I can celebrate in finding Lemon! I was becoming seriously disillusioned with the first couple recipes that came out either dense or crumbly (ugh) or not sweet enough, etc. In them, the lemon juice is added to the batter and there is a significant increase in the eggs. In the last, winning recipe, the eggs are normal, there is only lemon ZEST in the batter. Now, not lemony enough, you cry? WELL. Ina Garten thinks of everything. The lemon juice is sweetened in a saucepan and spooned over the cake for a perfectly lemony but sweet jolt of flavor that infuses through every bite.
The first two attempts I took a shot at different lemon buttercreams (as you'll see in some pictures as the piped icing) but it was just okay. To me, lemon cake is too subtle for the almost-greasy flavor of buttercreams. Ina's recipe called for a simple glaze over the top but her recipe was also for two pound cake pans that are a presentation onto themselves. I needed an icing for cupcakes and a glaze just won't do. I found a very yummy cream cheese frosting recipe on All Recipes but made a few changes, taking out the lemon zest in favor of a smoother, gentler taste so the lemon-on-lemon icing-and-cake combo wasn't overpowering. It came out lovely and they go terrifically together!
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest lightly packed (6 to 8 large lemons - Use only fresh lemon juice and zest)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two muffin pans with paper liners or non-stick cooking spray.
1. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You cannot beat too much at this stage so get it very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Separately, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla.
3. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Spoon into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
4. Cook 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cupcakes are done, cool for 5 minutes, then set them onto a rack set over a tray and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Makes about 3 cups
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups confectioners' sugar
1. Beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, lemon rind, and vanilla together until smooth and light.
2. Add confectioners' sugar slowly. Beat until creamy. Add more powder sugar or juice as needed for desired consistency.