I’m assuming that by the name alone you realize there can be nothing bad about these cupcakes. I have yet to find someone who doesn’t like lemon meringue pie (and if you are that person, don’t tell me, because you’ll shatter my entire world). I was absolutely craving lemon meringue pie (no, this does not mean that I’m pregnant, it just means that I like pie), but I wanted something I could sit on the couch and eat with my hands. Sometimes it’s just that kind of day, you know.
And so, my lemon meringue cupcakes were born, and it only required one trip to the store because I was out of sugar. Seriously, how does one run out of sugar? It would have been great if I had realized this the night before when I was at the grocery store. But, once you get lemon meringue cupcakes into your head, there’s just no turning back. No matter how crappy the weather. No matter how many children you need to bundle up to go with you.
A warning: yes, there are a lot of pictures. Look at it as me being photo happy, and not that these take a lot of extra effort. If you were making regular cupcakes you’d have to make the cake and the icing, so the curd is only one more thing. One more, very much worth it, thing.
See this face. This is the face my Anna made when I sat up on the couch and said “Hey, we need to make Lemon Meringue Cupcakes! Sound good?” I took this as a giant yes.
This was my non-helper. Maggie had no interest in making cupcakes, she had been quite happy upstairs on the couch with Oliver and I. She was not nearly as happy on the floor in the kitchen.
First off, get out three lemons. Zest them, and juice them.
Voila! (also, ignore the changes in photo quality, I’m way too tired to adjust the colour on the ones I haven’t already)
Someone’s perking up a little bit. Ok, maybe I said the word “treat”.
There’s my helper! He LOVES lemons, he’ll just eat the slices raw, so he was quite excited about these cupcakes. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
In a second bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each one.
All the eggs are in now, looking good.
Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest.
Now it’s time to start add the flour and liquids in alternating additions. First, a third of the flour gets mixed in.
Then, half of the milk and half of the lemon juice.
Then half of the remaining flour.
Then the rest of the milk and lemon juice.
Now mix in the last of the flour.
Voila! Batter is done!
Fill the muffin tins up three-quarters of the way. Make sure that the tins are very well greased and floured (I didn’t want to use papers for these cupcakes, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t). Put in the oven and bake until just lightly browned at the edges, and a toothpick comes out clean.
Perfect! Take them out of the tins as quickly as you can and let completely cool on a wire rack.
Now yes, these are delicious as is, but let’s one better them shall we! I mean, we’ve come this far already.
Alright, while those cupcakes were baking, I started on the curd. A note on this: a lot of people insist on doing this over a double boiler, and while I understand why, I simply do not have the patience. As long as you stir it constantly and cook it over medium heat, you’ll have no issues. Ok, put the sugar and eggs in a medium saucepan.
Whisk them together.
Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter.
Here’s where I forgot to take a picture. Whisk it over medium heat until it thickens, about 5 minutes, maybe a little bit longer. What you want it to do is coat the back of a spoon like this, so that when you run your finger through it, the curd doesn’t run. When I make this for an actual pie filling, I let it thicken up a little bit longer, but for these cupcakes this is perfect. This way, the curd will still be runny enough at room temperature to soak into the cake a little bit.
Now, run the curd through a fine mesh strainer. This just gets out any little bits of cooked egg that are bound to happen.
I didn’t feel like cleaning a pastry bag, so I cut a hole in the corner of a ziploc bag and pushed my cupcake filling tip through it. Worked perfectly well.
If you don’t have one of these long tips, simply cut a cone out of the top of your cupcakes, use a spoon to fill with some curd, then replace the cone. Here’s very quick illustration (it’s late and I’m tired from being up with a sick boy, so cut me some slack on the lack of pretty please!).
Here are the filled cupcakes. Don’t worry if some flows out, just wipe it up…I’m not telling you to use your finger to do this, but I’m also not telling you not to.
On to the meringue! Put the cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and water in a small sauce pan and whisk over medium heat until thick and clear. This is the way I make a fool proof meringue that browns nicely and is quick and easy.
Here’s the clear cornstarch mixture.
In a medium bowl, put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until foamy.
Perfectly foamy, now mix in the vanilla, then slowly add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.
Once you have nice soft peaks, add the cornstarch mixture and beat to stiff peaks.
Put the cooled and filled cupcakes on a baking sheet and top them with the meringue. Messy is always good here, it looks so pretty once browned. I did make two giant cupcakes for Oliver and Bo. Throw in the oven for about 5 minutes, until nice and golden brown.
P.E.R.F.E.C.T. Seriously, I think these are the best cupcakes I’ve ever made, and they’re sure to be a life long favorite.
Let’s take a look inside, shall we? See how the curd isn’t just one large mass, but soaked into the cake a little bit. This is because we didn’t thicken up the curd to pie consistency. This is marvelous.
Let’s end on a giant, delicious note, shall we.
Here’s the printable:
- 3 cups flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tbsp butter (¼ cup)
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- ½ cup water
- 8 tbsp white sugar, divided
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 egg whites
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- Pinch salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF with a rack in the middle position. Grease and flour your cupcake pans well if not using papers.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
- Beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half of the milk and half of the lemon juice. Repeat with half of remaining flour, then with all remaining milk and lemon juice, and then the last of the flour. Don’t over mix, you just need the flour incorporated so there are no dry patches.
- Fill the greased muffin cups ¾ off the way full, then bake for 17-20 minutes, until the edges are just barely browning and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack as soon as possible to cool completely.
- While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the lemon curd. In a medium sauce pan, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place over medium heat and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter. Whisk constantly until the butter melts.
- Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until thickened. It should coat the back of a spoon and hold its place when you draw your finger through it, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg.
- Set aside to cool slightly, but do not refrigerate.
- While the lemon cupcakes and curd cools, make the meringue. In a small saucepan whisk together the water, 2 tablespoons of the white sugar, and the cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until it thickens and turns clear, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a large glass or metal bowl beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until foamy.
- Add the vanilla, than gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, beating constantly, until soft peaks form.
- Beat in the cornstarch mixture until stiff peaks form.
- When the cupcakes are completely cooled, you want to add the lemon curd. The lemon curd should be room temperature or just a touch warmer.
- There are two ways to add the curd. The first is to use a piping bag with a cupcake filling tip. Simply push the tip into the center of the cupcake through the top and squeeze in about a tablespoon of the filling; you’ll see the cupcake swell a little bit. If you don’t have a filling tip, simply use a sharp knife to cut out a “cone” shape from the top of the cupcake, then add the filling to the center with a spoon, and replace the removed “cone”.
- After the lemon curd has been added, top each cupcake with the meringue, and then place on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 375ºF until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, but watch carefully.
- Keep assembled and cooled cupcakes in the fridge. They’ll last for a few days this way.