This cupcake isn't it.
I'm referring to my oven. We are constantly at war. It teams up with my smoke detector to gangbang my culinary self-esteem on a regular basis. Up until Friday night, I'd never burnt a single thing in my kitchen...yet I had set off the fire alarm approximately 47581736 times. Roasting veggies? BEEP BEEP BEEP. Toasting coconut? WAH WAH WAH. Preheating the empty oven? YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS. I call my oven Beast #1 and my smoke alarm Beast #2. They're almost as bad as the neighborhood boys I used to babysit who tied me up, pushed me down the stairs and beat me with a rubber snake. Mary Poppins ain't got nothin' on me.
No surprise, then, that when I first tried to make these cupcakes, I ignored the protests of Beast #2 when it raised its voice (à la Hilary Duff...but really, similar pitch and quality) about six minutes into the bake time. I propped open my back door and went along my merry way, blissfully unaware of the fact that my tartly fragrant and artfully compounded cake batter was meeting a slow death at the hands of Beast #1. By the time I returned to pull my lemony babies from the oven, a fine haze had developed along the ceiling of my kitchen, and the stench of burnt cupcakes and failure was palpable. Turns out you can't impatiently cram two pans into your oven at once, doomed edges grazing the sides. I briefly mourned the loss of the expensive cake flour I had finally caved and purchased. Then I pelted rock hard would-be cupcakes at the ground from my third floor balcony in an all-consuming rage.
My baking has come a long way since September, but cupcake success had heretofore eluded me. Either the tops would dome in an utterly unfrostable manner (what do you think you are, a goddamn muffin?), or the edges would burn in cancer-y ombre, or I'd overmix and end up with something that could compete in the tuff 'n' chewy olympics (gluten bonds! Science! Baking iz edjucayshunal!). One more failure and I might have abandoned the noble cupcake forever. Resigned myself to trekking downtown to Sprinkles when a craving struck, and instead devoted myself to perfecting the art of dipping bite-size banana chunks in semisweet chocolate (best fake dessert ever).
But I'm a Taurus. And therefore resilient. And I'm thrilled to announce that there will be many more homemade cupcakes in my future, because my second stab at this recipe churned out something divine. I'm not normally one for fruity desserts, but I gobbled these up with what can only be described as relish. It's possible that it can also be described as gusto. But, I mean, English is my first language, so I don't want to make any assumptions.
These cupcakes are spring in a black and white toile cupcake liner. Thanks to cake flour and a hefty dose of citrus, they boast a light, fluffy crumb and a subtle symmetry of tart and sweet . And the frosting? Don't even get me started. Just go make some cupcakes. I'll be right here hooked up to this IV of raspberry buttercream when you get back.
2 cups cake flour (just do it. Makes all the difference)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 jar lemon curd
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In another large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix in the lemon juice and zest.
3. Using a ladle or a 1/4 measuring cup, spoon your lemony fresh batter into lined cupcake pans (you did remember to line your cupcake pans, right?). Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Come. Pleat. Lee. Unless you like huge messes and things that crumble to bits in your grubby hands.
4. Cut a cone-shaped segment from the top of each cupcake. Trim off the bottom of the cone (use the extra crumbs to make a few cake balls), fill the hole with about a tablespoon of lemon curd and cover with cone remainder. Makes 18 cupcakes.
For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup raspberries (use fresh if you can afford them. I used frozen, thawed to room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1. Beat first four ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
2. With mixer on low, add sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, blending fully after each addition, until desired consistency is reached.
Oh. Did I mention these were vanishing cupcakes?