March 23, 2010

Pocket Full O' Sunshine Cupcakes

I can't tell you how much I've been craving some sunshine lately. This cold, dreary weather is starting to drive me nuts. And of course when I need a little cheering up where do I head...yup, the kitchen! For me, little else says sunshine more than some bright fresh lemons (and my Perfect Little Helper of course).

I used to sing this song on those long sleepless nights when nothing would calm my little newborn. I don't remember if it actually worked...but at least they made pleasant happy little memories out of sleep deprivation. So the lemon idea really rang out to me, with them being bright yellow and sunshine-y and all. When I thumbed through a few different cookbooks this one recipe jumped out at me. Simple and sweet, Lemon Scented White Cake was perfect for what I needed, er...wanted. The only thing was that "white" wouldn't do, I made them yellow...but only for the occasion of course, next time I won't dye them (uhhh, no promises on that one, ok). The cake turned out soooo delicious, this will be my next go-to for a birthday cake. I don't care who's birthday it is, or even if they like lemons - it's that good.

With such a delicious tasting cake, I wanted a super-simple icing that wouldn't steal the show. That's why I opted for a whipped cream icing, oh-delish. With bright yellow, sun-shining cupcakes the only thing missing were the clear blue skies...and so it happened. Broke out the blue Wilton coloring and seconds later I hear "Oh God, what are you doing now"... from the other room no less. Well you can't have sunshine without bright happy skies, who's with me on this one?

As if the perfect lemon cupcakes and a simply blue whipped frosting weren't enough I decided these just had to be filled. It's true, I don't know when to stop.

See how easy that was, but I still seriously need a lesson on frosting cupcakes. I'll make finger foods...and there'll be wine...pretty please?! Well anyway, back to business - here are those super-yummy cupcakes I told you about, and if you don't like icing they are equally tasty naked (I even hid put a few plain ones aside). No matter how you eat them, enjoy!

Lemon Scented Cake (adapted from Perfect Cookies, Cakes, and Chocolate)

2 C all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 C sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon extract (I also threw in a quick squeeze of fresh juice, but that's just me)
1/2 C eggs whites (about 4 large eggs worth)
1 1/4 C milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Set a rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare cupcake tins with liners or cooking spray (or you can prepare two 9-inch round cake pans) and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar on medium speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in the zest and extract (and squeeze of fresh juice if you're using it).

In a medium bowl whisk together the egg whites and the milk.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat until smooth, scraping down bowl and beaters after. Beat in half of the egg mixture until incorporated, then beat in another 1/3 of the flour mixture. Scrape down bowl and beaters again. Beat in remaining egg mixture, then remaining flour mixture. Make sure all of the flour is mixed well.

Divide the batter equally into prepared baking pans and smooth the tops. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes then transfer (or invert if using the cake pans) onto wire racks to cool completely.

Ice, or fill, as desired - or don't, either way I know you'll love them. If you're a plan-aheader (HA!) you can double wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and freeze, or refrigerate for several days.

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