Celebrating A Birthday With Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes
I don’t make cupcakes very often. Rarely. As in four times a year maybe. I have nothing against cupcakes. I am as picky with them as I am about any small bite I make, bake or eat. They’d better have a higher interestingness to frosting ratio for me to pay attention. In about everything I do, I go straight for the good stuff. I skip the fluff (rhyming unintentional) but today is special. It’s my dad’s birthday!
Joyeux Anniversaire mon p’tit papa!
I wasn’t going to say anything or blog about it but I know I have written Mother’s Day posts and birthday posts to my maman before, made macarons and cakes for my brother, shared a tear with you reminiscing about my grandparents but never about my father. Time to fix this wouldn’t you say? Note to my family: don’t expect a post per family member’s birthday or it would be the only thing people would read. I’d rather make lemon curd instead, ehehe.
My father. The unsung hero of this blog seems like! Without diving into the melodramatic, allow me to put down in writing a few things about him. These cupcakes made me think of him in many different ways. They are soft like his hugs. Tangy like his sense of humor. Creamy like…well if I say love, it sounds tacky, right? Well then, be it. Now that years have softened him. Or he’s always been a softie but spent a great deal of effort hiding it? I don’t know. All I know is that he deserves to be in the spotlight for a little while. If only on his daughter’s site.
To know my father, Jacques, is a gift I hope many more people would experience. To say that I am 50% my father and 50% my mother is no understatement. I am as reserved as I am public. I am as righteous as I am mischevious. I am as poised as I am exuberant. I am as leveled as I am dramatic (my dad being the first of all these adjectives).
My father lost a lot in his life. He’s also gained the never ending respect of his family by the way he’s always conducted himself. I could give you a few very sad sad stories to illustrate this point but like him I’d rather look on the brighter side of things so here goes the moment I realized at 6 years old that my dad would always be a "put your money where your mouth is" kind of guy. That story that makes us laugh a great deal now even if I get red cheeks every time it goes around.
I call it "the day I got (justifiably) whipped back into shape for misbehaving".
One evening my parents had an important dinner on Base (my father is a General in L’Armee de L’Air), my brother Thierry was put on babysitting duty of my brother Arnaud and myself. Everything was just dandy until I thought it’d be hilarious to throw peas across the table with my spoon, catapult style. My brothers got quiet. My father looked at me straight in the eyes and said "you do that one more time and you will get spanked. Bare bottom." For my father to say that, you know I had crossed some major line. I looked back as straight as I could hold it, lifted my fully pea-loaded spoon and catapulted them across the table.
Silence fell upon the room. My brothers were looking at me like as if I was a green alien with red antennas. Without flinching my dad commanded me to come see him after I was done with my dinner. Going up the stairs to meet my fate felt like the 12 steps up to my room suddenly were 120. Five minutes later, I was sporting my father’s hands neatly and naturally tatooed on my derriere. The one and only time this would ever happen.
However difficult it was for him (and he told me so years later), he was right. We both had to own it. He did gain my respect and my trust forever. Different times, different ways. Let me end by saying that this blog is not the place to have a "how to raise your child, slapping-no slapping" argument. This is just a story of why every time I see parents counting to 3 and then 3 more I think about that day almost 30 years ago. Not sure it would have worked the same with my brother though.
Note to my dad: it had the desired effect but no need to slap me to get your point across anymore. Bringing me chocolate will, ahaha!
My father is one heck of a man. He’s resilient and patient. He wrote a novel. He paints beautiful sceneries that my mom frames. He’s patient. Yes, I know. I’ve said it just a second ago but that’s because I debited a lot of my "father’s patience" credit this past year without collateral. He did not say a word and let me find my way and establish myself in my work. I hope that being too busy to call as promptly as before is a good indicator that I am paying him back rightfully. I hope so.
I love you Papa! Hope you spend the rest of the week celebrating, you deserve it.
Cupcake liners from Bake It Pretty.
Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes:
Note: for non gluten free readers, replace the sweet rice, millet, sorghum flours and cornstarch with 3 cups all purpose flour. Omit the xanthan gum.
I use sucanat for the lemon curd which gives it a bit of a molasses taste and a darker color but regular sugar works the same.
For the cupcakes (adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home):
1 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons coconut oil (solid stage preferably)
2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
6 egg whites (use the yolks in the buttercream)
For the lemon curd:
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
1/4 cup sucanat (or sugar)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the buttercream:
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean
Prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter 24 cupcake liners.
Sift together all the flours, cornstarch, gum, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, coconut oil and 1 cup sugar at medium speed until pale and thick. Add the vanilla, then the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Transfer the batter to a separate bowl and wash your stand mixer bowl very well.
In that clean bowl, whip the egg whites to a foam at medium speed. Increase the speed and slowly add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a glossy and firm meringue with stiff peaks.
Fold 1/3 of the whites into the flour batter to lighten it and then fold in the rest carefully not to deflate the meringue completely.
Divide in between the prepared cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes.
Let them cool completely. In the meantime, prepare the curd and buttercream.
Prepare the lemon curd:
In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk to break them up. Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Remove the curd from the heat, let cool five minutes then whisk in the butter slowly, one tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely before using.
Prepare the buttercream:
Place the yolks in a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
Bring the sugar and water to 238F in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Slowly pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks and continue to whisk until cold. Change to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Split the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds out. Add to the butter mixture. Continue to beat for a few seconds until completely smooth.
With a pairing knife or the large opening of decorating pastry tip cut a whole in the center of the cupcakes. Fill with lemon curd and top the hole back with the cupake piece you just cut. Frost as you like either with a straight or star tip or just by "spatulating" some buttercream on top.