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Celebrating A Birthday With Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

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.

Lemon Curd

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).

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

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.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

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!

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

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.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

Cupcake liners from Bake It Pretty.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes:

Makes 24

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.

To assemble:
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.

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Prim and Pimp June 16, 2010 um 10:43 pm

i love cupcakes…i actually collect cupcake recipes and never end up getting around to baking any of them…but this cupcake recipe is to die for, I am actually going to try to attempt the impossible.

Erica June 16, 2010 um 10:46 pm

OH, Yum! These looks so pretty and delicious!

Sari @ Cook Your Dream June 16, 2010 um 11:03 pm

What a lovely post, love the way you talk about your father! He must be a very nice person! And I'm sure he's very proud of you!
Your cupcakes look wonderful with the lemon curd filling. YUM.

Georgia Pellegrini June 16, 2010 um 11:19 pm

What a sweet ode to your father and perfect timing too…just a few days before Father's Day (And I love your cupcake wrappers!)

Terry June 16, 2010 um 11:24 pm

Where did you get those adorable green papers? they look like panattoniette wappers (mini panattones) but in the cutest shade!

Anonymous June 16, 2010 um 11:57 pm

I've never made cupcakes but I'm going to try! I love your blog, especially the photos, everything looks even yummier thanks to the way you arrange and present things.

m June 17, 2010 um 12:13 am

:] That was a beautiful post–I'm sure your dad will appreciate it very much.

haircutting in high heels June 17, 2010 um 1:08 am

absolutely beautiful, the cupcakes and the tribute to your father.

Callie Grayson June 17, 2010 um 1:14 am

beautiful post about your father! He sounds like a wonderful man and role model.
yeah, i have to agree about the counting to 3 part, then counting again. ha! like that would have worked with me, no way.
the cupcakes looks amazingly tasty!!
I will have to try these, both gluten free and with flour.

Barbara June 17, 2010 um 2:00 am

Your Dad sounds like a delightful man.I send birthday greetings to him.

Asha @ FSK June 17, 2010 um 2:13 am

lovely post! Happy Birthday to your Dad! 🙂 beautiful cupcakes for a clearly remarkable man 🙂

zenchef June 17, 2010 um 3:50 am

Ton papa a le meme nom que mon papa. 🙂
Alors Joyeux Anniversaire, Monsieur Jacques!

What a beautiful post this is! 🙂

Zenny June 17, 2010 um 4:27 am

I just keep smiling while looking at those cuties 😡

K and S June 17, 2010 um 5:31 am

such a delicious way to celebrate!

Rosa's Yummy Yums June 17, 2010 um 5:42 am

A beautiful way of celebrating your Dad's birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire!

Those cupcakes look mighty delicious! Lemon is one of my favorite flavors…



Rosa's Yummy Yums June 17, 2010 um 5:42 am

A beautiful way of celebrating your Dad's birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire!

Those cupcakes look mighty delicious! Lemon is one of my favorite flavors…



Irene June 17, 2010 um 6:22 am

The happiest of birthdays to your dad! It's funny, almost exactly the same thing happened to me at a dinner party my parents had when I was five, only sans peas.

Paula June 17, 2010 um 6:43 am

with that filling it must be awesome!

martina June 17, 2010 um 9:09 am

Today (the 17th) is my father birthday too. Sad that I couldn't make him cupcakes for his birthday, he's in Italy (and I'm not). Beautiful post, remembering one of the most important people in everyone life. Even if very often dads don't take the credit they deserve. Enjoy the cupcakes (and your dad)
cheers Martina

Unknown June 17, 2010 um 10:48 am

A very nice post. Happy Birthday to your dad. And the cupcakes look beautiful and delicious.

Have a nice day.

Maria June 17, 2010 um 12:51 pm

Happy Birthday to your dad. The cupcakes are the perfect birthday treat!

bunkycooks June 17, 2010 um 1:13 pm

The tribute to your father is lovely. It is funny how a few moments from our childhood are never forgotten. The cupcakes are beautiful and perfect for this birthday post.

Kanchana June 17, 2010 um 1:32 pm

Not only that I share my birthday with your dad, but also that spanking story. I only had one from my dad when I was 5 and I remember for life, too. He is such a good guy and your dad's story reminds me of him. Thanks for sharing the recipe and your story.

Dewi June 17, 2010 um 1:53 pm

These cupcakes look perfect to celebrate your father's birthday.

Happy birthday to your father Helene.

notyet100 June 17, 2010 um 2:33 pm

awesome post

Anonymous June 17, 2010 um 2:49 pm

My name is Anna and I live in Mexico. I totally love your blog & all the recipes in it!!!
Actually, i´m only 15-years old
but i love to cook, especially desserts; until 5 minutes ago, I wasn´t sure about studying for become a chef, now.. I have no doubt about it!
you inspired me a lot! thnks for posting the recipes, I made sticky buns yesterday (with your recipe, of course) and they were delicious! just telling you, i made them yesterday, today.. they´re gone! please.. write me back, i just want some of your advices & a "why did you study for this?" "what do you love about french food?"
thnks again..
My e-mail adress: [email protected]

Laetitia June 17, 2010 um 3:37 pm

Your cupcakes are so cute! It's a good idea to core them to be fill them up with this delicious lemon curd!

linda June 17, 2010 um 3:48 pm

happy birthday to your father…what an incredible post today & truly a tribute to him!
& it figures helen that you would go to adapting a thomas keller recipe to honor your father! well done!

Georgia | The Comfort of Cooking June 17, 2010 um 4:12 pm

Those little cups… Be still my heart! Absolutely adorable.

monica June 17, 2010 um 4:17 pm

Sob!!!touching tribute to your Papa, Helene, I bet he is as proud of you as you are of him….
Happy Birthday.

Librarian Who June 17, 2010 um 5:49 pm

Your blog is simply beautiful and I love your writing style. I can't wait to try out some of your recipes. Happy birthday to your father! This was such a sweet post.

Nooblet June 17, 2010 um 5:54 pm

What a wonderfully touching post.

I feel like the bond between a father and a daughter is one that cannot be found anywhere else, and the bond you share with your father seems especially sweet.

I too remember being occasionally punished for misbehaving and I now so thank my parents for their strength in doing that.

I'm reading this just before I go to bed, and want to thank you for what will surely be sweet dreams tonight.

And beautiful cupcakes, of course.

Patricia Scarpin June 17, 2010 um 6:05 pm

Helen, this story reminds of when my younger sister was 3 (she's now 16) and threw a tantrum in a supermarket because she wanted to buy lots of candy and my dad had told her she would have to choose only one. He did the same thing your father did and that was the first – and the last – time she ever did something like that. I looked after her since she was four months old and she was the most adorable kid ever. 🙂

Lovely post, lovely cupcakes – you know I love lemon! – for a lovely dad. Happy birthday to him!


fresh365 June 17, 2010 um 8:18 pm

What a cute tribute to your father, and just in time for fathers day as well! My dad is also patient and notoriously happy, but when he means business, he means business. He once washed my brothers & my mouths out with soap (after years of threats- apparently this was the norm in his house growing up w/5 kids…). But I will attribute him to my being polite and rarely swearing!

Soma June 17, 2010 um 9:07 pm

What a remarkable post!! Loved reading every bit of it. He would probably get chocolates for you now 😉

Happy Birthday to the very special person.

Helen June 17, 2010 um 9:19 pm

Your dad sound like a fabulous person, I hope he has a happy birthday. Love these cupcakes, they are so cute and I love lemon so must be delicious too!

Anonymous June 17, 2010 um 9:37 pm

What a sick and disgusting story.

You say you want people to have the pleasure of meeting this savage?

Trust me, this self-respecting woman does not wish to meet him.

And I'm done visiting this blog, got tired of the excessive white on the photos as well.

terri June 17, 2010 um 9:54 pm

what a lovely tribute to your dad. happy birthday to your dad!

Josie June 17, 2010 um 10:22 pm

A lovely tribute to your father….and these may just be the most adorable cupcakes ever!

Cindy June 17, 2010 um 11:18 pm

your father is a man of his word. he said if you did it one more time he was going to spank you. you did, so did he and you learned what to expect in the future. we're all lucky neither one of you holds a grudge because those cupcakes look divine ;)! happy birthday to helene's dad and happy father's day this sunday, too!

Chris June 17, 2010 um 11:23 pm

Helen, I love this story about your dad! The bond between dad and daughter is so sweet and one I always wished I had.

I can so see you catapulting your peas…even now. LOL

And, I also love your response to the anon lady. Seriously? lol…

Wenderly June 17, 2010 um 11:48 pm

Real and beautiful and from the heart. Simply lovely.

Lori June 18, 2010 um 12:30 am

I find that a lot of people who do not have children tend to be rather harsh on those that do. Like anonymous probably does not have children. Time out simply doesnt work when they say, "no". While I never think excess is good. A little fear in them never hurt anything. So I say hurray to your Father. Certainly understand that it was very difficult for him to do that, probably most especially to his daughter. But the fact that he only had to do it one time really says it all about the caliber of this man and you as a person as a result of both your parents. Whew. A little verbose I know.

Meanwhile, these cupcakes are lovely. Lemon is always refreshing.

Helene June 18, 2010 um 12:39 am

Anonymous: thank you for the good laugh re-my dad. Yes, absolutely a savage. We all want to tie him up and leave him alone in a cave. Every single day. Thanks for giving me your IP address too so I could check it out and then block it.
You're a gem!

material girl June 18, 2010 um 1:01 am

i made lemon curd last weekend! now i have something to use it in! thanks 🙂

Vivian June 18, 2010 um 3:54 am

Helene, you have such a great disposition. Your father sounds like a wonderful man! My own would have done the same thing and I have so much respect and love for him. Thank you for posting this.

Gen June 18, 2010 um 10:33 am

They look very enjoyable and your pictures! Quel délice!

Amanda June 18, 2010 um 4:36 pm

Gorgeous and they sound so delicious!

Ilaria June 18, 2010 um 10:49 pm

Hello I love your recipes but I do not know perfect English so I have difficulty in putting them into practice, how do I translate? Many blogs have the Google translator that simplifies things.
A kiss and best wishes to your father.

Cristie June 19, 2010 um 5:18 am

Beautifully written, your father sounds like a great man. Amazing what one spoon of peas can do to a relationship . . . Your cupcakes are outstanding!

Anonymous June 19, 2010 um 4:39 pm

Love the post, the story and the recipe! ..going to try them for the Fourth of July but I might have to give them a test run sooner than that :).

…Savage? really? ha! In that case, I think a lot of us probably had savages for parents. I'm certainly a better woman because of it and am thankful that I have a respect for my parents that a lot of kids don't have these days. (respect and LOVE..). The world could stand to have a lot more men like your father

Ash June 19, 2010 um 7:51 pm

Lovely post!! And these are just truly wonderful!

Kitchen Butterfly June 19, 2010 um 8:17 pm

:-). Go girl,….I love the force and courage with which you stood up and flicked those peas. Determined to bear the consequences…..Oh the tales of children happy, all over the world. I won;t say how incredibly gorgeous the photos are. I wont!

veggie wedgie June 19, 2010 um 9:20 pm

How weird-I rarely make cupcakes too-i don't like all that frosting!, but I just did a cupcake post as well!
Also,they way you describe your dad sounds A LOT like my dad.I relate to everything you said… Happy Birthday to your dad! Peace

Gwen June 20, 2010 um 4:29 am

Helene…I just attempted to make these but the centers sunk in a ton after baking. Is this probably because I overfolded the meringue? (or maybe my meringue wasn't fluffy enough to begin with?)

Aside from that, the cake tastes divine!

Seattle Pastry Girl June 20, 2010 um 12:37 pm

What a sweet and lovely way to celebrate your dad. Your posts inspire me..thank you for sharing.

argone June 20, 2010 um 4:30 pm

quels jolis cupcakes ! j'aime beaucoup le papier que tu utilises pour les entourer, c'est ravissant.

a June 20, 2010 um 9:58 pm

Your dad is a good dad. He instinctively knew he was saving you from years of worse punishment by showing a boundary and keeping his word. It doesn't work with every child, but a lot of children only need that one little swat for behaving for years.

Now having said that, I love the yellow candies in the cupcakes. Makes it just right.

sabīne June 23, 2010 um 8:10 am

I made these cupcakes yesterday and they tasted super-awesome, but I somehow messed up the buttercream. :/

Momgateway June 30, 2010 um 2:45 am

…dainty and elegant cakes…happy birthday to your dad…

Evan@swEEts June 30, 2010 um 8:13 pm

What gorgeous cupcakes! And a wonderful story about your father 🙂 Love checking out your blog..and those cupcake liners are to die for!

Geisslein July 1, 2010 um 10:33 am

they look so perfect and yummy – would love to eat them now! have a lovely day today. greetings from sunny and hot germany, geisslein

alo428 July 11, 2011 um 7:52 pm

I just finished making these cupcakes and everything was flawless until the buttercream. The cake is light and fluffy and the curd was delicious, but i couldn't get the buttercream to be creamy. Is it a typo when it says to use room temperature butter? I ended up with more of a glaze, a delicious glaze, but was hoping for a more traditional creamy buttercream as shown in the photos. Any ideas as to what I may have done wrong?

Helene July 12, 2011 um 6:05 am

alo428: sounds like the buttercream base was not cool enough prior to incorporate the butter. No typo, it is supposed to be room temperature but the base should not be warm at all.

Amanda August 14, 2011 um 10:24 pm

I made (or attempted) to make your lemon curd today. I didn't temper the eggs correctly, so I got lemon egg drop soup instead! 😀 Oh well. I can always do it again…

KatieIsRunningCrazy November 29, 2011 um 4:33 am

Just finished making these cupcakes for my birthday (yes I made my own birthday cupcakes–soo glad I did!) I was really worried about the batter, and the buttercream, but it all came out wonderful! Its like angel food cake, with lemon-curd-awesomeness inside, and (my first) an amazing buttercream! It all came together, despite my concerns of what it looked like. Amazing stuff, thanks so much for the post!

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