I was sketching desserts and jotting down recipe notes the other night when I asked B. if he had any more suggestions for the box of Meyer lemons we had in the fridge. A whole box! Thanks to my dear Mary of Alpine Berry I am now host to a whole crisper full of gorgeous homegrown Meyer lemons from her tree. I had just finished churning lemon ice cream and lemon sorbet but his eyes lit up and he exclaimed "Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes, please!" To which I reply "Sacre bleu! You want me to turn zee oven on?!". But he’d been really fantastic with these lemons that I had to cave and make him cupcakes.
The lemons arrived while I was visiting Veronica (I will put a page up soon on how to get your own Pastry Bootcamp) and I had completely forgotten to warn him. When I finally remembered, some of them were already showing a sad face. You’d never believe what my man did: he washed each and everyone of them, dried them, segmented the ones that were going bad, saved the good parts, placed the others in the crisper by order of ripeness, the sad ones toward the front, the happy ones in the back. Now you have to understand that this was coming from a guy who does not bake or cook, rarely steps foot in the kitchen unless he is on dishes duty. Bless his heart! You rock Bill!!
So, you can imagine that when he asked for cupcakes, I could not say no even though they are not part of my usual baking repertoire. It’s a French quirk nothing more. The addition of my homemade Limoncello is purely because we have been enjoying remembering family stories while sipping on the liquor. The more we sip, the more details we seem to remember about a particular afternoon spent with my uncle Jacques one winter. If you have ever had homemade moonshine, this will sound all too familiar, if not, well, give it a try. You’ll have something funny to tell your kids.
Whenever we go home to France to visit my family, we have to do "the rounds". Lots of uncles, aunts and cousins inviting us to lunch or dinner around a lot of food, good wine, tons of stories and an obligatory after dinner "digestif" (an alcoholic sip to help with your disgestion). A nice sip of cognac or Grand Marnier alongside a steaming espresso. Over the years, Bill has become very fond of this tradition and was looking forward to the much talked about "Jacques' moonshine". After lunch, my uncle prepped coffee and pulled out from the liquor cabinet a bottle of Perrier, popped it open and set it in front us. Bill looked surprised until a waft of it came to tickle his nose. This was no Perrier alright!
We drank our espresso and my uncle leaned towards Bill to fill his cup with moonshine. B. got concerned that there was still a small stain from the espresso at the bottom and asked if it would not be best to wash it out first. We *all* looked at him and giggled. Jacques, in his usual prankster’s way, told Bill to look very closely while he poured. At the first drop, all remaining coffee stains disappeared. "See, just like bleach!". Bill got this extremely worried look on his face and I knew exactly what he was thinking "Oh dear God, these Frenchies are trying to kill me!" We all raised our cups, toasted the newcomer to the family and drank our moonshine straight. Silence followed. Then Bill coughed and exclaimed "works your intestines like bleach would too!" to which we replied "well yes, that’s our interpretation of digestif!".
When we first had a taste of the Limoncello I made, we both squinted and remembered the day my uncle tried to bleach Bill’s stomach with homemade moonshine. I had made it very very strong. But what can you expect when the recipe came straight from an Italian boat captain shoving a bottle of his own 180 proof alcohol in my basket?! Ha! Good thing I had planned to dilute it with lemon juice and more sugar! Still…way way strong to be sipped easily so I have used it as a soaking syrup for cakes a great deal and made us a little tipsy on more than one occasion!
These cupcakes are clearly on the adult side with Limoncello in the batter and cream cheese frosting. I do make an unconventional lemon curd as I don’t use a whole lot of eggs and no butter. This one was on the (very) tart side with a lot less sugar than most recipes call for. I love a good Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream on my cakes but since they were per Bill’s request, I went with his favorite, cream cheese frosting with Meyer lemon zest and liquor. I topped each one with redcurrants because we love to eat them fresh. Tart on tart! Now that’s my kind of Happy Hour!
One year ago: Maple Cardamom Mousse and Strawberry Tarts.
Meyer Lemon Limoncello Cupcakes:
For the cupcakes:
2 oz (60gr)unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz(60gr) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (200gr)sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons (30gr) limoncello (see here or here for possible recipes)
1½ cups (190gr) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup(125ml) buttermilk
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
zest of one Meyer lemon
For the Meyer lemon curd:
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
For the cream cheese frosting:
2 oz (60gr)unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces (120gr) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15gr) limoncello
1 cup (115gr) powdered sugar, sifted
Prepare the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an extra minute. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively to the butter/eggs mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add the lemonjuice and zest. Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.
Prepare the Meyer 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 completely.
Prepare the cream cheese frsoting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat an extra minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.
Cut a whole into each cupcake with a melon baller or the back end of a large pastry tip. Fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the cream cheese frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Decorate with berries if desired.
Notes: I recently found out that the newest Wilton nut cups I previously used for baking cupcakes had been changed and now came with a warning that the new coating was not fit for baking. I baked one batch with the cupcake liners lined with parchment paper inside and one set without. I also put an empty liner in the oven to see what the coating would do. Nothing happened to the coating in all three experiments but use your own judgement/preference as far as liners go.