I'm not going to lie to you - I wasn't going to post this recipe here today.
When I woke up, I was SO excited to make these and share them with you because I KNOW that they just taste so lovely - light, sweet and buttery with a slight zing of lemon and strawberry, and that beautiful hue of completely natural strawberry pink in the buttercream... *insert drool emoji*.
And then... I remembered. I actually had to decorate them and then take photos to share with you *insert horrified emoji*.
Now, I'll be honest, despite years of baking, piping icing onto cupcakes and biscuits really isn't my strong point. I mean, I'm OK - not quite 10 year old level, but as I've completely neglected this area of my baking development, I would say my decorated cupcakes are not totally Instagram worthy and would likely make Mary Berry purse her lips in frustration at my incompetence.
I went ahead with the bake anyway, even if only to consume rather than post to the blog, because by now I'd wetted my appetite for those cheeky, scrumptious little cups of goodness which had consumed my brain.
After my perfectly-baked little cakes had left the oven, wafting their sweet aroma through my kitchen, I turned to my buttercream and realised I was clean out of piping bags. Seriously? Was this the universe convincing me that these cupcakes were not to be? No. No I wasn't having that. I am a strong independent baker who don't need no piping bags! So, like so many before me, I raided the bottom kitchen drawer and found a flimsy little sandwich bag and voila! Screw you, universe!
Despite my optimism and problem solving, I still wasn't happy with the look of my finished cupcakes. Sure, they tasted fab, and I ate 2 in 10 minutes. But being new to the world of blogging, and already admitting to you all that my "food photography" on here consists solely of regular iPhone snaps (which already makes me a complete amateur in this online baking scene), I wasn't prepared to make a fool of myself and reveal these very basically decorated cupcakes to the world. I mean, when you see some of these cupcakes on mainstream baking blogs, putting mine next to that would be like me standing in a bikini next to J Lo. You see my point.
However, the kind people on the Shugary Sweets Facebook group have since boosted my morale (honestly, if you aren't already, join this group if you love baking - its such a positive and inspiring community of bakers!), and encouraged me to post my recipe here to share with you all. And I realise now, like beauty, it's all in the eye of the beholder - and it really is about whats on the inside that counts. And beneath this cupcake's plain-jane facade, is a beautiful delicious soul. So I encourage you to make your own and decorate them even better than my own and do these little beauties some justice!!!
Tips that make these cakes so tasty!
Lemon zest - Instead of just adding the zest to the batter at the end, I blitzed my lemon zest with my sugar, which allowed the natural oils to diffuse the sugar. I think this makes for a stronger lemony flavour to the final bake - if you have a blender give it a try!
Sour cream - As explained in some of my previous posts, sour cream helps to tenderises the flour for a more moist and softer texture. I haven't tried this recipe with buttermilk personally, but I would assume you could sub the sour cream for this if you wanted!
Oil - I like the buttery flavour that butter lends a cake, which works well with lemon, but I always find that using oil results in a far more moist, tender, even-crumbed, and longer lasting cupcake. The reason being is that oil is comprised of 100% fat, unlike most butters which contain some level of water and milk which develops the gluten in flour and creates a more dense and less tender crumb. Oil is also lighter than butter so as a result makes for a much lighter bake - exactly what you want from a cupcake! So for the best of both worlds I use both butter and oil in this cake and it works perfectly!
Freeze-dried Strawberries - In my opinion, using freeze dried strawberries is the only way to get a natural tasting, great textured buttercream. Using fresh strawberries will result in a split-textured butter cream which yes, will still taste lovely, but will look pretty ghastly. In the UK you can buy freeze dried strawberries and raspberries in the baking ailes of Waitrose (they also do the powdered version here which is better as it means no blitzing at home!) and Sainsbury's, and in the US Trader Joe's has a freeze dried fruit range, I believe.
Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream
Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 16 minutes
Makes: 16 small cupcakes
215g Self raising flour (OR 213g AP with 1.5 tsp baking powder)
200g Caster sugar
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/4 tsp baking powder 85g melted butter 64g flavourless vegetable oil 2 eggs 120ml sour cream 60ml milk (full fat better but semi skimmed will do) Juice of 2 lemons (about 60ml)
Butter Cream: 235g unsalted butter softened 455g icing sugar 20g freeze dried strawberries (blitzed to a powder - I think you can buy the powder already made too but I didn’t have any) 1 tsp lemon extract (you can use vanilla if just making strawberry flavour) 2 tbsp milk
1. Preheat oven to 190C and line 2 cup cake trays with 16 liners
2. Blitz caster sugar with the zest of 2 lemons
3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and backing soda
4. In a smaller bowl whisk eggs with the diffused sugar until thick and pale in colour
5. Add melted butter (ensuring it has cooled before adding), oil, sour cream and milk, and whisk until combined
6. Add the wet mix to the flour mixture in 2 stages, folding gently until just combined. The batter will be quite thin and may have som lumps but do not be tempted to over mix!
7. Add lemon juice and fold in until combined.
8. Fill cup cake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake at 190C for the first 5 minutes to help rise. Then turn down oven to 175C and bake for a further 11-12 minutes until just golden, springy to touch and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted to the centre
9. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool
10. Meanwhile, prepare your icing. Blitz your freeze dried strawberries in a food processor until you have a fine powder.
11. On a high speed, mix your butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar and mix on a low speed until combined then increase speed and mix for 1 minute. Add the powdered strawberry, lemon extract and 2 table spoons of milk and continue to mix on a medium speed until fluffy. If you prefer a more zingy flavour, add a table spoon of lemon juice, although you will need to add some more sugar to offset the additional liquid added.
12. If you're a true cup cake decorator, you will pipe these amazingly - much better than I did! Otherwise, decorate as you see fit! As I said - beauty is in the eye of the beholder! ENJOY!!
13. ENHANCEMENT TIP: After cup cakes are baked, perhaps insert a small amount strawberry jam or lemon curd to the centre of the cupcake by cutting a small hole from the top to the centre, filling with your choice of lemon curd or jam, and placing the small offcut of sponge back in place before piping your frosting! Who doesn't love a little surprise in their cupcake?!