17 September 2010

Cupcakes - In or Out, Trendy or Passe, Who Cares?








Cupcakes (or fairy cakes, as they are sometimes called in the UK) are something I like well enough, but I might never have gotten around to blogging about them if I hadn't just read that they are cliché, passé and "so over." Puh-lease!

I find trends, in general, rather tiresome. Whether it's a food, a style, a color, anything at all, this celebrity-mad, trend-mad culture of ours slaps the "trend" label on it and beats it to death, then treats it with disdain when the next trend comes along. It's all sooooooo junior-high!

I'm not saying I don't enjoy new dishes by new chefs. My blog is about comfort food classics, but I've done a fair amount of more "fashionable" cooking and dining in "foodie" circles. What I object to is not the food but all the nonsense that too often surrounds it.

Snobbery is always ridiculous, but never more so than when it comes to food. Think about it. Does getting all uppity about what we eat make sense in a world where something like one-sixth of the population is starving?!

Okay, I'll have myself crying in a minute, so I'll just get on with my poor, pitiful, passé cupcakes! When I was developing the recipe, I experimented with different amounts of the various ingredients. With just two tablespoons more butter, the paper bake cups were positively greasy when the cupcakes were done! Cutting back on the butter by two tablespoons solved that problem without cutting back on the wonderful things butter does for cake batter. No need to separate the eggs and fold in the whipped egg whites--these cupcakes could not be any fluffier!

Tell me what you think about cupcakes, trends, food snobbery ...

Luscious Lemon Cupcakes/Fairy Cakes

(Makes 24)

3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
Grated zest of 2 lemons (about 1 tablespoon)

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in two standard muffin tins. In small bowl, lightly combine the eggs, a quarter of the milk, and the vanilla.

2 In large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for a minute to "sift." Add the softened butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until combined. With mixer on medium-high speed, beat for a minute and a half. Scrape the bowl.

3 Beat in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl and, with spatula, stir in lemon zest. (I do it by hand because the zest tends to get tangled up in the beaters.)

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. (If you use a full 1/4 cup, the baked cupcakes will have a bit of an "overhang" on them, and you might only get 23 of them.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 24 minutes or until they are golden and test done with a toothpick.

5 Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire rack for an hour. They must be thoroughly cool before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, unsifted
1/16 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons lemon juice

In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the salt, vanilla extract and lemon juice and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

You'll need to cut back on the liquid, probably by half, if you're going to get fancy with the frosting. I thought about it but couldn't decide which decorating tip I wanted to use, so I just put my cake decorating gear away and swiped on the frosting with a small offset spatula and threw on some long strips of zest for color.

40 comments:

Thomas Sullivan said...

Would a guy who subscribes to the old adage, "Don't live to eat, eat to live," further warp his brain over trends? While I appreciate the visual appeal of finally prepared food, I'm just as capable of surviving on mung beans and water for a week or having popcorn for dinner. Trends are mostly for frightened, lonely people, in my OSHO. So, five napkin rings for your stance on trends, Jeani! … Now, getting down to the meat-and-potatoes of cupcakes – so to speak – I've never been particularly fond of cupcakes (unless they're 90% frosting or filling, e.g. Ding Dongs or wannabe doughnuts), but these that you've made look like they have the moist transcendency of wedding cake AND…a kinship to lemon meringue pie (oh, I am so shamelessly week about lemon pie!). Great column, Jeani!

Sully

Jean said...

Thanks so much, Sully! I appreciate having earned the "five napkin ring" rating (even if it comes from a guy who is one of those who sees food as mere fuel for the machine)!

Thomas Sullivan said...

Gak! If it isn't enough that I scribbled "finally prepared food" for "finely prepared food" and "week" for "weak," I'm afraid I'll have to -- um -- eat my words about the utilitarian aspect of foods. Didn't mean to go quite that far. My Spartan attitude does not preclude indulgences. Call me egalitarian. I blame it all on Dragon NaturallySpeaking, my voice activation software, which gave me the "finally" and "week" gaffs in its utilitarian fashion without reference to nuance. :-)

Sully

focusfinder said...

Food as a fashion item? No thank you. Just give me quality ingredients and time-tested recipes please. Though I am in favour of new technology. Fan ovens and silicon pan handle sleeves to name but two.

Jean said...

Too funny! I figured your voice activation software was responsible for those things. I wish this platform (if that is the right word!) allowed me to edit comments for typos, but it doesn't.

PS I really like lemon meringue pie, too. You've picked a fine indulgence.

Jean said...

Peter, thanks for your comment. Sounds like you've got the right idea. Of course, I'll say that to anyone who agrees with me! I've never had a fan oven, but I'm sure it would be fine once I got used to it.

Angie's Recipes said...

Have you seen the other day the whole front page of foodgawker was loaded with all the baked alaska? ;-)
I must say these cupcakes look simply elegant and I am very sure these mini cakes would have tasted wonderful even without the frosting!

I wish you a flavourful weekend!
Angie

Jean said...

Thanks, Angie. I eat all my cupcakes and cakes without frosting. I frost things only for the benefit of other people, then I scrape it off mine! There's always someone in the group who is happy to take the extra glob of frosting!

Madison said...

Cupcakes are like jeans and the little black dress. It is just a classic. I will never get tired of cupcakes...never. Can't believe you came up with your own cupcake recipe. I can barely follow a recipe. I am not a big fan of lemon desserts but I know someone who would love some of those. Let's see if I can follow directions long enough to whip some up. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.

Jean said...

Thank you, Madison! And you can make these vanilla if you don't like lemon. Just leave out the lemon zest and add another 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. And for the frosting, replace the lemon juice with milk.

Kathryn said...

Yum! I wish my baking creations looked that pretty! You should try these banana chocolate chunk cupcakes. They are incredible!

Jean said...

Kathryn, thank you! I used to enjoy cake decorating, but I'm so over that now. Can't think when I'll ever get my pastry bags and tips out again. Besides being too lazy for it, I'm really sort of into the more casual, unfussy look.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeani,

Just my 2 cent; How about lemon
filled cupcakes??(the kind of
filling used in lemon meringue pie)
With a light frosting.
LOL,
Harriet

Jean said...

Thanks, Harriet! Yes, sometimes I like to cut a little hole in the cupcakes and put in a spoonful of lemon curd, then hide it with frosting. This is the second mention of lemon meringue pie today--has me craving some! I'll have to blog about that one day.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

In my country they are called cupcakes if they are very small, if not "tortitas" = mini-cakes, but whatever....these lemony ones are really luscious and tempting.

Eventually I can enjoy just the frosting alone too :)

I like this type of sweet posts ;)

Cheers,

Gera

Jean said...

Thank you, Gera. You are my first commenter from Uruguay! If you enjoy frosting by itself, as lots of people do (I scrape it off!), this one is very easy to whip up and somehow manages to not seem overly sweet.

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

I'd take a cupcake any day of the week, who needs to be trendy! I'd much rather eat cupcakes. I like the lemon buttercream, mmm.
-Gina-

Food Gal said...

Cupcakes are indeed trendy. But people should just eat whatever they like, no matter if it's trendy or not. What matters is that you enjoy it.

Jean said...

Gina and Carolyn, thanks! It's always good to find more people not worried about trendiness!

Anne @ Food Loving Polar Bear said...

Those cupcakes are so cute :) I wish we had more here, but I rarely see any at the cafes. I can't believe cupcakes would ever be "so over", food is always a cool thing :)

Jenn said...

I'm with you Jean.. I don't care what other people find trendy or not. I like what I like...and I do like....er...LOVE cupcakes. And lemon runs a close second to chocolate, believe it or not!

Jean said...

Anne and Jenn, thank you! I hope you'll both make yourself some lemon cupcakes this weekend. I think lemon is so refreshing during summer.

Chef Dennis said...

I loved cupcakes and was serving them to adults long before they were trendy! There is just something magical about a cupcake that makes you happy! Thanks for sharing this wonderful cupcake recipe..they look delicious!

Jean said...

Thank you, Chef Dennis! How many times would you have to multiply the recipe to feed all your girls?!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Great and easy recipe! I had some left over cream cheese frosting in the fridge, so for the batter I skipped the milk and just used the juice AND rind of two lemons. the consistency was wet enough that it didn't need milk! Makes for an extra lemony taste!

Jean said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it. I'm often out of milk and sub in something else. It works. And extra lemony is always good, can't get too lemony for me.

Mary said...

We have a lemon tree and I love using those lemons for desserts - especially lemon cake and lemon buttercake - so good!

Jean said...

Mary, thanks for stopping by! What kind of lemon tree do you have? My favorite is Meyer.

ABowlOfMush said...

Lemony cakes are my favorite! That buttercream looks to die for!!

Jean said...

Thank you! Lemon is just about my favorite flavor, I think. Usually I scrape frosting off cake, but this frosting is really good!

Imwaytoobusy said...

Anything lemon and I'm in! These look and sound fantastic!

Jean said...

Thanks for stopping by, Andrea! It's funny--chocolate was my favorite flavor everything until I was in my twenties. Since then, I almost always choose lemon.

Charlie @ SweetSaltySpicy said...

Yum! I love lemon sweets! These look delicious :).

Jean said...

Thanks, Charlie! I hope you'll make them and enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

Fairy cakes actually refers to a different style of small individual cake in the UK, we call these cupcakes too....

Anyway the recipe looks lovley, I think I'll try it out on my family when I go back for xmas.

Jean said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, some people I know in the UK call just the ones with "wings" fairy cakes and others call all cupcakes fairy cakes. Seems to be one of those terms that isn't quite clear. Hope you'll try these and let me know how your family likes them.

Anonymous said...

I’m just about to make your lemon cupcakes...I was searching Tastespotting for lemon cake recipes and your cupcakes caught my 5yr old son’s eye. So wish me luck!--Lara

Jean said...

Thanks, Lara! I'm so glad you and your son will be making my cupcakes. You must let me know how you liked them.

Rachel said...

I know that this recipe was posted a long time ago, but I was having a search for lemon cupcake recipes and came across yours! And I'm glad I did...they were absolutely divine and my friends who tried them loved them too! So thank you. And in response to your cupcake debate...2 years on it doesn't matter whether they're in or not, they taste beautiful and that's all that matters really, isn't it?!

Jean said...

Rachel, thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked my cupcakes!

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