Not long ago, I was invited to a surprise birthday party for my dear friend Charlotte. Charlotte is a special friend for many reasons, one of which is that she was my partner in crime for the Quarter Life Crisis Euro Trip of 2012.
(And by partner in crime I mean we went to bed by 10 PM most nights. But we had so much fun! And so much inexpensive rosé!)
I assumed the role of cupcake provider for the party. I hadn’t yet cracked the cupcake chapter of the Bobbette & Belle cookbookBobbette & Belle cookbook (which I’ve been working my way throughworking my way through for several weeks now), and this seemed like to perfect occasion to try a few recipes. I settled on two different types. Today, I present the Piped Rose Lemon Cupcakes. I’ll cover the second type in another post.
I love lemon cupcakes. A few years ago, I was maid of honour in my friend Jessica’s wedding. My #1 favourite task as maid of honour was partaking in the cupcake tasting. This is when I fell in love with lemon cupcakes (thankfully, they made the cut and I got to eat another one at the wedding). Despite them being my favourite cupcake flavour, I have never tried to bake them until now.
The Bobbette & Belle recipe calls for 24 mini cupcakes, but I opted to make 12 full sizers instead. The baking time (20 minutes) was still suitable.
Making the cupcakes was easy enough. This recipe is a little more involved than your typical cupcake recipe because you have to separate the eggs, whisk the egg whites into a meringue, then fold the whole she-bang together. It’s a few extra steps, but it’s not particularly difficult. The result is a thick, almost mousse-like batter.
The lemon taste – from 1.5 tsp of lemon zest and 2 tbsp of lemon juice – is definitely present, but it’s not over the top. In short, the cake was delicious. Everything went as it was supposed to.
The icing was not quite so straightforward.
I had two areas of concern going into the icing portion of this recipe:
- The recipe called for the same Swiss meringue buttercream base as the icing I used when baking the macarons. That had turned out disastrously.
- The picture in the recipe showed adorable piped roses. I wanted Charlotte’s cupcakes to be pretty flowers, too, but I’d never attempted this before.
Let’s begin with the first challenge. I made a few adjustments from my last attempt:
- I purchased a new candy thermometer. In hindsight, the one I got was a little big, but it did the job.
- I bought the most expensive butter at Craig’s, which was presumably the best quality (my aunt had warned me that cheaper butter may not do the trick).
- I let the icing cool for extra long during the whisking phase.
This did appear to help – to some degree. Upon finishing the Classic Vanilla Buttercream recipe, I did, indeed, have some fine looking vanilla buttercream before me. But I wasn’t done yet.
Returning to the Piped Rose Lemon Cupcakes recipe, I now was at the stage where I was to hand-whisk half a cup of fresh lemon juice into the icing. I squeezed the right amount of lemon juice out and got to whisking. The lemon juice absolutely refused to incorporate with the icing, similarly to how the raspberry puree had behaved with the macarons. It was like oil and water. I was left with somewhat uglier buttercream that appeared to be sweating lemon juice, with a pool of lemon juice at the bottom of the bowl.
Now, onto the roses. The book includes a pretty simplistic overview of how to pipe lovely roses, but I knew this was a job better suited for YouTube. I watched a few videos and got the general idea behind the technique. I pulled out my piping tips (which are apparently called nozzles) and looked for the appropriate one.
Since I’d never actually piped roses before, I had never realized that I didn’t HAVE the right tip (nozzle) to do it! The closest thing I had was a mini bitty plastic tip that was way too small to produce large rose petals. No problem – I’d just make some other, rose-like type of flower.
Now, the mini tip was too small to be used with my usual piping bag. The only one I had that could fit it was a flimsy bag that I’d only used once or twice. I filled it with some buttercream, let some lemon juice drip out of the nozzle, then got to work.
What seemed relatively simple in the YouTube videos was actually much trickier in real life. I found myself spinning the cupcakes rather than spinning my wrist – somehow, that felt easier. Petal after petal, my hand started to cramp. Worse, tiny holes appeared to be forming in my piping bag. Lemon juice dripped down my hand, and icing strings as narrow as angel hair pasta began to ooze out of the sides of the bag.
Halfway through the 12th and final cupcake, a large hole formed on the side of the bag. More icing poured out of this hole than came out of the tip. That was perfectly fine – after all, we needed a tester cupcake to sample the goods.
I stepped back and surveyed my work. For my first attempt, I thought I’d done a pretty good job. You could definitely tell they were supposed to be flowers, so that was positive. They certainly weren’t as lovely as the flowers in the picture, but I trusted that the people at the party wouldn’t critique me too harshly.
- The cake was great. The meringue technique felt advanced but was actually easy, and the texture of the cupcake was perfection.
- The icing was a gong show to make, but it all worked out okay. If I did it again, I’d probably use a different icing recipe.
- I’m definitely going to work on my flower piping. First step: buy the appropriate nozzle.