sunshine cupcake!

What do you do when life hands you cupcakes instead of lemons? When people are smiling and friends are near, or when you’re simply deeply content and glad to be alive? Do you go for a long bike ride, look at old photos, sit in the sun?

Butter, eggs, love

I’m in that lovely place right now. The place where photos of my kitchen counter make me smile. What’s going on, you ask? Did I win the lottery or wake up to all my self-conscious tics  and overly-analytic neuroses inexplicably gone? Hah! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

mixin' da batter

Well, what happened was a birthday. And while I’m not usually the person to get super excited about birthdays, this year was pretty special. Four days of friends & family, pizza, sundresses, fish tacos, bourbon, live music, bonfires, chocolate cake, and gorgeous handwritten cards have made me a happy girl. Life totally handed me a giant cupcake, and it feels super awesome.

I’ve been so giddy, I even wrote a letter to my half-century self from my quarter century self. Yep, I totally just admitted that. It’s cool, lets let the geek flags fly.

chillin' on the chillin' rack

When I’m in this kind of state, I just want to bake bake bake for people all day long! C’mon over, I’ll feed you. Pancakes? Totally. Homemade hummus with fresh veg? Obviously. Something appetizer-y with bacon? I got your back. Let me shove food in front of you while we hang out on the patio.

cut with a paring knife

pop it out!

lemony sunshiny filling!

So, that’s exactly what I did this weekend! I was in charge of the dessert for my family’s Mother’s Day celebration, so I chose a recipe that combined two things that my  mother and grandmother love most – lemon curd, and coconut.

Confession: I mixed homemade curd with store bought. Real-life baking solutions.

These cupcakes are like sunshine – light, fluffy, citrusy. The coconut is baked right into the cake, and lemon curd provides a delightful filling. The super-easy frosting is so delicate it is almost a meringue. See what I mean? Sun and white puffy clouds are just leaping from this cupcake.

If the view from your window has seemed rather gray, these cupcakes will brighten you up. And if you’re floating along on a cloud these days, wouldn’t you love to float with a cupcake? Of course you would.

cupcake tower

Coconut and Lemon Curd Cupcakes
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Step 1: Make cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour*
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup buttermilk

*Psst…don’t have cake flour? Me neither. Use this sneaky trick and never buy cake flour again!

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. The cuter the better.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes depending on how soft the butter is. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and combine, then beat in the coconut. The mixture will be lumpy from the coconut – this is good! Add the flour mixture a third at a time, beating after each addition. Finally, mix in the buttermilk and combine until the batter comes together.W

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about three-fourths full. While the original recipe said this would make 12 cupcakes, I easily got 16 out of it. Hurray for extra! Bake until lightly golden or a toothpick comes out clean – about 18-22 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cupcakes cool for an hour before moving on.

Now comes the most fun part – creating the wells we will fill with lemon curd. Using a paring knife, create a hollow about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep in the center of each cupcake. See my photos above of the process. Munch on the extra cake while you’re going, it helps the baker’s intuition. Really, it’s true.

If you want to make homemade lemon curd, follow the original recipe posted above. Otherwise, for the rest of this process you’ll need:

Step 2: Fill and Frost the Cupcakes

1 10oz jar lemon curd
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup lemon zest, for garnish

After having created the cupcake wells, simply fill each one with a spoonful of lemon curd. Done and done. Onto the frosting!

This is called 7 minute frosting. Frankly, my frosting took way more like 18 minutes. Chefs can be such liars sometimes.

In a glass (or heatproof) bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/3 cup water. Set the bowl over (but not touching) barely simmering water in a saucepan. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed to stiff peaks, about 5 (um, I did this for way more like 12) minutes. Remove the bowl from over the water and continue to beat until the mixture cools, about 2 (ahem, 5) minutes. I transferred my frosting to another bowl to help it cool down quicker. Add the vanilla and beat until blended. Frost cupcakes immediately and top with lemon zest to make it oh-so-pretty. Enjoy!