Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cake of the Week: Lemon Filled Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

The weekend before last I hosted a bridal shower. The bride loves yellow, so yellow cupcakes were pretty much definitely going to happen. 

And not just any yellow cupcakes. No no, this had to be epic. I put my thinking clothes on (i.e. running clothes), called in some reinforcements for inspiration (i.e. Sister1) and came up with the ultimate bridal shower banquet battle plan. I made Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Lemon is delicious. It’s one of the few cake flavors that can rival chocolate in my cake-loving heart – and once you get lemon curd involved watch out! These babies might just knock chocolate out of the park.

I made my own lemon curd – it’s easy, just lemon juice, egg yolks, sugar and butter. But you can also buy it in a jar at the grocery store, I found it in the peanut butter and jam section.

For the cake I did Smitten Kitchen’s Best Yellow Layer Cake recipe, and added the zest of 2 lemons. And for the frosting I made my standard cream cheese frosting with the addition of one lemon’s juice an zest. De-freaking-licious. 

(Go here for the printable recipe.)

Lemon Curd
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
2 tbsps grated lemon zest
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick butter), cut into 1/8-in slices
Add 1-inch of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. In a medium metal bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar for about 2 minutes until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest until combined. 
Place the mixing bowl on top of saucepan (the bowl should be wide enough to fit on top of the saucepan, but shouldn't be touching the simmering water). Stir the mixture constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you stir, until it begins to thicken, and will coat the back of a spoon. This will take approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Whisk in the butter, one slice at a time. Wait until each piece almost disappears before adding the next. Spoon into clean glass containers and allow to cool with a piece of plastic wrap laid on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate until needed. This lemon curd will keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Best Yellow Layer Cake
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Zest from 2 lemons
4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with papers.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Scoop batter into cupcake tins. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then take out and cool on racks for 1 hour.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
½ block cream cheese (i.e. 4 ounces)
¼ cup butter (i.e. ½ stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Juice from 1 lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

Start with your ingredients at room temperature.
Beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat in powdered sugar, adding milk as needed to reach a spreadable consistency.

To fill the cupcakes, use a small knife to cut a hole in the middle of the cupcake. Pop out the cone-shaped cake piece (go ahead and eat them all! I won't tell anyone!), and fill with lemon curd. 

Then frost. Enjoy!


  1. These look so good! I've been looking for a lemon cupcake recipe.

  2. Tasty as they look! Great cupcake ideas! I also want to know the tip you use for the frosting.

  3. You are so right about lemon rivaling chocolate - especially when there's lemon curd and cream cheese involved. No bridal showers in my future, but I don't need a reason to make these beauties!

  4. wow, these look so good! i am going to do a repost if you don't mind! i'm baking my way through a cookbook right now so i'm doing posts of all that and of all the things i want to try when i am done and this is one of them!!

  5. Lots of people underestimate lemon...oh their loss!!

  6. Glad you like them!

    Love Cupcakes - I used a 32 tip. Let me know if you make them and what you think!

  7. They smell delicious (we haven't eaten them yet) but I came across a typo that anyone making this recipe should definitely watch out for: in the section labeled Best Yellow Layer Cake, it says "beat in vanilla and lemon curd" when it should say "vanilla and lemon zest". I got to this point and got pretty confused, because the layer cake calls for lemon zest but then the instructions never say to put it in. I actually dumped all my lemon curd onto the butter and sugar and then realized (when it totally engulfed the entire thing) that it was probably wrong. But we figured out that it was supposed to be the lemon zest and everything turned out great! Just thought I'd mention it in case anyone else is making the cupcakes.

  8. OOH THANK YOU MEARA! I'm so sorry about that - I hope yours turn out ok! I changed the post and fixed it. Zest, not curd in the cake. :)

  9. hey just wanted to let you know that i featured this recipe on my blog! have a great week!

  10. Do these have to be refrigerated?

  11. I do wish you had a printable version of the recipe - makes it a lot easier to save and reuse!

  12. Done! Thanks for the suggestion - from now on I'll add printable versions of all my recipes.

  13. Is it okay to frost the day before? Will the frosting stay nice?

  14. It is anonymous again. By the way, I made the lemon curd and it is so yummy. Hoping to get an answer back regarding frosting the day before. Some recipes I have read have mentioned not to good if done ahead of time. I am giving a baby shower and it would be some much easier. Also will the frosting keep its shape?


  15. I think frosting the day before it totally fine and kinda preferable (I always worry that cupcakes will go dry). Glad you like the curd - I agree, it's delish! And yes, the frosting will keep its shape. Good luck!

  16. Thanks for the above answer Mollie. One last question, I noticed above there is no need to refrigerate. But if I fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd a day ahead of time can I leave them out or should they be refrigerated?

    Thanks again


  17. I don't think you NEED to refrigerate them, but you could. If you do, make sure you take them out 2 hours before serving so they're at room temperature when you eat them.

  18. I am excited to make these! For the frosting, should the butter be salted or unsalted?

  19. Preferably unsalted, but it's not a huge issue if you only have salted in your fridge.

    I hope you like them!

  20. Thanks for the reply! They turned out great, so tasty! I replaced the cake pieces after filling, so it really gives the feeling that they are filled in the center.