I am thrilled to announce the publication of my latest books, Tea and Cookies and Coffee and Cake. They are like fraternal twins--you will see some similarities, even if they aren't identical. Both start with lots of information about how to shop for and make your favorite caffeinated beverages, and then offer perfect pastry partners. This recipe for Lemon Meringue Cupcakes is bound to become a favorite at your house, just as it is at ours.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
If I was forced to choose my favorite pie (and please don’t make me single out just one!), it might be lemon meringue. Inspired by a cake I saw at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and a batter from my friend Elinor Klivan’s book, Cupcakes, I have created a citrus cupcake with a tangy lemon filling and a swirl of tender meringue on top. Now I have a favorite cupcake to remind me of my beloved pie.
Sour Cream Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners and spray the liners with nonstick coating. (These cupcakes tend to stick to ungreased liners. If you wish, use ungreased foil liners.)
2. To make the cupcakes, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Beat the butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer set on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and zest and beat until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the eggs. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture to butter mixture, mix just until combined, and repeat with half of the sour cream. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and sour cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Spoon equal amounts of the batter into the cupcake cups.
3. Bake until the cupcakes are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the cups. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire cake rack and let cool completely.
4. To make the filling, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together a heavy-bottomed small saucepan. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt, then the eggs, and whisk well. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking often. Reduce the heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve into a small heatrproof bowl. Add the butter and lemon zest and stir until the butter melts. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and pierce a few holes in the plastic. Let cool completely. (To speed the cooling, place the bowl in a larger bowl of iced water, if you wish.)
5. Using a small serrated knife (a steak knife works well) held at a diagonal, cut an inverted cone, with a base about 1 1/2 inches wide, from the center of each cupcake. Discard the cones or reserve them as the baker’s treat. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into the holes in the cupcakes. Place the cupcakes on a baking sheet.
6. To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 375°F. Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until the meringue forms stiff, shiny peaks. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch French star tip, such as Ateco #865. (Any star tip will do, but a French tip gives the meringue an especially precise look.)
7. Pipe swirls of the meringue over the top of each cupcake, being sure that the filling is completely covered. Bake just until the meringue is tipped with brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely. The cupcakes are best served the day they are made.
Photo by Ben Fink