Springtime around here means rain, rain and more rain. Even on the days we don’t think it’s going to rain, it probably will. That being said, we need something bright and cheery to make up for it, like cupcakes! Lemon raspberry cupcakes to be exact. There’s just something about the pretty pastel colors and tart yet sweet flavors that are perfect for this dreary time of year. I made these cupcakes as a special request for the first time a couple weeks ago and still can’t stop thinking about them. They were that good!
The cupcake base is a fluffy, white cake with bits of lemon zest sprinkled throughout and lemon juice for extra lemon flavor. The cake is light and sweet, but still has a firm enough crumb to hold it’s own again the frosting and filling. Rather than just using a raspberry puree, which I thought might be too tart, I made a thicker, sweeter filling. It balances well with the tartness of the berries and lemons while also being just runny enough to make for a fun surprise when you bite into the cupcake. Let’s not forget about the best part of this trio, the lemon cream cheese frosting. Originally, these were going to have lemon buttercream but I was also considering cream cheese frosting. I realized I should just combine the two to make lemon cream cheese frosting and I’m so glad I did. This frosting is delicious! There’s something about the tart lemon, tangy cream cheese and sweet frosting that makes the combination with the cupcake and filling just divine. It’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet!
Isn’t that filling just the perfect pop of color? No matter how dreary the weather is, these cupcakes will surely brighten your day. Enjoy!
To make ahead: The cupcakes can be made one day in advance, covered loosely, and stored at room temperature. Do not cover tightly otherwise humidity may cause the liners to pucker. The filling can also be made one day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. For best results, the frosting should be made and the cupcakes filled and frosted the day of the event. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Lemon cupcake recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake, raspberry filling and lemon cream cheese frosting adapted from Annie's Eats
For the lemon cupcakes:
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the raspberry filling:
- 16 oz. raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- squeeze of lemon juice
For the lemon cream cheese frosting:
- 10 oz. cream cheese, chilled
- 6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 1/4 confectioners sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
- yellow gel coloring, optional
To make the lemon cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.
- Whisk the milk and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. Allow milk to sour for 5 minutes, then mix in egg whites.
- Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Mix together with your fingers or on low speed until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
- Add the butter to the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, add one third of the flour mixture.
- Beat in half of the egg mixture, then half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
- Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogenous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
- Beat batter on medium speed for an additional 2 minutes to ensure it is fully mixed and well aerated.
- Divide batter evenly between cupcake tins. Bake 16-18 minutes, until well risen and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Allow to cool on wire racks for 10-15 minutes before removing from pans and letting cool completely.
To make the raspberry filling:
- Combine the raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Mix the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Once the berries and their juices begin to bubble, stir in the cornstarch mixture.
- Bring to a boil and let boil until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes more.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
- Allow to cool completely before filling cupcakes.
- If desired, strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the raspberry seeds (optional).
To make the lemon cream cheese frosting:
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add cream cheese and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds more.
- Add in the confectioners sugar and mix on low speed until incorporated.
- Blend in lemon zest, juice and food coloring (optional). Beat on medium speed for an additional 1-2 minutes more.
To assemble the cupcakes:
- Cut a cone shaped portion, or use this great tool, out of the center of each cupcake. Keep the cut-out portion with it's matching cupcake, as you will use them in just a moment.
- Using a small spoon, fill each hole with raspberry filling.
- Place each cupcake top back over the filling. It's ok if it sticks up a little, the frosting will cover it.
- Frost filled cupcakes as desired. I used the 1M tip from Wilton with a piping bag.
- Refrigerate cupcakes until 30 minutes before serving.
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