Tag Archives: swiss meringue buttercream

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

Good morning!

We had the most amazing, low-key, relaxing and productive weekend we’ve had in ages.  I hope yours was relaxing and productive, too!

On Friday, our good friend Hehle suggested that for the game this weekend (which was a huge one for all the Georgia fans in my life) we have some Victory Cake instead of Victory Cookies.

Hehle has a tradition of having Victory Cookies for every game.  You can’t touch them until the game is over – hence their name.  If your team loses, you still get to eat the Victory Cookies though… Because we aren’t just going to let cookies go to waste.

Anyway, Hehle couldn’t remember how the tradition started, but we always have Victory Cookies.  Until this past weekend.  Since Hehle wanted Victory Cake, and Wheat was the birthday-ish boy, I let Wheat pick what kind of Victory Cake he wanted.  He suggested lemon cake like I made that one time.  However, after the week I’d had, I wasn’t exactly ready for a 14-layer tribute to butter, eggs, flour, and victory.  So I decided to adapt that cake into cupcakes, and they turned out to be insanely delicious.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcake Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

It also gave me a chance to try out a recipe I found in my family cookbook.  I follow Brave Tart’s Stella Parks on Facebook, and she has been asking her followers questions about food and regional differences in it for the past few months as part of the research for her upcoming cookbook.  One post caught my eye and jogged my memory.  Stella was researching old timey recipes, and kept coming across recipes for “lemon cheese.”  Turns out, lemon cheese is simply lemon curd, but the name pre-1895 was lemon cheese.  After reading her post, I remembered running across just such an icky sounding recipe for lemon cheese in the family cookbook.

Lemon Cheese Recipe from Canada | Oysters & Pearls

My grandmother’s family was originally from Canada, and I reckon they brought this recipe down to West Virginia with them.  It may sound icky, but I assure you, it was delicious.

Hattie’s Special Lemon Cheese Recipe
(aka Lemon Curd)

ingredients

– 2 ounces butter (4 T)
– 3 ounces sugar (6 T)
– 2 large eggs, well beaten
– 5 ounces lemon juice
– zest of one lemon

instructions

Melt butter in a double boiler over medium heat, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Whisk constantly while cooking until it reaches a pudding- or custard-like consistency and you can leave tracks in it with your whisk.  Once it’s reached that consistency, remove it from the heat and continue whisking until it cools.  Refrigerate.  You can then use it to top delicious vanilla cupcakes, as filling between cake layers, in a tart, in mini-phyllo cups with fresh fruit on top, mixed in with yogurt or ice cream…. the possibilities are endless.

Lemon Cheese Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

Lemon Cheese Recipe, aka Lemon Curd | Oysters & Pearls

Of course, I used it to top some delicious vanilla cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe
makes 2 dozen cupcakes

ingredients

– 1 3/4 cups cake flour
– 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes
– 4 large eggs
– 1 cup milk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line muffin tins with liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Add the butter, piece by piece, mixing until the butter is just coated with flour.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla.  With mixer on medium speed, add the wet ingredients in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl before each addition.  Beat until the ingredients are well incorporated, but be sure not to overmix them.

Fill tins 2/3 of the way full.  Bake, rotating the pan halfway through (but if you forget, like I almost always do, your cupcakes will probably be just fine!).  The cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean – about 17 minutes in a conventional oven.  Cool completely on a wire rack and frost as desired.

Using an Offset Spatula to Ice a Cupcake with Lemon Curd | Oysters & Pearls

These vanilla cupcakes are light and fluffy with a really delicate crumb.  They are the perfect base to get creative with frostings or fillings!

I used a small offset spatula to ice the tops of the cupcakes with the cooled “lemon cheese.”

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing | Oysters & Pearls

Then I whipped some previously made and frozen Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing back into shape.  How many pictures do I have of this buttercream on a whisk attachment on this blog?  Too many, probably.

But I, for one, cannot tire of seeing pictures of heavenly buttercream frosting.

I also cut some slices of lemon up into tiny wedges (8 wedges per slice) for garnish.

Lemon Wedges for Garnishing Cupcakes | Oysters & Pearls

Then I used a medium-ish (?) star tip to frost the cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Curd & Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing | Oysters & Pearls

They were TDF.

Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes | Oysters & Pearls

I mean, not to toot my own horn (or am i?) – but Hehle suggested that these cupcakes might be the reason Georgia beat LSU.

He also wanted me to point out to all you fine folks that these lemon cupcakes pair wonderfully with a Crown & Gingerale.

Lemon & Vanilla Cupcake Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

I’m going to go ahead and say these Victory Cupcakes are probably responsible for the Gator win, too.  Ya know, while I’m making ridiculously far-fetched supersticious claims.

But hey – it’s only weird if it doesn’t work, right?

Sunday was a crazy awesome day full of productivity.  We got up early, checked my pumpkin patch, checked to see if the cotton has been defoliated yet, pulled some peanuts, picked some peanuts, boiled some peanuts, cleaned up the house, I experimented with some pumpkin spice latte goodness at home (still on Operation: Eat All The Pumpkin), and picked up a Hugh Jass (and Bah Dass) cutting board (post to come soon!), then rounded it out with an awesome meal, good beer, and live music at my favorite restaurant, The Whip.  That was the longest sentence I have ever typed, but it was just that kind of epic, full, happy day.  It helped that it was so pretty yesterday it literally hurt to be inside.   My cup runneth over!

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14 Layer Meyer Lemon Vanilla Little Layer Cake

The title of this post is a mouthful, and so is the cake!

lemon little layer cake 7I was perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago, when I came across this cake recipe from Dessert First Girl’s blog.  It looks delicious!  I simmered on it for a few weeks, and came up with a cake of my own.  I did use Dessert First Girl’s recipe for Lemon Curd.  It is AMAZING.  For the cake, I used the Smith Family Recipe that I use for my chocolate layer cakes, which is just a classic vanilla little layer cake recipe, and is my favorite of all that I have tried.  I grew up in Northwest Florida having little layer cakes be the norm, rather than the exception, and they are always my favorite.  And of course, I used my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing from BraveTart to top it all off (but not before adding some lemon to it, too).  The mint garnish is from my herb garden.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients

For the cake (adapted from the Smith Family via Oprah.com)

– 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted (or whisked)

– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

– 2 1/2 cups sugar

– 6 large eggs, at room temperature

– 3 cups whole milk

– 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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For the lemon curd (from Dessert First Girl):

– 1/2 cup sugar

– zest of 2 lemons

– 2 large eggs

– 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used frozen and thawed Meyer lemon juice from my grandmother’s lemon tree)

– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pats

lemon little layer cake 2

For the buttercream icing (adapted from BraveTart):

– 1/2 of a recipe of Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

– 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (again, I used frozen, then thawed, Meyer lemon juice from my grandmother’s tree)

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter 14 pans and line with parchment paper, then lightly flour them and tap out the excess.  I purchased mine cheap at the Dollar General, but you can bake four layers at a time and then wash, re-grease/line/flour the same four pans if you’d rather not purchase more pans.  It’s just a huge time saver – and let me warn you now – this cake is extremely time consuming.  I had the buttercream already made and frozen, and it took me approximately 4 hours to make the lemon curd and the cake layers and then put it all together.

Sift (or whisk) the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle blade attachment until light in color and texture and completely combined (about 3 minutes or so).  Beat in the eggs one at a time, letting them completely mix in before adding the next one.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl often.

Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.

Finally, add in the vanilla and beat on high to make sure it’s fully incorporated.

Add about 2/3 of a cup of batter to each pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it out to fill the pan.  Bake four layers at a time for 12 minutes.  Test a layer with a toothpick each time to make sure it comes out clean.  They will look very light and not done, and should be just pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Let cool completely on wire racks.

For the curd:

Mix together the lemon zest and the sugar with your fingers in a metal bowl, rubbing them together until combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl, and heat over a double boiler until the mixture reaches 180 degrees.  Whisk constantly, to prevent a sweet omelette.  Carefully strain the mixture into a food processor or blender, and let cool until it reaches around 140 degrees.  Process (or blend) until very smooth, and add the butter one piece at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next one.  Don’t rush this process.  When completely combined and smooth, pour into a bowl to cool.  You could also do this ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze the curd.

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At this point, I thaw my buttercream (see my previous post for the recipe and directions on thawing) in my mixing bowl.  Once it’s whipped back up to perfection (I do use the whisk attachment), add 1/4 cup lemon juice.  It will start to separate and break down your icing, but just keep whipping it on a high speed until it comes back together.  You can add as much lemon juice as you’d like, or even some lemon extract.  I didn’t want to overpower the vanilla bean in my icing, but just add a hint of fresh lemon flavor.

Building the cake:

To begin building the cake, place a cardboard cake round on a lazy susan and add a dollop of buttercream icing to the center (to keep the cake in place).  Place your first cake layer on top of the dollop of icing.  Then, spread a thin layer of lemon curd on top to the cake layer.  Add the next layer, spread with lemon curd, and repeat until you reach the last layer.  I try to save a really pretty layer for the very top.  Don’t put lemon curd on top of the last layer.  It should look like this when you finish:

lemon little layer cake 5Now you’re ready to ice your cake!

First, crumb coat the cake with the buttercream and put in the fridge for an hour or so.  I use this time to clean up, wash all the pans, etc.  Then, pull it back out and finish icing.  Garnish with mint leaves, or whatever you’d like.  I just had mint handy, and the mint went really well with the light lemon flavor.  Plus Saturday was the Kentucky Derby, so mint was on my mind. :)

lemon little layer cake 7Stand back and admire your hard work!  And share with LOTS of friends and family… because this makes a really, really big cake.  It also earned rave reviews at our family cookout Saturday, as well as a “best ever baked good” from Wheat!

lemon little layer cake 8We also enjoyed slices for breakfast Sunday morning (and almost every meal since!).  It is one pretty delicious cake that I’ll definitely be making again.  If you try it, please comment and let me know!  I’d love to hear how it turns out.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know that, too.  I’d be happy to try to help you out!

lemon little layer cake 9Enjoy!

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing

It’s high time I did a post on my freezer staple, swiss meringue buttercream.  I made three huge batches over the weekend and my freezer should be stocked for a bit now.  I’ve mentioned it before here, but one of my best tricks is to make buttercream ahead of time (when I have the time, as it is a bit time consuming) and freeze it.  It thaws out beautifully when you need it, and it’s a real time saver!  I can’t take all the credit of course, because I learned this trick from BraveTart, but gosh I’m glad I did!  Here is BraveTart’s post on swiss buttercream, but I’m going to give you my version, too.  Also, BraveTart has no idea who I am, but I consider it the baking Bible, and I thank goodness I found it for this recipe alone.  It’s insanely buttery and rich and delicious, and has received nothing but rave reviews in my house.  Enjoy!

SwissMeringueButtercreamIcing

Kitchen equipment you’ll need and likely don’t have:

A kitchen scale.  I didn’t have one before I discovered that they are necessary for truly precise baking.  Not that I’m the greatest baker on earth – I’m certainly not.  But this helps.  I got mine on Amazon – I believe it’s this one.  You can of course get more expensive ones, or cheaper ones.  I found mine works well for my fairly limited purposes.

A candy thermometer.  I’ve done this without one many times, but it is helpful to have one.  I think it would have saved me some headache the first couple times, for sure.  But totally not necessary.

Also, vanilla beans – I also buy mine on Amazon.  I learned the first time I tried to purchase them at my local po dunk grocery store that they are EXPENSIVE when you buy them there!  I’m looking at you, McCormick… Anyway, I had fantastic luck purchasing from JR Mushrooms via Amazon.  They shipped free (no Prime though, weh) and were well packaged and fresh.  Just my two cents – none of this is sponsored.  Just sharing my experience!  I don’t let them go to waste either – once I scrape them out for the buttercream, I put them in tiny jars and add good vodka.  It makes awesome vanilla extract!  Any small jar will do – I have one already made that is in the first McCormick vanilla bean bottle I bought, and have another one I just started in some other random little jar.  It just needs to be glass and small to make sure it’s strong!  I store unused vanilla beans in a tightly sealed mason jar, but I wish I could smell them all day long!

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Two vanilla beans (scraped) and good vodka, just added:

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Two vanilla beans, scraped, and good vodka = homemade vanilla extract!

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Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming..

The Basic Recipe:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 10 oz. egg whites (I use egg beaters 100% egg whites for this, so I don’t waste yolks)
  • 10 oz. white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • the scrapings from one vanilla bean
  • 2 lbs unsalted butter (8 sticks)

Pretty simple ingredient list!  Especially if you start keeping these all on hand like I’ve started to do.  Let’s get started.

But before you start… go ahead and take out all two pounds of butter, unwrap your sticks, and cut the butter into pats.  Let it sit out the entire time you are doing this, and it should be sufficiently thawed to room temp by the time you need it.  If not, nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it is just soft, but not melted.  Okay, now proceed with measuring out your ingredients.

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Heat egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean scrapings in a double boiler (if you’re like me, this is a metal mixing bowl over a regular pot – just make sure the mixing bowl doesn’t touch the water below).

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Heat it SLOWLY.  BraveTart says just to get the water in the pot to steaming, but in my experience, this just took entirely too long to get the whites to the proper temperature (150 degrees).  I bring the water in the pot to a low boil to speed the process up a bit.  You want to whisk often to keep from making a sugary omelette.  This is the babysitting phase.  You just whisk and watch until the egg white mixture reaches about 150 degrees.  It starts to look… velvet-y to me, and almost a little frothy – if I was going to describe the texture in words.  I put a good picture of it here (from a different swiss meringue recipe) if that helps!

Once the whites reach 150 degrees, or sufficient velvety-ness, pour them carefully into your mixing bowl.  Use the whip attachment and whip them on medium speed until white, frothy, and doubled in volume.  I pretty much just turn it on medium and walk away.  Every time I walk back by, I feel the outside of the bowl.  You are NOT DONE until you feel absolutely no warmth coming from your metal mixing bowl.  Do NOT rush this process.

Once you finally have whipped the meringue to double volume and cooled it down, you can start adding your butter… SO MUCH BUTTER.

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Add the butter one piece at a time, waiting for each to incorporate into the meringue before adding the next.  This part also takes a little bit of time, but don’t rush it either.  If your butter is still a little bit cold, your frosting might start to look… curdled.  Not a pretty word or a pretty look, but don’t worry.  Just keep adding slowly and whipping, and it will warm up and come back together (as long as the butter isn’t too cold – hence the importance of setting it out to thaw to room temperature early enough). You’re done!

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After you finish adding all the butter, this is when you would add any flavoring or jazz it up in any way!  That is, if you’re using it immediately.  If I want vanilla buttercream, I add vanilla extract at this point.  If I’m making chocolate buttercream, this is the point when you would melt the chocolate and pour it in (quickly).  However, I’m freezing this buttercream, so I want to keep it plain.  I’ll add the flavorings when I thaw it out (more on that in a minute).  I place two sheets of clear wrap on the counter perpendicular to each other (and on top of each other – in an X) and plop the heaping mound of buttercream in the middle.

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Wrap it up like a package, label and date it, and then stick it in a plastic ziploc bag or double wrap it again with clear wrap.  It’s freezer ready!  I made three of these mountains of buttercream, and each should be more than enough to wrap your average 3 layer (or even a bit larger) cake.  You can re-freeze what you have leftover, too!

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On thawing buttercream:

To thaw frozen buttercream, pull it out of the freezer and break the block into thirds.  Put two thirds into your mixing bowl, and completely melt one third in the microwave.  Pour the liquid buttercream into the mixing bowl on top of the frozen two thirds, and attempt to whisk it up.  If need be, pull out a couple more chunks of frozen buttercream, melt, and repeat until the whole bowl is whip-able.  Then just whisk it right back up into icing!  It’s super easy, and tastes just like it did the day you made it.  This is the point I add any extracts, chocolate, or other flavorings.  BraveTart’s post goes into detail about a few suggested flavor combinations, as do the comments, but use your imagination!

Piece of cake! ;)

Now, you just need some cakes or cupcakes to ice… or ya know, a spoon.

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