Once upon a time, I made three cakes in one night.
50% of which was fed to my ever so voracious garbage disposal.
It was traumatic.
I had been dreaming of lemon cake for weeks. Weeks! Lemon layers, lemon curd, and some fluffy cloud frosting. That’s all. Not that huge of a request, right? Wrong. I had a promising recipe for a two layer cake… but I had been dreaming of three. You can just spread out the batter into three pans, right? They’ll just be uber thin. Wrong! They’ll be crunchy and ew. When you’ve got sketchy cake layers, take my advice and stop right there. Don’t try and stack them with too-thin-but-really-good lemon curd and don’t make last minute cream cheese frosting instead of meringue. Just don’t do it. It’s really a poor choice all around. It tastes good, yes, but it’s a soupy flop hot mess mush cake lemon thing. No one really wants one of those.
If you’re anything like me, it’ll be close to midnight when you assemble your disaster. You might eat a decent amount of it out of shame, and then sit on the kitchen floor and cry. Through your tears you will then decide that it’s a great time to start making a redeem-yourself lemon poppy seed bundt cake. When you realize you’re one and a half egg yolks short and don’t have authentic buttermilk, stop. Don’t make it anyways. Go to sleep, and make it in the morning. Don’t use extra egg whites and butter instead of the missing yolks. Don’t take it out of the oven before it’s done, and above all, do NOT let your impatience get the best of you and take it out of the pan while it’s still hot. It will come half out of the pan and taste/feel like spongy supermaket angel sponge food cake. And by then, it will be two in the morning, your feet will hurt, and your tearstained cheeks will be covered in abstract drippy eyeliner art.
Apparently, the whole “third time’s a charm” deal is pretty valid. When you’ve passed the two failed cakes mark, it’s about time to make some cupcakes. Cupcakes are invincible.
These are a bit on the laborious side of things, but they’re worth every mix and scoop and fill and toast. They’re filled with my favorite ever lemon curd and topped with the meringue of your dreams. These are time-to-make-amends cupcakes. They’re sorry-I-forgot-to-pack-your-lunch cupcakes. They’re look-at-my-fancy-cupcake cupcakes.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Une-Deux Senses
Note: in a perfect world, I’d make the lemon curd the night, or even several days, before. Bake, fill, and frost the next morning.
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.
Divide batter evenly among pans, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 22-25 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, and then cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack.
For the lemon curd:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 1/2 cup superfine sugar
4 eggs + 4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
In a heatproof bowl, whisk together all ingredients except butter. Place it over a small pot of simmering water, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon, so that when you run your finger through it the finger stripe doesn’t disappear, take if off of the pot. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a clean glass jar, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
For the meringue:
Cakes fail every now and then. That’s just life.