Let me start by saying that I am not a baker. In fact, prior to this recipe, my “from scratch” experience with baking cupcakes was completely nonexistent. I love to cook, but have not baked much because, frankly, it scared me. Baking is a science that requires precision, while cooking is more like art – you can deviate from the recipe and still have it turn out tasting great. With that said, I decided to face my fears and really go all out with my first cupcake “baking from scratch” experiment.
I follow a fantastic blog, YummyMummyKitchen and saw Marina’s post about Lemon filled Lavender Cupcakes. Lucky for me, she included an easy-to-follow recipe! While YummyMummyKitchen called for purchased or homemade lemon curd filling, I knew I had to go the homemade route and make it from scratch, as it would be one more test of my baking/cooking know-how! One of my favorite places to look up recipes is FoodNetwork.com, so I went in search of a lemon curd recipe and settled on this recipe by The Barefoot Contessa.
First things first, I had to find lavender that was for human consumption, and not potpourri. After searching the traditional grocery stores to no avail, I sought out a natural food store that might have just what I was looking for and is right around the corner from work. Located on Preston Street, OK Natural Food Store boasts organic everything and a wide variety of herbs sold in bulk! Sure enough, they had lavender!! (I highly recommend stopping in next time you are in the Mount Vernon area.)
Once I gathered the rest of my ingredients, it was time to bake!
The first thing I did was make the cake batter. I was so excited to be working with lavender! It is something I have always wanted to bake/cook with. Following the cake batter recipe was easy, but it surprised and worried me that the batter seemed very thick. I trusted the recipe and trekked on, placing baking cups into my vintage Muffinaire pan (thanks goes to my wonderful Nona, who gave me this many years ago) and popping it in the oven. I set the timer and moved onto making the lemon curd.
Again, an easy enough recipe to follow. Removing the zest of the lemons was no small feat, but the real nerves came when I cooked it. Having made homemade pudding (one of the very few things I have experience with) I knew I could cook the egg too fast and end up with lemon scramble instead of lemon curd, so I watched carefully and made sure to keep my heat on low. One problem: I had my heat on too low. Instead of the curd thickening in about 10 minutes, I stirred constantly for 25 minutes. Having a gas stove may have something to do with that, as gas heat on low translates to almost NO heat at all. After 15 minutes I turned it up slightly, wondering if the semi strange curdling looking lemon concoction would ever even out and become smooth. Another 10 minutes later, with a little more heat, it did and looked like lovely translucent lemon goo. I promptly put it into my vintage Pyrex mixing bowl (have you sensed a trend? I love vintage kitchen stuff, and this mixing bowl happened to be a Christmas gift from Stacy!) and into the fridge for cooling.
In the middle of making the lemon curd, I took the cupcakes out of the oven, out of the pan, and onto a cooling rack – all with one hand because the curd needed constant stirring. (What had I gotten myself into!?!)
Frosting was the last item on my list to make, so I followed the directions, using flower honey instead of lavender honey because I couldn’t find it anywhere (not even at OK), but I figured flower honey was better than plain honey. I didn’t add all of the confectioners sugar right away, I wanted to watch because I really felt like three cups would be too much and make the icing too sweet – as we all know, I do not like my cream cheese frosting too sweet. I only used two cups of sugar, and still achieved a stiff enough frosting to work with.
After using a pairing knife to cut out small “plugs” from the cupcakes, I used a ziplock bag with one of the corners cut off to fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd.
I then used the same technique to ice the cupcakes, as I have not invested in pastry bags/tips/etc.
For decoration, and an added hint of lavender, I sprinkled a couple of lavender buds on top. And voilà!
I ate one that night and while the cake was a little dry, overall I thought it had amazing flavor. The lemon curd really added a whole other level of flavor and texture, and the icing had the perfect hint of honey and cream cheese. While this cupcake may not be for everyone, as lavender is not something everyone wants to eat, it is a perfect cupcake for me – sweet, tangy, and savory. Even with the drier cake, I count this as a very successful baking experience! And now, not only do I have experience baking with a rarely used flower, I have baked from scratch, survived, and can’t wait for the next recipe! (And stay tuned, I’ve decided I love filled cupcakes so much that I plan on all of the recipes I try being filled as well!)
– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Elisa (Baltimore, MD)