A Baking Adventure: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

I’ve never really participated in a bake sale before. I’m sure that’s hard to believe since I’m such a sweets lover. My participation is limited to purchasing bake sale items for my own enjoyment. I have no idea about what the “rules” are. But when we Crusaders decided to host our own bake sale to raise money for Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, I thought, “How hard can it be?” Then I happened to watch the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character has to take something to her daughter’s school bake sale and, for fear of looking like a failure to the highly domestic moms, she doctors up (or destroys, depending on how you look at it) a store bought pie, hoping to pass it off as homemade. This put fear in me. Do bake sale items HAVE to be homemade? And if so, what qualifies as homemade? Does it have to be from scratch? And what if it turns into a TOTAL disaster?!

Deciding that as a stay at home mom I should have the time to do a recipe from scratch, I searched the internet for the perfect bake sale cupcakes. Stacy would be doing chocolate, so I wanted to something that would be more of an opposite, but still fun and seasonal. With these thoughts in mind, I came up with Lemon Raspberry cupcakes with a raspberry filling and a lemon cream cheese frosting. The problem with being a new baker and at the mercy of the internet for recipes is that if you haven’t tried it, you don’t really know if it’s going to be good. So, when I found LemonCupcakes.net, claiming that the recipe on The Little Red House blog was the best, I decided to trust them. The recipe is for Lemon Coconut, but the cake is purely lemon.

Lemon Cupcakes:
As soon as I saw that the recipe included using more than one bowl, I panicked. Anything using more than one bowl for a cake is bound to be complicated and I only had 40 minutes, if I was lucky! My goal was to get the cake batter done and in the oven before my daughter woke up from her morning nap. Well, that didn’t happen.


(Prep time included zesting 2 lemons, squeezing fresh lemon juice, and separating eggs.)


(One of the more unique steps: rub the sugar and lemon zest together in a bowl until the sugar takes on a yellow hue and becomes fragrant.)

At some point during my process of measuring dry ingredients and whisking the eggs and buttermilk, Leah woke up from her nap, only adding to my level of stress. How was I going to finish this complicated recipe (okay, complicated for ME) with a curious, mobile, and awake 9 month old? I prepped an area in the family room next to me, removing the dog’s water bowl, so that Leah could freely, and safely, roam around while I finished up the batter and kept an eye on her. Of course this would be the day that she learned how to turn the tv on and off…but the batter was much more important than the tv at this point!

After combining all the ingredients with a hand mixer, and having the spatula shoot straight through the mixing attachments twice, it was finally done and ready to go into the cupcake pans! A couple of adjustments I made to the recipe: I choose to use real lemon juice instead of lemon extract. Knowing that extract is more concentrated, I used at least 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Also, I didn’t realize the recipe called for cake flour, not all-purpose flour. Instead of going to the store, I looked up how to use all-purpose flour as a substitute (who knew there was a specific cake flour?!). After baking, I was surprised by how little the cupcakes rose. I thought, “Oh no! Something went wrong! I should have just followed the recipe exactly!”


(I filled the liners 2/3 full, like you are usually suppose to do, but it hardly rose while baking.)


(I did like that you could see flecks of yellow from the lemon zest.)

I cut out a part of the cupcake center, since I’d be filling them later anyway, to taste it. The cake was dense, but so moist! Relief set in. Only two more items left to make!

Raspberry Filling:
I found a recipe for raspberry cake filling on Food.com. It looked so simple and it was! I think it also helped that I waited until the next day, when someone else was home to keep an eye on Leah, so that I could put all my focus on making the perfect filling.


(Only 4 ingredients needed for this recipe! So easy!)


(The filling had an amazing color!)

Just as I’ve done before, I cut out the centers of the cupcakes so they’d be ready to spoon in the filling. One day I’ll experiment with my filling injector, but now was not the time to risk failure, especially after making it this far.


(I used a grapefruit knife this time, and it worked perfectly!)


(As I mentioned in my last baking experiment, baby spoons work perfectly for dropping in the filling. My favorite is The First Years’ Take and Toss spoons.)

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
When it came time for the frosting, I decided not to go with the option on The Red House’s recipe. I was worried that it wouldn’t be lemony enough. Instead I used a recipe from Annie’s Eats for their Blueberry Lemon cupcakes, which uses lemon juice and zest.


(Always be sure to have extra confectioners’ sugar, in case you need to stiffen up the frosting to get the texture you are looking for.)

After using the 3 cups of sugar the recipe calls for, I thought the frosting was the consistency that I wanted. However, when I got around to piping, it was very runny. So, I dumped the frosting out of my stainless steel piper and added another 1-2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. That seemed to help a little, but it still wasn’t the exact consistency I wanted. I went with it anyway, knowing that since it was warm in the house getting the consistency just right would be difficult and that the frosting would set up better as soon as I moved them to a cooler location.


(I added some yellow sprinkles, but felt it was still missing the splash of red to represent the raspberry.)


(I went to the store later that night for fresh raspberries. I think it really helped the look!)


(I like how the filling soaked into the cake.)

The lemon and raspberry came together in a perfect balance. I was worried that the filling wouldn’t bring enough raspberry flavor, but it was perfect. Despite all the hard work, I will definitely make these again! They were a huge hit at the bake sale and that’s what really matters!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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Butterfly Cupcakes for a Special Birthday Girl

When our sister, Alissa, approached Stacy and I about our niece’s 1st birthday party, we asked, “Are you going to have cupcakes?!” Her answer was, of course, “YES!”

At first I assumed that we would just do box mixes, store bought frosting, and then make them look pretty, but I was wrong. Alissa wanted to tackle something bigger for this party…homemade American buttercream frosting! She likes the sweeter, thicker frostings, and wanted to try and achieve that for this event. I was nervous. The only time I’ve ever made a homemade frosting that worked was when I added another flavor, like citrus or mint. American buttercream is such a tricky thing to create. So, I left it up to Alissa to find the recipe. I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the cupcakes at my nieces 1st birthday!

We decided that we should have the cupcakes done the day before the party. After a lot of research on the theme, butterflies, we had everything we needed to pull it off. Alissa had sent out a beautiful invitations (designed by Stacy), we had party decorations, snack bags shaped like butterflies, butterfly sugar cookies, and the final item that would make the cupcakes come together…butterfly gummy candies which would make the perfect cupcake topper.


(The butterfly gummies, which we purchased online, arrived individually wrapped. So part of our process included removing them from the wrappers.)

As soon as my baby girl, Leah, went down for a nap, I got started on the funfetti cupcakes. The goal was to finish baking 48 cupcakes during her morning nap, let them cool, then frost them in the afternoon when the kids went down for their afternoon nap and when Stacy and Alissa would be there to help. While I was working on the second batch, the chocolate cupcakes, Alissa arrived with her girls and asked, “Are we sure this is going to be enough?” At the last minute we decided to throw in another batch of yellow cupcakes, just to be safe. Luckily I had a spare box mix in the pantry! And enough storage containers to house all of the cupcakes!


(I’m a lucky girl to have so many cupcake/cake containers!)

Just as planned, we were ready to start making the frosting when the girls went down for their afternoon nap. I pulled up the vanilla buttercream recipe Alissa found on my laptop and we got to work. We made some tweaks along the way, adding more vanilla extract, more whipping cream, and more confectioners sugar. I still didn’t think it came out as good as what you find in bakeries, but Alissa was happy with it, and that’s all that mattered! We made two batches and divided the frosting into separate containers so that we could use food dye and create four different colors. The colors came out so vibrant, a perfect match for the toppers!


(The purple buttercream with cupcakes ready to be frosted!)

With so many colors, and only my single bagless piper, we opted to use Ziploc bags to pipe the frosting. Starting out was a struggle for all of us. I eventually got the hang of it, but then started failing again at the end. Alissa was really eager to try some out as well. What she lacked in ability, she made up for in enthusiasm! We blamed everything for our (borderline disaster) piping skills, from the bags having too much air in them, to the holes being cut too big. I don’t know if it was the sugar rush from all the taste testing, or comfort in knowing that we were covering these up with butterfly candies, but we all managed to laugh at our attempt and stay in good spirits. Cupcakes are supposed to be fun, after all! And, what’s more fun then making them with your sisters?


(Some of the more successful results!)


(We choose to wait until the morning of the party to add the gummy candies, just so that any moisture from the cake and frosting didn’t make them get funky overnight.)


(The different color butterflies and bright frosting created a beautiful display. Perfect for a birthday party!)


(Lily’s special #1 cupcake.)

We all felt like the end results were great! The kids loved the cupcakes and, most importantly, the birthday girl loved them too!


(The Crusaders’ beautiful niece, Lily! Photo by Kenneth Adam.)

I’m still really curious how bakeries make their buttercream. There has to be more to it than butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and whipping cream. I think it’s a big secret amongst them, and they aren’t sharing! Figuring that out might be my next mission…Let us know if you have any suggestions!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

We are working to help end childhood hunger!
Together we can make a difference!

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