These are really easy and a zingy little number to brighten up anyone’s day, but especially good for Easter. The recipe is my basic vanilla cupcake recipe with added lemon, so you can adapt these to any flavour you want. I’ll give you some tips for changing up the recipe at the end.
Lemon is a flavour which reminds me of spring and early summer. It’s perfect for an Easter celebration, balancing out all of the chocolate we consume, despite trying not to!
All my sponge cake recipes are made using the “equal quantities” method. This is where I weigh the eggs in their shells and then have equal quantities of butter, flour and sugar. For the purpose of this recipe I have given an estimation of what these quantities will be if I was using my usual large, free-range eggs. Feel free to follow the quantities given or use your own eggs to decide the weights of the other ingredients.
I am not a fan of artificial flavours in my bakes, and try not to use essences when a natural flavour would do. Therefore these cakes are going to get their lemony-ness from actual lemons/lemon juice, not from an artificial flavouring.
This recipe is adaptable. I have given substitutions so you can still make these even if you don’t have the exact ingredients to hand.
A note about the cupcake cases and tin I use: I don’t make small, fairy cake buns. My cupcakes are substantial in size. I use Lakeland muffin cases and a muffin tin for all my cupcakes. After much experimentation I have found that these are the best cases for me and a good size for my recipes. If you don’t have these sizes then use what you have. The trick is to make sure you are generous with your filling of the case, but not too generous. If you fill the cases to two-thirds full the batter should rise to the top of the case without overflowing in the oven (messy). If you don’t put in enough batter the weight of the case will pull it down when they’ve baked, and the cases will peel.
So I’ll stop waffling (oooh, waffles … I need a recipe for those too) and get on with it!
You will need:
A 12-hole muffin tin
12 Paper cases to fit your tin (if you have a smaller tin and cases you will make more than 12 cakes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)
- Pre-heat the oven to 160C fan.
- In a stand mixer (or in a bowl if you are using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon) cream together 200g of softened baking spread or softened butter with 200g of caster sugar. When it’s light and fluffy add in three beaten eggs, one at a time, beating in between. Add in 200g of self-raising flour a bit at a time until incorporated. Finally, add the zest of a lemon and enough lemon juice to make the batter a soft dropping consistency. If you don’t have a fresh lemon then lemon juice from a bottle will work just as well.
- Put the batter into the cases, filling two thirds of the way up (a heaped dessert spoon works well as a guide, then add in a bit more as necessary).
- Bake in the centre of your pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes. Check they are risen and spring back when touched. If not, then leave in for another 5 or so minutes until cooked. They should be flat-topped, not domed (if they are, your oven is too hot) but because the oven is at a relatively low temperature, they might take longer than 25 minutes to bake.
- Once baked remove from the oven and transfer from the tin to a cooling rack as quickly as possible (mind your fingers, they’ll be hot!). I do this so that the cases don’t sweat in the tins as the cakes cool – another reason why some people find their cases peel.
Whilst the cakes cool you can make the butter icing. Basic butter icing is easy: 250g softened butter (you need real butter for this, unless making dairy-free. Marg/baking butter doesn’t work), 500g icing sugar and a drizzle of slightly cooled boiled water to adjust consistency.
- For these cakes I beat the butter by itself until pale and fluffy (this can take at least 5 minutes in my Kitchenaid, so don’t underestimate how long it takes).
- Once it is almost white in colour add in the icing sugar. At this point I wrap the top of my mixing bowl with cling film otherwise I an enveloped in a cloud of icing sugar. Beat in slowly until combined.
- Add in the juice of half a lemon and beat in until combined. Check consistency and lemon-flavour. If it needs more zing add a few more drops of juice. You could also ripple in some lemon curd. I also like to mix in a bit of slightly-cooled boiled water because it helps with consistency if the icing is a bit grainy.
When the cakes are cool use an apple corer (or a knife if you don’t have a corer – but supervise little fingers) to hollow the centre of each cake. Using a teaspoon, fill the hole with lemon curd.
Ice the cakes with the buttercream. If you have a piping bag and nozzles then you can do fancy swirls, but you can just as easily dollop some icing on with a spoon and smooth it around a bit. Drizzle over a bit more lemon curd to finish, although this isn’t obligatory.
If you want to properly Easter up your cakes make a dip in the centre of your icing and nestle in a few mini eggs.
Make a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy!
Changing up the flavours:
Lemon and raspberry works well. Add freeze-dried raspberries into the batter after the flour has been incorporated, scoop out the middle and add some raspberry jam r stick a drizzle of jam or a fresh raspberry on top. Fresh raspberries in the batter will be a bit soggy and sink to the bottom, but if they are all you have then go for it – it’s an ooey-gooey surprise at the bottom!
Lemon and elderflower is still massively fashionable (even if the royal couple that brought about its resurgence have fallen out of favour (and royalty) since then). You can see my review of the flavour profile here, in my wedding flavours blog. I use neat elderflower cordial in the batter, spike the cakes with a skewer when they are just out of the oven and brush over a bit more cordial (not too much, you don’t want soggy cake) and add neat cordial to the buttercream too. It’s a subtle flavour, but I like it.
St Clements, a drink my gran was partial to, a non-alcoholic cocktail of orange juice and bitter lemon. In cake form this is a mix of orange and lemon. Make cupcake batter using orange juice and zest of oranges and lemons, and a core of lemon curd then make the icing with orange and lemon juice.