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Lemon Cupcake Surprise
Lemon cupcake with lemon topping

You've probably seen one of those TV talent show clips where the badly dressed, somewhat homely guy or the frumpy woman gets up on stage and everyone laughs at them--until they start to sing. Then their beautiful voice fills the room with amazement. And we all once again remember that we shouldn't be judging people by their external appearance.

Here is the recipe for a cupcake that makes that same point. Yes, it looks just like an ordinary, plain lemon cupcake, a box mix cheapie. But then you take a bite and are transported to the realms of pleasure. The secrets are the lemon juice, the lemon peel, and the lemon curd. (Hey, we should have called this Lemon to the Third Power.) These cupcakes are good all the way down.

And they are a great conversation starter. You can help people to know that they should avoid judging the insides of food (or people) simply by looking at only the outside. Like Bosc pears (ugly but delicious), the outside disguises the inside. With these cupcakes, you invite a friend over for some tea and solve the injustices of the world and you're still a bit away from real openness. So, then it's time to talk with your friend about the recipe. Wasn't the friend surprised when an "ordinary cupcake" turned out to have an unmistakenly complex lemony taste? Ever think you'd taste such a balanced tangy sweetness?

This is a lemon cupcake recipe distinguished by its ability to power up your taste buds and by the variations possible. It reminds us that we are too ready to pigeonhole things as ordinary, when, in fact, few things are really ordinary. This recipe is easy to make.


2 cups sugar
1 cup stick butter, softened
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 Jar of Lemon Curd (Any brand will do, I used the Trader Joe's brand)
Lemon Glaze (see below), optional
Whipped Topping


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Lemon cupcake with whipped cream

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; beat into the sugar-and-butter mixture alternately with butermilk until well blended, being careful not to overbeat.   Stir in lemon juice and lemon peel. 

Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make a small hole in tops of cupcakes with a knife or end of a spoon.  Pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon lemon curd into centers of cupcakes.

Spread the lemon glaze over the cupcakes.

Lemon Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice


Try one of the three possible toppings: (1) whipped cream or non dairy topping, (2) Lemon glaze (described above), (3) Lemon zing, made from equal amounts of powdered sugar and lemon  juice and poured on top after baking.

The lemon curd can be added in a variety of ways, too: (1) poured or injected using a cooking syringe into the baked cupcake, (2) put in between layers of batter (pour muffin cups half full and then add lemon curd; then pour additional batter to the three-fourths full point, or (3) make a "layer cupcake" and cut the cupcake in half horizontally, add the lemon curd as if you were adding a frosting layer to a layer cake.

Bob's mom made a lemon cake that dazzled everyone who ate it. The mixture of sugar and lemon juice, poured onto the surface, created a taste riot. Something about the mixture of sweet and sour is very appealing. Marie's recipe produces a very light, cake-like texture, uncommon to cupcakes, which usually have a denser texture. So you can think of eating cake in healthy, cupcake sized proportions, smaller than a big slice of regular cake.

Other recipes of note
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches
Very Raspberry Very Merry Coffee Cake with Chocolate
Spinach and Bacon Quiche
Lemon Cupcake Surprise
Quadruple Chocolate Brownies
Intensely Lemon Cookies
Macaroni and Cheese Supreme

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