I was sort of strongarmed into the Cupcake Challenge co-hosted by Garrett of Vanilla Garlic and Cheryl (Chockylit) of Cupcake Bakeshop. "I expect you to participate," said Garrett. Far be it from me to back down from a challenge.
I have long enjoyed the cupcakey escapades of both bloggers. Many times have I been inspired to whip up some batter and snap to it. Yet, I must confess, I was a cupcake virgin. I had never baked a cupcake in my life.
So what does one do to pop one's cupcake cherry? Cherry vanilla? Cute, but taken. Plain old Duncan Hines-style vanilla with chocolate frosting? Too boring. No, after weighing the options and dreaming of yummy flavors, I decided I wanted to make almond cupcakes with a lemon frosting.
The recipe for cupcake base derives from Chockylit herself, only I opted out on the raspberries and tossed in some lemon zest. And as icing goes, I just don't really dig butter cream. I wanted someting lighter, brighter and more delicate, so I adapted a royal icing recipe from Nigella Lawson by adding some lemon zest for an additional citric kick. Some dry-toasted almonds on top, and voilà.
These were dee-lish. But. They are certainly Not Your Mother's Cupcakes. The rather substantial amount of almond paste gave the cake a meaty texture and prominent almond flavor; the ricotta kept it moist but dense. And the lemon frosting was intense, a bright counterpoint to the nutty yumminess of the cupcake beneath.
Alongside a plump, ripe strawberry with a drizzle of 12-year balsamic, they made a charming and surprisingly elegant dessert. But I think the best application was just straight up alongside our usual espresso for breakfast the next morning. Ho yeah.
I won't reproduce the recipes here, as I did not modify them significantly enough to call them remotely my own. Just follow Chockylit's recipe for the cupcakes, omitting the raspberries and adding in the finely grated zest of 1/2 meyer lemon into the eggs before integrating them. Then, follow Nigella's recipe, adding in a teaspoon or two of zest there as well. Toast up slivered or sliced almonds in a dry pan until lightly brown, ice, sprinkle and serve.