Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lemon Almond Cupcakes = Love

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

We’ve all heard this phrase, and probably a few variations of it as well. I’m a big fan of “When life hands you lemons, get some tequila and have a party!

Now, we all have our rough days, but it is unlikely that actual lemons will ever manifest in front of you courtesy of this guy, Life. It is more likely that the lemons in our lives will have to be purchased from a grocery store or a farmers’ market. We could also get them from a friend or prepared already in some chef’s famous pasta of course, but that isn’t very relevant to my next pressing question: What on Earth do you do when the Produce Station is selling eight lemons for a mere $2.00?

Side note: to anyone who is not familiar with Ann Arbor shopping, the Produce Station is a most glorious local market that sells fresh produce, local cheeses, and baby potted plants for great prices.

Now, naturally, you buy the eight lemons (and a bunch of peaches, berries, and a potted herb trio for good measure). Perhaps the better question is: then what? What do you do when you get home and have eight lemons taking up space in the fruit drawer? I can only squeeze so much lemon over my sautéed vegetables for dinner before I get tired of citrus stir-fry. I knew I wanted to bake something with the lemons as well, but I couldn’t decide on a recipe… so I didn’t.

After much online searching for lemon recipes, I stumbled across a challenge listed on and

Who doesn’t love a good challenge?

This particular challenge called for a cupcake/ice cream recipe submission, so I thought again of my lemons and began testing out combinations (in my head only, to save money) of ice cream and lemon cupcakes. I also searched diligently for a perfect lemon cupcake recipe to adapt and alter to make my own.

I was a bit nervous at first when most of the recipes I found called for buttermilk — an ingredient that is rarely kept in my fridge, and cake flour — if it isn’t all-purpose, I don’t buy it (at least that’s the way it has always been in the past and will likely remain until it becomes ABSOLUTELY necessary to change).

I refined my search and found a recipe that called for all-purpose flour and milk. I’m not exactly sure how, but as I searched, I also began thinking about lemon/almond combinations. In the end, I did something that I’ve never done before, but that was undoubtedly a prerequisite to entering a recipe contest — I tweaked a cupcake recipe to the point that it became entirely new and unrecognizable from the first! My OWN recipe! I’ve never felt more like a baker!

The final result: Lemon Almond Cupcakes filled with Lemon Curd and Almond Ice Cream and topped with Almond Buttercream Frosting and an Almond/Sprinkles Flower Topping.

Lemon Almond Cupcakes: adapted from the-cupcakery-blog’s lemon cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • ½ tsp almond exract
  • zest and juice from two lemons
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Mix lemon zest with sugar and cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy
  3. Add eggs one at a time
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt
  5. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the batter a little bit at a time
  6. Add lemon juice and almond extract and continue to mix for a few minutes
  7. Divide batter among cupcake pan and bake for about 20 minutes (take out the cupcakes as soon as a wooden toothpick comes out clean to avoid over cooking)
Lemon Curd Recipe from, but following the directions on
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • zest and juice from 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  1. Mix zest in with sugar, and cream the butter and sugar until fluffy
  2. Add eggs one at a time
  3. then add the lemon juice.
  4. Once everything is mixed together, pour it into a pot and stir constantly over a low flame for 15 minutes (I ended up taking a break from stirring only twice: once to check my directions and make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and once to step on an intruding ant)
Almond Buttercream Frosting adapted from good old Magnolia's Bakery. Makes enough frosting for 12 cupcakes
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter, softened
  • about 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Cream butter with about half of the sugar
  2. Add milk
  3. Add remaining sugar
  4. Add flavoring and food coloring (I chose Wilton’s lemon yellow)
For my ice cream filling, I couldn’t find any recipes that I had all the ingredients for or that I really loved enough to put in a full day’s worth of work, so I made up my own TOTALLY from scratch.

Almond Granita:
  • 1 ½ cups half and half + about 3 tablespoons for later
  • ½ cup almond milk + about 2 tablespoons for later
  • about 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  1. Blend all ingredients (except the extra half and half and almond milk) together on high until the air bubbles make the mixture appear to double in size
  2. Freeze for about 1-2 hours
  3. Blend on high for a few more minutes to break up ice chips
  4. Freeze overnight
  5. Defrost for about 1 hour in the refrigerator
  6. Mix in remaining liquids and refreeze for at least one hour
After trying out many combinations (I made two kinds of cupcakes and two flavors of buttercream frosting to sample) and working out how best to fill/top the cakes with the ice cream, I worked out the final version posted here. Enjoy!

Filling in the Middle

And special thanks to my taste testing crew who diligently sampled all of my potential cupcake/frosting/filling combinations. They also wrote out careful notes, provided specific feedback, and most importantly, NEVER made fun of how nerdy I was acting throughout the process. 

You guys are the best!

All the Samples!
The Greatest Testing Crew!

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