Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lemon Mascarpone Cupcakes - Two Ways

For SYJ, JJ, JEL, HJL, EK, CA, TR, SWC, MKL, LCH, RH - My Lemon Cupcake tasting crew...

Initially when I started this blog, I had the idea that I would hunt and search and find the one perfect recipe that would mean my readers didn't need to find another recipe - they would have the one tried and true recipe at their fingertips, thereby eliminating any extra research.

I began my quest for a perfect lemon cupcake about one month ago. I started out with one recipe for the cake and a couple of different frosting attempts and had them taste tested by an expert panel of judges (basically close friends and family - my guinea pigs.) My judges told me hands down it was the perfect cake - dense, moist, rich, lemony and buttery all at the same time. But I found myself wanting something different - lighter, less dense. I decided to try yet another cupcake recipe - something lighter, fluffier and spongier, if you will. And I did - only to find myself torn with the all-important question...

In a cupcake - do you want fluffy or dense?

(In the photograph, dense is on the left, fluffy on the right.) In polling friends and family, I found that the two camps were fiercely loyal to their preference -dense or fluffy. The dense camp favored their cakes because they liked bite and substance to their cake - they also argued that dense was moister and more flavorful. The fluffy camp liked the lightness of the cake - you could eat more of them, you weren't so weighed down by them.

Finally I decided to do a head-to-head taste testing of the two cupcakes -dense vs. fluffy, and this past Saturday I did, for an expert panel of taste testers. I made one set of cupcakes with the fluffy cake another with the dense and frosted them with the same lemon mascarpone frosting. The results were surprising - when I tasted them next to one another, I actually found myself leaning more towards the denser cake, when I thought I was a fluffy girl. My best friend, self-proclaimed dense lover, carefully analyzed the merits of both cakes - dense was moist, rich and delicious, but she actually preferred the flavor of the fluffy. In her final analysis the frosting pretty much equated everything making the cupcakes virtually equal in her eyes.

In the end, I was unable to choose WHICH cupcake was the superior one - and ended up deciding to post both here. The dense lemon cupcake is from my favorite cupcake blogger Cheryl, who made a lemon cupcake with some lavender and rose frostings. I just took the lemon cupcake batter and used it. The fluffy lemon cupcake is from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook which is actually a lemon cake which I modified to make into cupcake portions. The mascarpone frosting is of my own creation, although the fundamentals of cream cheese/mascarpone frostings are pretty standard. You'll need to taste test both and decide if you like it...dense or fluffy.

DENSE Lemon Cupcakes

14 regular cupcakes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Measure out milk and vanilla.
5. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
6. Mix in lemon juice and lemon zest.
7. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
8. Let cool and then frost with Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

FLUFFY Lemon Cupcakes (from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)
12 regular cupcakes (I've managed to squeeze out 14 a couple of times)

8 tablespoons of butter, softened (1 stick of butter)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin pan with liners.
2. Cream butter until smooth, add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time.
4. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with milk and lemon juice and zest, beating well after each addition.
5. Divide batter in muffin tins. Bake 20-25 minutes.
6. Cool and then ice with lemon mascarpone frosting.

Lemon Mascarpone Frosting (enough for 14 cupcakes)
4 tablespoons butter (2 oz or 1/2 stick), softened
8 oz of mascarpone cheese (I get 8 oz for $2.99 at Trader Joes)
2 1/2-3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

With a mixer, cream butter and mascarpone cheese together until well incorporated and fluffy. Add lemon juice and lemon zest and 1 cup of sugar. Gradually add more sugar - you will need more sugar for it to be pipeable (stiffer) and less if you are just going to spread it on the cake.


Steph said...

I prefer fluffy!! Dense is a little too rich for me, but mostly because I like the light texture of fluffy.

Laura said...

What a great combo! I love anything mascarpone and anything lemon! I like my chocolate cupcakes dense and my vanilla based cupcakes fluffy.

pookiepantry said...

I think the dense ones may be the ones I'll choose. Thanks for the great recipes, I'm bookmarking to try later this week!

Anonymous said...

Re the frosting directions:
"4 oz butter (1/2 stick), softened"

Is it 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick), or 4 oz (1 stick) ?

Joanne Choi said...

anonymous thanks for the corrections...will fix. it is 1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons butter.

Anonymous said...

fluffy lemon cupcakes for me ! thanks

Anonymous said...

i made the fluffy lemon cupcakes last night and my husband and daughter loved them. i later found out that i forgot to add 3/4 c self rising flour but it tasted so good i dont know if it still needs it haha looks like i have found my favorite cupcake recipe. thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

does it matter what kind of milk you use? i only have 1% low fat milk at home.

Joanne Choi said...

go ahead and use low fat...that works just as fine. :)

Patti said...

Hi Joanne,
I have made the fluffy ones twice now and both times they haven't seemed fluffy like box-mix fluffy. Is that what that are supposed to be like? They were very delicious though! Mine also don't rise that much...are they supposed to?

Joanne Choi said...

@Patti -

if you're using the self rising flour, make sure it is fresh. Using room temperature eggs and butter also helps the fluffy factor. Make sure you thoroughly mix the sugar and the butter (creaming it together until it is fluffy) and then add the butter. Taking care to do all of these steps dramatically changes the texture of the cake.

But you will NOT get the texture of a boxed cake mix, which relies on OIL to get that tender cake....

Sara Henry Cakes said...

I have been searching for a really good lemon cake recipe. Do you find either of these cupcake recipes work as well when using all the batter for cake rather than cupcakes....

Joanne Choi said...

@Sarah...I've never tried it so I'm unsure. However, the denser version I've made sort of modifications into another flavored cake...(vanilla bean)...but again, its a dense chewier cake, not a light and fluffy one. I hope that helps.

gluten free products said...

To create truly moist, melt in your mouth cupcakes, try adding some pudding to the batter. For a moist taste with tang, use a little cream cheese, or for a healthy style of moist, try applesauce. About 1/2 cup for a basic cupcake recipe should do.

Leyla said...

I just tried the dense version. Wow too yummy! My dad took a bite, his eyes widdened and he said only one thing, "... wow." :)

I think I messed up the frosting though. It tastes great but it doesn't look smooth and silky, its kind of splotcy. Im not sure if I overbeat or maybe curdled something... it looks that way to me.


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