Lemon cupcakes are miniature cakes that carry the distinctive, tangy flavor of lemon. Sweeter than its cousin, the lemon muffin, a lemon cupcake generally has some type of frosting on top. Sometimes, the lemon flavor can be baked right into the cupcake itself, while other times, the taste is instilled into the frosting. Other ingredients are often added to enhance the cupcake's flavor.
Lots of people, young and old, love cupcakes. Generally made in a portable, handheld, single-serving size, a cupcake offers a convenient treat with all the taste and texture of a slice of cake but without the mess and hassle. Cupcakes come in a variety of flavors, and lemon cupcakes are a favorite of many.
Generally, cooks use a generic, vanilla-based cake batter to create lemon cupcakes. When making the batter, bakers generate the lemony taste by adding one or more types of flavoring. Lemon extract is a popular choice because it is added in small amounts and doesn't affect the texture of the batter yet still adds a distinctive lemon flavor and aroma.
Some bakers use natural lemon juice to add tang to the cupcakes. With this method, though, the amount of juice that must be added can affect the texture of the batter. Consequently, cooks take certain measures, such as adding more flour, to make sure the cupcake mix doesn’t become too runny. Other people might choose to add lemon zest to the batter to create the desired taste. Zest, which is the finely shaved rind of a fresh lemon, will tend to give only a hint of flavor to the lemon cupcakes and is usually used in conjunction with other options.
Certain types of lemon cupcakes don’t actually have any lemon flavor in the cake itself. Rather, cooks prefer to add lemon juice, extract, or zest to the icing instead. This gives the cupcakes a light lemon taste that is not overpowering or overly tart. On the other hand, if a strong lemon taste is desired, some cooks add flavoring to both the cupcake batter and the icing.
Chefs use different types of frosting for lemon cupcakes. If they are flavoring the icing with lemon, the type of icing they choose often affects the amount of flavoring needed. For instance, for a light, sugar glaze, cooks generally use only a touch of flavor, whereas butter-cream icing, because of its stronger taste, requires a larger dose of lemon. Most chefs agree, however, that adding lemon flavor to whipped cream-type icing does not work well, especially if dairy-based whipped cream is used.
Given the versatile nature of lemon cupcakes, bakers often add other ingredients to enhance the flavor. Poppy seeds are a popular choice and tend to complement the taste of of the lemon. Strawberries, either baked inside or layered on top, also make a nice addition because the sweetness of the strawberries tends to offset the tartness of the lemon cupcake. People wishing to bake their own lemon cupcakes can find many recipe variations in any number of cookbooks and online recipe sites.