If I could use only three words to describe these lemon meringue cupcakes, it'd be light, tangy and velvety. With a luscious lemon curd filling and a toasted meringue frosting, these cupcakes are sure to be a bright spot in your day.
Here's how to make these cupcakes
First, make the lemon curd.
Because the lemon curd needs to be chilled before it can be used, we're starting with this step.
Fill a small pot with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, zest and egg yolks.
Reduce the water to a simmer, and place the small bowl over the top of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened considerably (about 10 minutes).
Remove the bowl from pot and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Add the cubed butter and stir until fully incorporated.
Pour the lemon curd into a jar or bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd and place in the refrigerate to chill.
If this is your first time making lemon curd, I highly recommend checking out my how to make lemon curd post, which includes lots of additional information like the best way to zest a lemon and a vegan lemon curd recipe.
Second, make the lemon cupcakes.
In a small bowl, gently rub the sugar and lemon zest together for 1-2 minutes. Doing this helps the zest release all of its essential oils, which maximizes the amount of flavor you get.
Combine the eggs and lemon sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
It’s important to give the egg/sugar mixture the benefit of the full 2-3 minute whipping as this will give it a beautifully fluffy texture and is part of the process that will help your cake to rise.
In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients and in another, the wet.
With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar mixture in two parts, adding all the wet ingredients between the dry. Mix on low until just combined.
To prevent overmixing, it’s important to mix on low or by hand when adding the wet and dry ingredients to the batter, and to mix until the ingredients are just incorporated. Overmixing can result in a dense, tough cake.
Line a cupcake pan with liners.
Fill each liner with 4 tablespoons of batter. For this recipe, 4 tablespoons is the perfect amount of batter to create a slightly domed cupcake.
Bake at 350F in the center of the oven for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of your cupcakes comes out with only cooked crumbs.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool completely in the cupcake pan before removing them. Move to a cooling rack once cooled.
If you don't have the ingredients or the desire to make the lemon cupcakes from scratch, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon zest (depending on if you're making 12 or 24 cupcakes) to a white or vanilla cake mix. I highly recommend adding a few upgrades like an extra egg and sour cream to make your boxed cake mix taste a little more homemade.
Third, fill the cupcakes with lemon curd.
The meringue frosting we're making in the next step sets quickly, so you'll want to fill your cupcakes and have them ready to frosting prior to making the frosting.
To fill your cupcakes, insert a small pairing knife at a 45 degree angle into the top of your cupcake about ¼" from the edge.
Maintaining that 45 degree angle and ¼" from the rim, gently saw your way around the top of the cupcake. This will remove a cone shaped piece of cake from the center of your cupcake.
Cut the wide end off each cone at ¼" thick.
Fill the center of each cupcake with lemon curd, leaving ¼" of space at the top.
Place the ¼" thick piece of cake you cut off of each cone over the lemon curd.
Finally, make the frosting.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and the sugar. Place over a pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot (160F).
Return the bowl to the stand mixer and whip on high until light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract to the meringue and whip on low until just combined.
Spoon the frosting into a piping bag with a large, round tip (I used an Ateco 809).
Holding the piping bag straight up from the top of the cupcake, pipe a low swirl starting at the center and working outward.
Use an offset spatula to deepen the swirl or create additional ridges/texture for toasting.
Use a chef's torch to toast the top of the meringue frosting. Be careful not to get too close to the liners as they easily burn.
Lemon meringue cupcakes without a blowtorch
If you don't have a chef's torch for toasting your meringue frosting, you can easily use your broiler to do it.
Place your frosted cupcakes onto a baking sheet. Turn your top broiler to high and place your cupcakes under them, leaving a few inches of room.
The meringue should toast in roughly 30 seconds, but make sure to keep a close eye on them as they can go from browned to burned in no time.
- Filling your cupcake liners: For a perfectly domed cupcake, fill you’re liners with 4 tablespoons of batter.
- Knowing when your cupcakes are done: There are two ways to test for doneness. 1. Insert a tooth pick in the center of the cupcakes and if it comes out mostly clean (a few cooked crumbs are good but there shouldn’t be raw batter), it’s done. 2. Gently press the top of the cupcake and if it almost immediately springs back, it’s done.
- Storing frosted cupcakes: While cupcakes are always best when eaten the same day they’re made, these can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Start with a perfectly clean bowl for meringues: This may seem like a no-brainer but even a little bit of grease can ruin your meringue. Whatever you use, making sure it’s been thoroughly scrubbed with warm, soapy water.
- Don’t use plastics bowls to make meringue: To the point above, it’s very hard to completely remove fats from plastic bowls and kitchen utensils, which tend to develop a greasy coating over time. Instead, use a glass, metal or ceramic bowl.
- Crack your eggs into a separate bowl: Egg yolks = fat and as we’ve established, fats will keep your meringue from reaching it’s full potential. To avoid having a single yolk ruin the whole batch, be sure to crack and separate your eggs over a small bowl before adding the white to the rest of the batch.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
These lemon meringue cupcakes feature a fluffy lemon cupcake filled with velvety lemon curd and topped with a toasted meringue frosting.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 18 minutes
- Total Time: 38 minutes
- Yield: 12 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup milk
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Whisk together sugar, lemon juice, zest and egg yolks.
- Place over a pot of simmering water and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened considerably (about 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Add cubed butter, stirring until incorporated.
- Pour into a jar or bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd and refrigerate until chilled.
- In a bowl, massage the sugar and lemon zest together. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Whip the eggs and lemon sugar together until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
- In one bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and in another, whisk together the wet (vegetable oil, milk, sour cream and vanilla extract).
- With the mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
- Add the wet ingredients, and continue mixing on low until just combined.
- Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients.
- Spoon four tablespoons of batter into each cavity of a lined cupcake pan.
- Bake at 350F for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only cooked crumbs.
- Allow to cool in cupcake pan before moving to a cooling rack.
Filling the cupcakes:
- Using a small pairing knife at a 45 degree angle, cut a cone shape piece of cake out of the center of each cupcake.
- Cut the top off of each cone so only a thin layer remains.
- Fill each cupcake with lemon curd.
- Cover with the thin layer of cupcake you just cut.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar.
- Place over a pot of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot (160F).
- Return the bowl to the stand mixer and whip on high until light and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and whip on low until just combined.
- Spoon the frosting into a piping bag with a large, round tip (like an Ateco 809), and pipe a low swirl, starting at the center of the cupcake and working outward.
- Use an offset spatula to deepen the swirl or to create additional ridges to toast.
- Use a chef's torch to toast the top of the meringue.
- Serving Size: 1 cupcake
- Calories: 289
- Sugar: 34.1g
- Sodium: 138mg
- Fat: 12.5g
- Saturated Fat: 4.6g
- Carbohydrates: 42.2g
- Fiber: 0.3g
- Protein: 3.9g
- Cholesterol: 80mg
Keywords: lemon meringue cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, meringue frosting
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