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Sweet Lemon Cupcakes

If you fill your muffin cups too full with batter, you will end up with overblown cupcakes! Fill them just the right amount and they will have flat tops. Then, the icing will not flow over the sides and they will be easier to decorate.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons, washed
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at
      room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Yellow and green decorating sugar

Directions:

Zest the lemons
Be sure an adult is nearby to help.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Line two 12-well muffin pans with paper liners.

Holding the lemons over a cutting board, rub them over the small holes of a box grater. Use short strokes and turn the lemon as you work. Rub off only the colored part of the peel (the zest). Measure out 2 teaspoons zest. Reserve the lemons.

Start the batter
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Stir with a whisk until evenly blended. Add the 2 teaspoons lemon zest to the flour mixture and whisk well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and fluffy. Turn off the mixer, sprinkle in the granulated sugar and continue beating until pale.

Finish the batter
One at a time, crack the eggs into a small bowl and check for shells. Add the eggs to the batter, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.

Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Turn off the mixer and add the milk. Beat on low speed until smooth. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour mixture. Beat just until blended.

Fill the cups
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula. Then, using two large spoons, one to scoop out the batter and the other to push it off the spoon, fill each muffin cup half full. Do not fill the muffin cups any higher than that. Wash the bowls and spoons.

Bake the cupcakes
Put the pans in the oven and bake until the edges of the cupcakes are pale golden brown and a thin skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (ask an adult to help!), 20 to 25 minutes.

Ask an adult to help you remove the pans from the oven and put them on wire cooling racks. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then lift out the cupcakes, put them directly on the racks and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Make the icing
Holding each zested lemon on its side on the cutting board, cut the lemons in half with a sharp knife. Twist each lemon half over the cone of a citrus juicer. Pick out and throw away any seeds. Measure out 3 tablespoons juice and put in a small bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and a little of the lemon juice. Add some more lemon juice but only enough to make the icing thick. It should slowly fall off the whisk.

Ice and decorate
Spoon some icing on top of each cupcake and use the back of the spoon in a circular motion to help spread it to the edges of the cupcake liner. Let the icing stand for a minute until it smooths out to make a flat surface.

Right away, sprinkle the iced cupcakes with the colored sugar. Do not wait too long after pouring the icing or it will harden and the sugar wont stick. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Sweet Treats, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2006).