Monday, February 28, 2011

Lemon and Raspberry Coconut Cupcakes

Today is Heidi's birthday !  Happy Birthday Heidi!  I have made a fair number of different cakes for Heidi's birthday, but she has settled on this cake as her favorite.  It is moist white cake, filled with raspberry conserve and lemon curd, then frosted with white chocolate cream cheese buttercream and then sprinkled with coconut.  It is light and moist and has a very intense bright flavor.

Normally I make this as a regular 9-inch cake, but I have noticed something lately.  Many people will not eat cake if they have to slice off a piece.  I don't know what it is, but people just have an aversion to a slice of cake and will often try to shave off the thinnest layer possible as if they are preparing a sample for an electron microscope.  Now cup cakes,on the other hand, never seem to have that problem, perhaps because they are smaller and meant to be individual servings.  Truth be told they are probably have the same mass as as your average slice of cake, but it seems that people are much less intimidated by cupcakes.  I think that's a big reason for the recent explosion in the popularity of cupcakes.

So bearing this sociological observation in mind, I decided to deconstruct Heidi's favorite cake and reinvent it as a cupcake.  The result is very playful and appealing and tastes every bit as delicious as the original if not better.

A word about this recipe.  These are definitely "special occasion" cupcakes.  They aren't the kind of thing you throw together on a whim because you have the munchies.  The extra time and effort is so worth the effort though.  This recipe involves making a homemade raspberry conserve from fresh or frozen raspberries, a homemade lemon curd, and white chocolate cream cheese buttercream all from Rose Levy Beranbaum's legendary cookbook The Cake Bible (see recommended cookbooks)...that's a lot of work, so I usually use a white cake mix for the cake (it tastes as good as one made from scratch and with all the other prep work, who wants to add more?).  Trust me, there is nothing "Sandra Lee" about these cupcakes.

I use an unusual technique to extract as much lemon flavor as possible from the lemons.  It is a technique I learned from an Austrian pastry chef.  Combining citrus peel and sugar in a food processor allows the sugar to capture more of the essential oils of the peel than simply grating or zesting the peel (where the oils are atomized into the air and subsequently lost).  I use this technique whenever I make any kind of citrus pastry.

Lemon and Raspberry Coconut Cupcakes
(makes 18-24)

1 white cake mix baked into 18-24 cupcakes
1 -2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
18-24 fresh raspberries (optional garnish)

Raspberry Conserve:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 lb. fresh or frozen raspberries

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan, heat over high heat until mixture comes to a boil.  Add raspberries and stir in gently, cook until mixture returns to a boil and boil one minute.  Place a fine mesh sieve over a large glass bowl and drain hot raspberry mixture into sieve.  Collect drippings and with a wooden spoon of silicone spatula pres raspberries gently through sieve (this step is to remove many of the seeds).  Scrape raspberry pulp from bottom of sieve into bowl of liquids, then return to sauce pan and heat over medium heat simmering until mixture is reduced to about 3/4 cup and is thick and jam-like.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Lemon Curd:
peel from 3 medium lemons
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
Juice from 3 medium lemons
1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter

With a vegetable peeler remove most of the peel from the 3 lemons (avoid the white pith of the peel, use only the yellow rind).  In the bowl of a food processor combine the peel and the sugar and process until peel is finely ground and sugar is a light yellow color.  In a medium sauce pan combine the citrus sugar and egg yolks and whisk to combine.  Add lemon juice and butter and heat over medium heat stirring constantly until the curd thickens o the consistency of pudding, remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz. (3/4 cup) white chocolate.

Combine butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy.  Place chopped white chocolate (or white chocolate chips) in a glass bowl.  Melt white chocolate in microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring with a fork between each heating, until melted (be careful not to overheat white chocolate or it will burn).  Add melted white chocolate to butter/cream cheese and beat until  incorporated.

Pierce the center of each cooled cupcake with a sharp knife poking down nearly but not completely to the bottom.  Combine about 1/2 cup of icing with the cooled raspberry conserve and stir to combine with a whisk.  If mixture is still thin, place in refrigerator briefly to stiffen.  Transfer raspberry mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Insert star tip into incision of each cupcake and pipe about 1Tbsp raspberry filling into each cupcake.  If there is too much raspberry filling coming out of the incision, smooth top of cupcake with a butter knife.  Spread the top of each cupcake with about 1 Tbsp lemon curd.  Pipe buttercream on top of lemon curd to almost completely cover the cupcake.  Gently press sweetened flaked coconut on top of buttecream, garnish with fresh raspberries and serve.

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