Saturday, January 16, 2016

You need a few bites of sunshine!

I can't complain too much about the North Country winter this year. I mean, heck, it was darn near 70 degrees on Christmas Eve, and the lowest temps we've had so far have been in the single digits (this is often 20-30 below time of year). Still, it's cold and dark, and spring is still months away for us. But fortunately, it's citrus season in the supermarkets, and who couldn't use a little tropical-flavored goodness? Since two of my friends had birthdays this week, I decided to bake some sunny, lemony cupcakes to take to share at karaoke last night. And they turned out just DELICIOUS, if I do say so myself!

Ok, ok, I started with a box mix as a time-saving short cut, but there are lots of things that you can do to make a box mix taste more like homemade. You can swap out milk, buttermilk, or sour cream for the water. (For a chocolate cake, swap out coffee or dark beer or red wine. For white or yellow cake, swap out lemon-lime or grapefruit soda or lemonade or ginger ale.) You can--and should--swap melted butter for the vegetable oil for better texture and flavor. You can add one extra egg for a slightly denser texture. Fresh lemon zest in a white or yellow cake is always a fine idea, as is adding a teaspoon of vanilla to any flavor of cake mix. You can also add other spices, extracts, nuts, berries, chocolate chips, or whatever is hanging around in your pantry or freezer that looks like it would be tasty in your cake. But the most CRUCIAL step in making a boxed mix cake taste special and like you made it all from scratch--hear me now, my people--is to make a luscious, homemade frosting to go on top!

For this particular batch, I used a lemon cake mix (otherwise, I might have used a yellow cake mix and added the zest and juice of a lemon), I swapped out whole milk for the water, melted butter for the vegetable oil, added a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, and a pinch of salt. Then for the frosting, I made this creamy, dreamy stuff:

Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 stick (6T) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a stand mixer, blend the cream cheese and butter with the paddle until completely smooth. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix until very smooth, then blend in the lemon zest and vanilla. Use to frost 24 completely cooled cupcakes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, I can't eat this, but boy do I want it! So glad you're posting again--always enjoy your culinary adventures...