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Lemon meringue cupcakes

We’re in the middle of National Cupcake Week and I haven’t eaten nearly enough cupcakes!

When I was thinking about some different cupcakes to experiment with for this week, I kept thinking about the desserts I like and whether I could make a cupcake version of them. Lemon meringue pie was one of those at the top of my list. Doing some quick online research (I try not to do this very much when I’m experimenting to avoid being influenced too much rather than going with my own ideas), people were making lemon flavoured cupcakes with some kind of meringue on top, or spreading lemon curd on top of a cupcake. I was thinking something different.

My cupcakes have a surprise – a gooey centre of lemon curd under the fluffy meringue. In an ideal world (where I can spend as much time as I like experimenting in the kitchen while someone else does the day-to-day cooking) I would make my own lemon curd. But living in the real world, I used ready-made lemon curd from the supermarket.

My meringue topping is a fluffy airy meringue rather than a stiffer marshmallow texture as I prefer my cupcake toppings to melt in your mouth. I also like seeing other people with my food all around their mouths! And anyway, cupcake eating should be messy. Did you ever see Carrie Bradshaw in ‘Sex and the City’ eat a cupcake without getting the icing all over her fingers and sometimes also on her chin?!

The vanilla cupcakes are the same recipe I used to make my lamington cupcakes. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

I’ve used an Italian style meringue (using a sugar syrup rather than mixing sugar directly into the egg whites) because it holds its shape much more easily. I’ve erred on the side of being very generous for the amount of meringue topping. I would hate to think of anyone running out or a twelfth cupcake being left with a meagre amount, and you can always use any leftovers to bake mini meringues.

LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

Prep time: 25-30 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 12 cupcakes
Unfilled cupcakes without the topping can be frozen for up to a month

Vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd filling

125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
150g lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Beat the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer, or in a food processor, until creamy and a paler colour.

At a slower speed, add the vanilla, eggs (one at a time) and milk.

Put the creamy mixture into a bowl and carefully fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix it.

Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases (the mixture should fill the cases about two thirds full).

Bake for 12-15 mins until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, with a sharp knife cut a small circle in the centre of each cupcake. Use a teaspoon to take it out, keeping the extra piece of cake (no, you can’t eat it).

Dollop one teaspoon of lemon curd into each hollowed out cupcake. Cut off the bottom of the extra piece and place it back on top to close the cupcake up. (If your top no longer completely covers the hole, you can crumble the extra piece you cut off and lightly press the crumbs in.)

Meringue topping

3 egg whites, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
75ml water

In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar and water over a low heat.

Whisk the egg whites until they’ve doubled in volume and have soft peaks (2-3 mins).

Very slowly pour in the sugar syrup while you keep whisking, avoiding pouring the syrup over the beaters. Keep whisking until the mixture has turned glossy and thick and has firm peaks (about 5 mins).

Using a large metal spoon, dollop the meringue mixture on top of the cupcakes (you can use a piping bag if you want it to be less free-form).

Place the cupcakes under a grill until the meringue has just started to turn brown (keep a close eye on them) or use a blow torch to lightly brown the meringue.

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