Tag Archives: lemon

The Best Lemon Coconut Cupcakes of Your Life

3 Jun

…… or (an alternative title): The Best Cupcakes of your life in general.

This may sound a little extreme, but I just ate another one of these and was in heaven all over again, and I’m pretty sure you will agree (I know Matt and the rest of my family agreed!!).

Originally this was going to be a Lemon Coconut Cake creation.  That was until I was halfway through making the cake batter and could not locate any sort of round cake pans in my kitchen.  How is that possible!?  I even looked back at our wedding registry online to see if we registered for them….. nope?!  So I’m thinking what happened is that Matt and I both had sets of round cake pans in our separate apartments, and that they were probably old and gross so we got rid of them, thinking we would register for nice new ones.  And then we forgot to register for them.  Who knows?! Or else I really do have them somewhere and just couldn’t find them….

Oh well! The thing is, I think this recipe came out infinitely better as a cupcake anyway!  Instead of using the homemade lemon curd as a filling in between the layers of cake, I scooped out a bit of each cupcake and filled it with lemon curd:

Let me just say, I am mildly obsessed with lemon curd.  It’s just so sweet and tangy and creamy and tart and lemony and heavenly and … is this going too far?  I’ll eat it with a spoon.  Though a cupcake is a much better vehicle I must admit.

Anyway, the point was to make a lemon coconut cake for my mom for a belated Mothers Day celebration.  She loves lemon and loves coconut, and she definitely loved these cupcakes.  I somewhat cheated by starting with a boxed yellow cake mix (I’m going a little Sandra Lee/Semi-Homemade on you), but I made sure to jazz it up with lemon juice, sour cream and shredded coconut.

The frosting is a homemade cream cheese frosting, recipe adapted from Ina Garten, topped with shredded coconut (either toasted or not, you decide – we LOVED the toasted kind, plus it’s a bit prettier I think).

The lemon curd was also an Ina Garten recipe.  It was incredibly easy.  I didn’t make quite a full batch of it (namely because I only had 3 eggs and her recipe calls for 4, ha), but I’ll just link to her original recipe and you can adjust the batch size if you want.  A lot of lemon curd recipes call for using a double boiler-type set up, but her method was so much more simple.  Basically, mixing sugar and lemon zest and butter and eggs and lemon juice all together (it almost looked like cake batter to start), and then cooking it over low heat for just 10 minutes.  It was awesome.  And you don’t even need very many lemons, so it’s affordable too ;-)

Other notes I want to mention: I pulsed the shredded coconut in a food processor before adding it to the batter. I didn’t want it to be stringy at all, like coconut can sometimes be.  This really helped and the coconut wasn’t so noticable in the cake itself.   See the difference?

Also, don’t be intimidated by the added step of scooping out some of the cake and adding lemon curd.  It was very easy to do with a spoon, and then you get to eat the leftover cake pieces and no one has to know :).

I find the easiest way to fill the cupcakes with the curd and to ice them is to put the curd and icing into ziplock baggies, cut off the corner, and pipe it in/on as if you are using a pastry bag (this saves a lot of time over spreading it with a knife, and it looks prettier).

So without further ado, a recipe that will change your life (haha, I’m so over the top about food sometimes, it’s ridiculous, I know):

Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Cream Cheese Icing

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Cake:

  • 1 yellow cake mix (I used Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow – for reference, since other cake mixes may call for different amounts of liquid/eggs)
  • 1/3 cup oil (this is what the mix calls for)
  • 3 eggs (again, as per the box)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water (the box mix called for 1 cup water, so I used 1/4 lemon juice plus 3/4 water)
  • 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut (pulsed in a food processor, optional)

Preheat the oven according to package directions.  Combine all ingredients (except coconut), according to package directions.  Stir in coconut, then scoop into cupcake pans (either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with cupcake liners), filling 2/3 full.  Bake and cool according to package.

Lemon Curd:

For the lemon curd, I used Ina Garten’s Recipe.  I adjusted the recipe to make a smaller amount, but if you make the recipe according to her directions you’ll have plenty of wonderful leftovers then.

I used a microplane zester to zest my lemons, so that elminated the need for me to pulse the lemon peel strips with the sugar as is stated in the original recipe.

At first I was worried because the recipe seemed a little chunky and cloudy:

But as it cooked, it became clear and beautiful just like it should be.

Don’t be worried if it doesn’t seem as thick as it should be after the 10 minutes of cooking are up, because it will continue to thicken once it is cooled and refrigerated.

Cream Cheese Icing:

I again used Ina Garten’s recipe, found at the bottom of this recipe here.

I made a half batch, removed the almond extract, and made other slight adjustments so the ingredients were as follows:

  • 1/2 pound cream cheese (1 bar), at room temperature
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar

Simply beat all ingredients with an electic mixer (or very strong arm) until smooth and combined.

To Assemble:

Once cupcakes are cooled, use a cookie scoop or small spoon to remove small portion of the middle of each cupcake:

Spoon cooled and thickened lemon curd into a small ziplock bag, seal, then snip one corner and pipe into the well of each cupcake.

Spoon icing into another ziplock bag and similarly cut off a corner to pipe the frosting on top of each cupcake, hiding the lemon curd inside.

Top each with shredded coconut, either toasted or not, it’s up to you! (To toast, place some coconut, about 5 ounces, in a dry saute pan on the stove.  Turn heat to medium low, tossing frequently to prevent burning.  Watch it carefully, it will toast quickly!).

If you don’t eat all the cupcakes in one sitting, store them in the refrigerator until your next binge :)

Simple Baked Tilapia, Asparagus and Potatoes

21 May

Today’s recipe is very simple, the kind of food that I crave when I crave a home-cooked meal.  There’s something about eating out at restaurants that gets tiring.  It’s fun to try new things, but constantly eating rich and fancy and indulgent meals gets old quickly for me.  Sometimes I just want something simple.  And somehow this meal satisfies my craving for a simple, square meal.

So here’s the disclaimer: this isn’t anything wild and crazy and innovative, it’s just simple and satisfying and good (and healthy).  This is the sort of thing we eat on weeknights when we’re not feeling adventurous, so feel free just to use this as inspiration, rather than a hard-and-fast recipe.

I tend to use a lot of tilapia when I cook fish, mainly because I usually buy a big bag of the individually wrapped frozen fillets and keep them in the freezer for a quick and easy weeknight meal.  But feel free to substitute any other white fish you like (or even salmon) – you will just need to adjust the baking time depending on the thickness of the fish.

 

Simple Baked Tilapia with Asparagus and Baby Potatoes

Yield: 2 servings; Time: 15 min. active, 15 min. inactive

  • 1 bundle asparagus, ends trimmed off
  • 3/4 lb. baby potatoes
  • 2 tilapia filets (or other white fish)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh) thyme
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot and fill with enough water to cover, plus a teaspoon or two of salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for ~7  minutes, depending on size.  The goal is to par-boil them, not cook them all the way (and then finish the cooking in the oven).

Coat a baking dish with a layer of olive oil or cooking spray.  Place the tilapia filets in the dish and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, lemon juice, half the garlic and half the lemon zest (I seasoned one side and then flipped them over a few times to make sure they were well coated).

Remove half-cooked potatoes from the boiling water, allow to cool briefly, then cut into halves or quarters.  Toss potatoes and asparagus with a tablespoon or so of olive oil (just enough to coat), salt, pepper and remainder of minced garlic and lemon zest.  Place on a baking sheet.

Place the tilapia and potatoes/asparagus in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes (the fish will take 15-17 min depending on the thickness – it’s done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque all the way through; the potatoes/asparagus will take 13-15 minutes).

Serve immediately with fresh basil and/or diced tomato.  Make sure to pour any lemony liquid from the fish baking dish over top!

Day 9: Glazed Lemon Cookies

22 Dec

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Glazed Lemon Cookies!  I think that’s how the song goes…

These cookies couldn’t be simpler – a basic shortbread type cookie topped with a very lemony glaze.  These have been a huge hit at my family Christmas parties, I think because they stand in such sharp contrast to other Christmas cookies (I have been known to make special batches for some special people such as my Grandma).   I think these cookies are so appealing around the holidays because are petite (and thus very poppable), not too sweet, and very refreshing with such a bright lemon flavor.

This recipe is a great make-ahead recipe because they keep very well at room temperature (they’re a dry shortbread already, plus have a protective layer of glaze, so they don’t really get stale), but you can also make the dough ahead and refrigerate or freeze it (see instructions below).  Also, you probably have most all of these ingredients on hand already – likely all you’ll need to buy is a few lemons!  Easy and cheap: love it.

Glazed Lemon Cookies (recipe from Real Simple Magazine, found online here)

Time: 20 min active, 1 hour 45 min total time, Yield: The original recipe says 48, but I got ~60 out of the recipe

  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks (save the whites for another purpose, like a healthy omlette!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary – it has to be fresh, not the bottled kind!
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest – or just use the whole lemon like I did!

Cookies:  With an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half and shape into 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350° F. Slice the logs into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and space them 1.5″ apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Glaze:  In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and zest until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary).  Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, about 15 minutes.

To freeze: Instead of refrigerating the dough, freeze the logs for up to 2 months. To bake, follow the recipe instructions, cutting and baking the dough from frozen, and use the upper end of the time range.

This cookie can be adapted to any number of citrus varieties since the dough itself is a plain shortbread.  In the summer, I have made some lemon and some lime, for a more interesting selection.  Orange or grapefruit might also be fun!  All you need is the fresh juice and zest.