Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Over the last couple of years cupcakes seem to have become the ubiquitous sweet treat.  When I was a child they were called fairy cakes and you were lucky if they were topped with a bit of icing and a sprinkle of hundreds and thousands.  Now they have become works of art.  Shops have been set up which are dedicated solely to producing miniature bites of flavoured sponge and buttercream and whole shelves of cupcake cookery books abound in book shops the world over.

When I need a bit of cupcake porn I visit my friend Lisa who makes the most beautiful cakes for all occasions including, of course, cupcakes.  If you want to share my guilty habit check out Vanillaboo and be prepared to drool.  Lisa has made dainty birthday cupcakes, elegant wedding cupcakes and fun cakes for children but she refuses to share her recipes with me – they are a closely guarded secret and if you are ever lucky enough to taste one you will understand why.

So when I realised it was National Cupcake Week (who decides these things?) I realised I was on my own.  I had been meaning to try out these meringue topped beauties for a while so this was my opportunity.

The spoonful of lemon curd melts into the mix giving a lovely gooey spot in the middle and the soft meringue adds sweetness and moisture to counteract the sharp lemon flavour.  The meringue is not fully cooked so think twice before feeding them to small children or pregnant women – oh dear – that means more for you.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cakes

4 oz / 100g Butter (softened)

4 oz / 100g Golden Caster Sugar

4 oz / 100g Self Raising Flour

2 Large Free Range Eggs

1 tsp Lemon Essence

Zest of 1 Lemon

2 oz / 50g Lemon Curd

For the Meringue

2 Large Free Range Egg Whites

4 oz / 100g Golden Caster Sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4

Line a cupcake tin with paper cases (makes 12).

Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs a little at a time and beat together.  Beat in the lemon essence.  Fold in the flour and grated lemon zest.

Spoon the cake batter into the paper cases and place a teaspoonful of lemon curd on the top of each one.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Once cool make the meringue.

Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl (even a hint of grease will stop them from stiffening) until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.

You can pipe the meringue onto the top of your cakes for a professional finish or just spoon it on and swirl it with the back of a spoon as I did.

To toast the meringue place the cakes under a pre-heated grill for a minute or two until brown – do not take your eyes off them as they burn in a second.  Alternatively you can use a chefs blow torch if you have one.

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