Italian Cream Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream

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Today is a special Sweet Precision post for two exciting reasons. The first reason that I can’t stop thinking or talking about is that I am now engaged! Matt surprised me by coming to DC this week from Ann Arbor and proposing to me! When I heard the knocking outside my door on Tuesday night I was trying to ignore the intrusion assuming it was just another solicitor. But when the knocking continued, I finally opened the door to find Matt there with his suitcase in hand. He came into my apartment and proposed on the spot—I was completely shocked and elated! So the remainder of this week has been a whirlwind, but in an amazingly good way.

Oh right, was there was a second exciting component to this post? Today is our work baking competition and I’m revealing the Italian cream cupcakes that I’ll be entering. I created this recipe by combining ideas that I got from some of my favorite baking blogs. This is the second time I’ve made these cupcakes and with a few tweaks that I made, I think they’re just about perfect. Much like my triple salted caramel cupcakes, these little beauties are a labor of love. Make sure you’ve set aside a few hours in the kitchen to make these. I promise that the finished product is worth the work though!

As a post baking contest update, the cupcakes beat out some tough competition to take first place!! 

Italian Cream Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Buttercream


Italian Cream Cake Batter
5 large eggs, separated at room temperature
2 cups superfine granulated white sugar (sometimes called baker’s sugar)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon sea salt
zest of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cake flour

Preheat the oven to 325˚. Line two muffin tins with 24 paper liners.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar to the egg white until it thickens up and looks like meringue. Put aside.

Cream the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening, salt and lemon zest with a mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides, and add the vanilla extract. Mix and add an egg yolk at a time (stopping periodically to scrape down the sides) until the mixture is yellow, thick and well blended.

Stir the buttermilk and the baking soda together and add 1/3 of it to the butter mixture. Mix and then add 1 cup of the flour and mix again. Repeat with the buttermilk and then the flour, ending on the buttermilk.

Using a large spatula gently fold in the egg whites. Divide the batter and spoon into the paper liners. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing.

Lemon Curd Filling
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Add the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, zest and lemon juice in a double boiler and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens up – around 10 minutes, all the while whisking it. Once the mixture starts to thicken, turn the heat up to medium and cook until it thickens and “tracks” when you pull the whisk through it. Add the butter and strain, discarding the solids. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least an hour before using. You can store it in the fridge for a couple of days.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 cups (approx. 1 lb.) confectioner’s sugar sifted
Additional lemon juice or milk (optional)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and zest; beat well. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, if icing is dry, add additional juice or milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Re-whip before using.

Candied Lemon Wedges

1 large lemon
1 cup sugar

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut lemon into 12 paper-thin slices; discard seeds and ends of rind. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, and add lemon slices; stir until softened, about 1 minute. Drain, and immediately plunge slices into ice-water bath. Drain.

Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium skillet, swirling to dissolve sugar. When liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low. Add lemon slices, arranging them in one layer with tongs. Simmer (do not let boil) until rinds are translucent, about 1 hour. As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.

Assembly Instructions
Take the cooled cupcake and cut a 1/2″ wide and 1″ deep cone in middle of the cupcake with a paring knife. Remove the cone, spoon the lemon curd into the cupcake, and replace the top of the cone on the cupcake (you’ll have to cut a little off so it fits back in). Take the lemon buttercream frosting and pipe onto the top of the cupcake. Garnish with candied lemon wedge.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe is originally designed for a wedding cake. It’s important to note that when you make wedding cakes you want flat level cakes to stack. This recipe results in a flat cake without a lot of dome. However, when making cupcakes, people seem to like more domed tops, which you won’t get with this one. The advantage of a flat topped cupcake is you get to put more frosting on top! However if you are one of those people who wants a domed cupcake top, increase the temperature of the oven to 375˚ for the first 15 minutes and then drop the temperature back to 325˚ for 10 minutes and then test for doneness.