Ever since I ate a cupcake with Italian meringue buttercream, I knew I had to learn to make it. It was so creamy and light and grown up – less like icing and more like the nicest mousse in the world. The thing is, it really difficult to make – it uses Italian meringue (boiling sugar poured and whisked into egg whites to cook them), you need a sugar thermometer and to handle boily sugar without melting your skin off. On the surface of it, these cupcakes look pretty simple but actually the icing has taken a lot of fiddling and practice to get them right. The first test I did, there seemed to be too much butter in the recipe I used and I poured in the boiling sugar incorrectly so it clumped at the bottom. The second attempt (this one) was much better.
To make the buttercream you are going to need a stand mixer – I think you might be able to try it with a hand whisk but I needed two hands to get the boiling sugar in safely whilst whisking all the time. I have a Kenwood KMix (a beautiful white one which goes with my shiny white kitchen) which is probably my most used kitchen item, I turn it on at least 3 or 4 times a week. We do bread, pizza dough, biscuits, cake, brownies etc. in it. It had been a toss up between that and an Artisan but I think the Artisan looks a bit twee, it is much more expensive for almost no additional benefit and my granddad worked for Kenwood his whole life so I have some deeply rooted brand loyalty, Isn’t it beautiful? I still tell it that I love it from time to time.
Anyway on to the cake – I made lemon sponge with a lemon curd centre, lemon italian meringue buttercream and homemade chocolate buttons on top.
For the buttercream (this makes enough for about 24 cakes; it is worth making lots and then freezing the rest if you are doing less cakes)
- 375g white caster sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 100ml water
- 6 egg whites
- 600g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks
For lemon curd buttercream add:
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Juice of two lemons
- 3 tbsp of Lemon Curd
- Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined. Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C.
- Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
- Mix in zest, juice and lemon curd for lemon flavour icing.
For the cake (makes about 16)
- 250g unsalted softened butter
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 250g self-raising flour
- 4 eggs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
For the filling
- Jar of Lemon Curd
For the buttons
- White chocolate
- Pre-heat your oven to 180c (I have always used an oven thermometer to check because most ovens are way out – except my brand new oven. That is perfect) and put some cases in a muffin tin or two
- Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Sift in the flour and then add the lemon zest and the juice of one lemon and mix until well combined.
- Spoon it into the cupcake mix into the cases for about 2/3 full. I use an ice-cream scoop (I have 3 in different sizes and this ensures they are all exactly the same)
- Bake for about 15 – 18 ish minutes but keep an eye on them from around 12 minutes
- When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
- For the filling, core out your cupcakes using either a corer or a sharp knife, put a teaspoon of lemon curd in each one and replace the tops
- To make the chocolate buttons, gentle melt the white chocolate and pour into silicone button mold like this one from Amazon