T-Minus 2 Weeks for Baby Daniels: Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

The suspense is killing me... the estimated due date for 'baby Daniels' is Halloween. How cool is that? Two more weeks, man how time flies. I remember the phone call back in... what, May was it? I was driving home from work, right at the top of the hill on route 1 and the sun was shining bright. I held my breath for her to say the magical words- I already had a hunch. Much hollering ensued!

I adore Jess and her husband. Whoever this little person is, they hit jack pot for parents. I cannot WAIT to meet this sweet little girl!! Heck- at this point I just want to know the NAME. The parent's won't budge. Knowing Jess... it's something Italian and pretty. Just a clue guys? Come on!!

And darlin, I know you're going through a rough patch right now. It's not forever. You are strong, kind, and brave. Life is full of hardship but we endure. Whether we like it or not. After all... that's the stuff that makes hero's, right Super Woman? Just when the butterfly thought the world was over, it become a butterfly. Eu te amo. This chapter is only part of the story.

So let's celebrate life. We had a small office baby shower. It was sweet and simple. There were some gifts and conversation. Of course, I asked to bake something special for the mommy-to-be.

Jess doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. You're not going to find her hoarding candy at her desk, her palette is more sophisticated. To play it safe, I ran this idea by her- you never know what a pregnant woman wants to eat. I would have made pickle pancakes if it pleased her.

This lemon cake is full of zest. Literally. 1/3 cup of it which translates to about 6 lemons. It's not super fluffy and airy type but moist and soft. It's cake-cake. Some of the cakes were filled with lemon curd, others with chocolate-raspberry gananche, and some were plain. It's entirely up to you!

The raspberry frosting is the first buttercream I've actually loved. The butter does not dominate and you can make it as sweet as you want, depending on how much confectioner's sugar you use. I used enough to make it hold but you can add more. The raspberry flavor was just right- not too strong, not too subtle.

To top it off, I filled raspberries with gananche. Hence, some of the cupcakes had filling- I didn't want to throw away the leftover gananche. Pretty slick, right?

All in all- this was a time consuming recipe. The ingredients are simple and it's very easy to make. It's that 1/3 cup of lemon zest! Lemme tell yah... your arms will feel the burn after awhile. If you can get over the zesting part, you're good as gold.

Lemon Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
from David Lebovitz

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4-6 cups powdered sugar (depending of your sweetness level & desired consistency)
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Raspberry Truffles
from Culinary Concoctions

2 pints fresh raspberries, cleaned and dried
5 oz semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake tins.

For the cake... Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Fill tins to almost full and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

When cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.

As an option, you can use a apple corer to take out the center of the cupcake and insert a flavor. I used some of the left over truffle chocolate and some handy store bought lemon curd.

For the frosting... Place butter and jam in a mixing bowl or an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until you reach desired consistency & sweetness. Frost cupcakes to your desired cuteness.

For the raspberry truffles... place chocolate and raspberry jam in a heat proof bowl. Bring cream to a boil. Pour over chocolate and jam and let sit for about 3 minutes. Whisk together chocolate mixture. If it is still a little lumpy, put in microwave for a few seconds and whisk again.

Put ganache into a piping bag and pipe chocolate into fresh raspberries, then let sit in fridge for about 15 minutes. Use as a decorative topping, just try not to eat them all first!