CakeSpy Note: This is an ongoing series of entries about (and recipes from!) London's Hummingbird Bakery by Cake Gumshoe Alexandra Levert, who is an assistant director for a French television network in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking and baking because she finds it comforting and yet challenging at the same time. She tries to combine her love of food and her love of travel as much as life will let her.
One Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend, who has never been into cupcakes, decided to finally take a look at my Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. He started flipping the pages and landed on the lemon cupcakes page. He suddenly got all excited and said he wanted to make them. And right now. I was surprised, yet I wasn’t: he can never say no to a dessert with lemon. Suddenly, I was the one who wasn’t too excited about the idea of making them. Don’t get me wrong, I love lemon, but I always prefer chocolate to fruit in a dessert. This time though, I let him convince me and we went to the grocery store.
Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes
Recipe by Tarek Malouf, from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
For the base:
- 120g of plain flour
- 150g of caster sugar
- 1½ teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest, plus extra to decorate
- 40g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 120 ml of whole milk
- 1 egg
For the lemon frosting:
- 250g of icing sugar (sifted)
- 80g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
- A few drops of yellow food colouring (optional but pretty!)
- 25 ml of whole milk
For the cooking process:
- A 12-hole cupcake tray lined with paper cases
So here is what I did:
- First, I preheated the oven to 325°F or 170°C.
- Second, I sifted the flour and put it in a large bowl with the sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and butter. Then I used a handheld electric whisk, although you can also use a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment, to beat the first batch of ingredients together. I beat them on slow speed until I was certain all the components were combined. I gradually poured the milk in and continued beating so that everything was mixed in well. I added the egg to the first mixture and beat it in with the rest for a few minutes until it formed a nice, smooth blend. Now the next part tested my cupcake skills for the first time: spooning the mixture into the paper cases. To do so, I took two spoons: one to pick up a bit of the blend and the other to push it out of the first spoon and into the mold. I repeated that same action until all 12 paper cases were about 2/3 full. The tricky part was to try and keep the tray as clean as possible, by not letting any of the mixture fall anywhere but in the cases. It was harder than it looked, but I did it. One cupcake point for me!
- I put the tray in the oven for 22 minutes, since the recipe said to leave it in for 20 to 25 minutes. What I did was I set my timer for 20 minutes, and then when it rang, I took a fork and inserted it gently into one of the cakes. When I took the fork out, there was a slight trace of cake on it, so I knew I had to leave them in for a few more minutes. So I waited a little bit, checked again and they were fine. I took them out of the oven and let them cool down completely.
- After about 30 minutes, it was time for me to make the icing. First I beat the icing sugar, butter, lemon zest and food colouring with the same handheld electric whisk, but this time on medium-slow speed until the ingredients were well combined. Then I turned the whisk down to a slower speed while I poured the milk. After that, I turned it to high speed and beat the mix for about 5 minutes, until the frosting became fluffy enough. As Tarek Malouf said in his book: “The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.”
- Then my now-favourite, yet the riskiest part of the whole process finally arrived: it was time to put the frosting on the cakes. The thing about cupcakes is that they are supposed to look pretty and appetizing, and this was my first time trying to do so. The best advice I can give you is just dig in but do it gently. Take a good amount of the frosting with a spoon, a knife or a small spatula and spread it evenly while rotating the cupcake. This will give you more control over what the end result will be like. And voilà! Your first cupcakes. MY first cupcakes!
So what do they taste like, you ask? Well, the thing about Hummingbird cupcakes is that they are never too sugary, which is good for people who don’t have a sweet tooth. I found the lemon ones very flavorsome, yet quite subtle in taste. Lemon is not something you need a lot of in order to get the full taste experience. And it was the case with these cupcakes.
Final words: In order to make the recipes with as much precision as possible, I would recommend using a weighing scale in order to measure some of the ingredients. I didn’t have one when I made this recipe, and I found it really affected the texture and consistency of the frosting. It was a bit too liquid, not overly but just enough for it not to stick to the base properly. Remember: You need good tools to make great cupcakes!