Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Little Lime Cupcakes

Ahhh, Spring. In like an infuriatingly schizophrenic lion, out like a lamb. I don't know what it's been like where you live, but until this completely bizarre San Francisco weather is finished finding itself like an emo-tastic teenager, I'm just going to camp out in the living room Spring Break-style in a lawn chair with a Corona and a cute little lime cupcake. You can't stop me.

There's just something about lime that feels like Spring, isn't there? It could be the thoroughly awesome way that it pairs with so many great boozy drinks, like, oh, say, the ones I downed when I was young and unafraid and blowing off afternoon college classes in May to join impromptu parties on the porches of dilapidated, likely condemnable off-campus bungalows in Central Illinois. If loving lime in that form is wrong, then Lordy loo, I sure don't want to be right.

But I also love lime in desserts, and you know, I just don't think the poor lime gets enough props in the dessert world. When people think citrus desserts, they often go straight for the sure thing, the lemon. Not that there's anything unlovable about lemon--it's perfect, really. But lime pops, utterly green and fresh and sharp. And when its zest is sprinkled into cake batter and its juice is made into a zippy soaking syrup, it's the perfect thing to boost a batch of wee cupcakes into an instant Springtime party, no booze required. Though if you decide to serve them with shots of tequila, well, I certainly wouldn't fault you for that. That would be the pot calling the kettle black, now wouldn't it? Hiccup.

Little Lime Cupcakes

You can absolutely make these into 18 full-sized cupcakes--just double the lime syrup and put about 2 teaspoons on each, or more if you really want your cupcakes zippy, and multiply the frosting by 1.5 times. I generously frosted my cupcakes, as you can see in the photos, but if you like less icing on yours, you can probably get away with halving the frosting for minis and keeping it as is for full-sized cupcakes. Increase the baking time to 22-25 minutes for big cupcakes.

Makes about 4 dozen

For the cupcakes:

2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, at room temperature

For the lime syrup:

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water

For the frosting:

1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Place an oven rack to the center position and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together, the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and lime zest. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low. With the mixer running, gradually drop in the butter pieces and mix until the texture is uniform and the bits of butter aren't discernable, about 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low, begin slowly pouring in the wet ingredients. When all the wet ingredients have been added, crank the speed up to medium and mix until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Portion the batter into the muffin tins (a scant tablespoon in each liner) and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched, 10-12 minutes. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the lime syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup is clear and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

Make the white chocolate cream cheese frosting: Slowly melt the white chocolate chips, either in a microwave safe bowl at 50% power in the microwave in 45 seconds intervals, stirring after each interval, or over a double boiler. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a minute on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary.

When the cupcakes have cooled, prick each one deeply with a fork about 4-5 times. Carefully spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of syrup over each cake. Allow the syrup to soak into the cakes for about 10 minutes, then frost and decorate as desired. Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes for up to 3 days.

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