lemon-limoncello cupcakes for christmas

traditionally, the week between christmas and new years is a pretty lazy time – you hang out, you play with all your presents, you visit with friends who are in town, you hang out some more, this time in your pajamas. so even when you need to be productive and get ready for a 2 week trip, which you are leaving for next week, you somehow find yourself playing 2 hours of beatles rock band (in your pajamas) instead. i guess that’s my way of explaining why i didn’t post about these cupcakes 4 or 5 days ago.

i was asked to bring a dessert to christmas night dinner and after changing my mind a million times on what flavor cupcakes to make – i stumbled upon this recipe from brown eyed baker and it totally won me over. the combination of the lemon curd filling and the cream cheese frosting make each bite taste exactly like you are eating a lemon bar. one of the mister’s cousins ate 3 of them 🙂

LEMON-LIMONCELLO CUPCAKES (originally found here)

Yield: 1 dozen (i doubled the recipe for 2 dozen since we had a big group at christmas)

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk (i used the vinegar+regular milk sub)
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

THE LEMON CURD: *also doubled the amount of lemon curd made*
Zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

THE CREAM CHEESE LIMONCELLO FROSTING: *note: though i doubled the batter & curd recipes, i did not double the frosting and it was more than enough for everyone!*
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Prepare the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. On low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the lemon curd. In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk. Whisk the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper them. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely.

3. Prepare the cream cheese limoncello frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

4. Assemble the cupcakes. Cut a hole into each cupcake with the large end of a melon baller or the back end of a large pastry tip (i used a serrated steak knife). Fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Fill a pastry bag with a star tip (i used a gallon size zip lock, snipped the corner and just drizzed ribbons over the cupcakes) with the cream cheese limoncello frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Decorate with lemon and berries, if desired.


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