Almond-ricotta cupcakes with lemon royal icing

I was sort of strongarmed into the Cupcake Challenge co-hosted by Garrett of Vanilla Garlic and Cheryl (Chockylit) of Cupcake Bakeshop. "I expect you to participate," said Garrett. Far be it from me to back down from a challenge.

I have long enjoyed the cupcakey escapades of both bloggers. Many times have I been inspired to whip up some batter and snap to it. Yet, I must confess, I was a cupcake virgin. I had never baked a cupcake in my life.

So what does one do to pop one’s cupcake cherry? Cherry vanilla? Cute, but taken. Plain old Duncan Hines-style vanilla with chocolate frosting? Too boring. No, after weighing the options and dreaming of yummy flavors, I decided I wanted to make almond cupcakes with a lemon frosting.

The recipe for cupcake base
derives from Chockylit herself, only I opted out on the raspberries and
tossed in some lemon zest. And as icing goes, I just don’t really dig
butter cream. I wanted someting lighter, brighter and more delicate, so
I adapted a royal icing recipe from Nigella Lawson by adding some lemon zest for an additional citric kick. Some dry-toasted almonds on top, and voilà.

These were dee-lish. But. They are certainly Not Your Mother’s
Cupcakes. The rather substantial amount of almond paste gave the cake a
meaty texture and prominent almond flavor; the ricotta kept it moist
but dense. And the lemon frosting was intense, a bright counterpoint to
the nutty yumminess of the cupcake beneath.


Alongside a plump, ripe strawberry with a drizzle of 12-year
balsamic, they made a charming and surprisingly elegant dessert. But I
think the best application was just straight up alongside our usual
espresso for breakfast the next morning. Ho yeah.

I won’t reproduce the recipes here, as I did not modify them significantly enough to call them remotely my own. Just follow Chockylit’s recipe for the cupcakes,
omitting the raspberries and adding in the finely grated zest of 1/2
meyer lemon into the eggs before integrating them. Then, follow Nigella’s recipe,
adding in a teaspoon or two of zest there as well. Toast up slivered or
sliced almonds in a dry pan until lightly brown, ice, sprinkle and

Update: See the roundup of more than 60 cupcakes on Vanilla Garlic and Cupcake Bakeshop.

  • sam

    did the royal icing harden to be solid as a rock?

  • No, it didn’t, but I think I added more lemon juice than it called for.

  • hey where’s the strawberry from?!
    just kidding… these sound yum indeed. ricotta does lovely things within baked goods.

  • I am like so addicted to Eastern European fruit tarts that are made with almonds crusts and marzipan fillings, topped with fresh fruits. I get them from the Russian grocery store/deli near my apartment in Queens. So I can imagine how delish your almond cupcakes must be.
    Garcon, where’s my lunch?!?!

  • Shuna: well, the strawberries were brought to us. I think they came from CostCo. :-\
    Ming: Indeed — I love anything with almond, and have lately been reflecting on the ties of complex and unsweet Italian desserts to the dishes of the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. I think it’s fascinating.

  • Congratulations on the superb photograph in the Cupcake Challenge, this is a standard for us all to aim at.

  • wow these look absolutely divine. what a wonderful marriage of flavors you’ve created here. you’ve jump-started my sweet tooth!

  • A triumph! I’m inspired.

    I made these–great!! I omitted the lemon peel altogether and used extra lemon juice and almond extract in the batter and icing–highly recommended! All at the house loved these, and they looked beautiful! Bravo! I want to try some more of your recipes soon. 🙂

  • lovely cupcakes