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Almond-ricotta cupcakes with lemon royal icing

Cupcake1
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.

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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
serve.

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

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. 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?!?!

  2. 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.

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