For Maria – Lemon “Angel Wing” Cupcakes
My mother Maria used to bake these cupcakes for me and my sister to take to school on our birthdays when we were young girls. She called them “angel wing cupcakes.”
My mother was lauded for her wonderful Italian cooking, but not so much for her baking. Indeed, she used a box mix for both the cupcakes and the lemon filling, but to us they were the best cupcakes in the world. Like everything Maria did, she baked these with love.
My mother died 22 years ago, way too young at 64 years of age.
I haven’t eaten these cupcakes since I was little, but I baked them yesterday – on my mother’s birthday – in tribute to a loving woman who is still dearly missed.
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
Sift together dry ingredients. In mixer, beat the butter until creamy, then add sugar and beat until mixture is well blended and light, about three or four minutes. Add whole eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, then add vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat a little more. Mix in lemon juice. The batter will look curdled but don’t worry about it – when you blend in the flour mixture it will become smooth again. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk until completely blended. Fill cupcakes 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. I filled mine too full and had to trim off the part that spilled over after they had cooled.
When cupcakes are cooled, take a small paring knife and excavate a small pyramid shape from the top of each one. Set aside the small cut-out. Fill the hole with lemon filling. Cut the reserved pyramid shape in half and arrange on top of the filling. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and place a maraschino cherry in center.
1 cup sugar
2 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups water
juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 T. butter
4 egg yolks
In a pan, stir together sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Add water, lemon juice and lemon zest and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the butter. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk, then stir in a small amount of the hot lemon mixture. Continue to add a small amount of the hot mixture to the egg yolks, whisking all the while. If you add the hot mixture too quickly, you risk curdling the eggs. The idea is to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs with a small amount of the hot lemon mixture. Use it for the cupcake filling “as is,” but if you’re worried about raw egg yolks, put everything back on the range and cook another minute or two. The mixture should be thick, but will thicken even more when cool.