Lemon Cupcakes & Raspberry Buttercream – Rescuing a Fiasco

Went to a potluck/bbq and was asked to bring something for dessert.  I wanted to bake and decided to steal my colleague’s idea and make lemon cupcakes & Raspberry Buttercream.  It seemed like something that was light AND decadent, one of my two favorite things.

So. I found the recipe below from a great baking blog – Baking with Basil. 

I made a few modifications, I added more lemon zest and added a little zest from a pomelo I had lying around.  I thought about adding pomelo rind simple syrup or orange extract, but I was afraid of going to far off course flavor wise.  I also added one of my favorite bakers secret — butter cream extract.  (More to come up on that.)

The cupcakes turned out wonderfully– the batter was the fluffiest batter imaginable– it looked mouse.  NB: despite the large amount of baking powder- mind didn’t rise too much.  With the first batch, they were a little small, I’d fill it more than 3/4.

Light, delish, & zing-y.

and the Beast.

Then came the butter cream.  The recipe seemed so simple.  I put my last two sticks of butter in the stand mixer, things are cruising along– and I added a pint of fresh rasberries. It turned a beautiful pink color and then– tragedy struck.  My butter cream BROKE!  Suddenly, there’s white dots all over my butter cream.  Gross, white, fat spots ruining the whole thing.  Has this every happened to you?

I had less than an hour to try to salvage the situation and frantically searched online.  Fortunately, I found some message boards and pieced together what to do.

Partial solution: 

While it still tasted great, it looked very unappetizing.  I put the butter cream in a glass pyrex bowl over a pot of simmering water (a double boiler?) and kept wisking it.  The spotty fat in the butter in the frosting melted back, and turned the whole batch of frosting super silky with a lovely sheen.

Unfortunately, after this emergency rescue intervention– the frosting was still not thick enough!  I put it in the fridge for a few hours (during the bbq) and I couldn’t get it set up.  So, I managed to salvage the look- but not the texture.  My dream of swirly piles of creamy raspberry frosting, dashed.

Anyone know what I did wrong?

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Buttercream Frosting

Lemon Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

2.   With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.

3.  Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Blueberry Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup blueberry puree
  • 2-3 tbsp blueberry juice (from puree)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 5-6 cups confectioner’s sugar

1.  With a mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.

2.  Add blueberry puree, blueberry juice, vanilla, lemon zest and salt, and mix on medium-low until well-combined.

3.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, beating on low speed until combined. Then beat for 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.


  • Cupcakes are best served the day they are made.  
  • Store cupcakes in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • For more of a lemon flavor in the frosting, simply add more lemon zest.

FTF: Food Truck Fenom

5411 Ham and CheeseIf you’re anything like me, lunch at work turns into an indecisive, boring, rushed ordeal.  Of course, my financial advisor says I shouldn’t be spending $10 5 days a week on a sandwich– what I supposed to do? Brown bag?  Alas, I digress.

If you’ve been keeping up in Chicago, food trucks have been popping up all over town.  A godsend if you work in the loop and feel like you’ve totally exhausted your food options (Hanna’s Mondays, ABP Tuesdays, Sopraffina Wed’s, Pastoral Friday’s, etc.).  There’s a few I’ve tried– would love to hear from you on which one’s are good.

Southern Mac & Cheese Truck 

The mobile counterpart to the Wicker Park restaurant.  $9 gets you a huge serving and a lot of people I’ve talked to love it.  You have to have a pretty healthy appetite to finish off the whole thing.  Keep in mind, Chicago’s current law prohibits heating/cooking onboard– the mac woud probably be more delicious if it was piping hot.

Bergstein’s NY Deli Truck 

I’d like to give this one another try.  In a town where Hanna’s Bretzel is popping up all over with its stupidly delicious, bourgeois/organic food, Frontera Grill/Xoco and Pastoral’s Gastro Explosion–  you’ve got to have a REALLY good game to charge $8-$10 for a ham sandwich.

5114 Empanadas 

My favorite of the three by far, these delicious, greasy little pockets of flavor/wow are a great value (at a $1.99 each) and  I enjoyed them enough to treck halfway across the loop to find them.  I recommend at least two if you’re at all hungry.  Also, I much preferred the more traditional ones-  the beef and ham & cheese far exceeded some of the more nouveau flavors like parm&onions, bbq chicken, and nutella and bannas, while tempting, were less successful than the more traditional ones.

Of course, no commentary could be complete without mentioning the now-ubiquitous cupcake trucks.  I’ve only tried two– and while I feel like $4 cupcakes are inherently somewhat of a scam– these two I’ve definitely enjoyed.

Flirty Cupcakes

More Cupcakes

Served in super cute chinese takeout boxes — try the salted caramel and the chocolate valhrona– delish.

Follow any of these on twitter (or just go to the sites) to see where they are that day.  I’d love to hear about one’s you’ve tried and love.


Tried two more food trucks at lunch today:

The Slide Ride   An “all-slider” food truck.  They had 3 different kinds– at $3.50 each, I tried two– the rib and carmelized onion (on a pretzel bun) and the Pesto Chicken prosciutto (on a foccaccia).  The service was friendly, but frankly, the sandwiches were a little on the greasy side.  The bread was uniformly good, and filling, but wrapped in aluminum foil means that meltycheese just sticks to everything and makes a bit of a mess.    Worth giving it a try if you’re a fan of warm sandwiches, and its pretty new so I’d give it a try again in a few weeks.

Starfruit Kefir Frozen “Yogurt” truck

Another chapter in the already passe froyo saga/resurgence,  Kefir  is supposed to be x percent better for your and probiotic and all that good stuff.  They only carry one flavor and your choice of 3 toppings.  Today’s flavor was pomegranate, and I will say, it was pretty good.  Subtle, a bit of tart, and not overly sweet.  The milk and honey granola, however, left much to be desired.  Strong cinnamon flavor and raisins that were unappetizing on froyo and weirdly chewing and tough.  Another gripe, the cup of frozen kefir was ENORMOUS and at almost $6, totally unnecessary.  Too much of a good thing,  I sadly threw away 3/4’s of it.