Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Very 80's Easter

     When I was a kid, my Mom made lemon cupcakes with coconut sprinkled frosting in little baskets to take to school at Easter.  My Great Aunt made cakes shaped like bunnies with lemon cake and coconut sprinkled frosting to feast on at the huge family Easter luncheons she used to throw.  When I was pregnant with my first son and craving lemon everything, I had to have lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting (generously supplied by my friend Susan, who I am convinced is the reason I survived my first pregnancy without killing somebody in a lemon craving induced stupor).  What I'm saying is that lemon cake with coconut sprinkled frosting and me go waaaay back.

     Unfortunately, the kind of cake and coconut I ate growing up is not how I eat anymore.  I haven't bought a Duncan Crockerbury box in a decade at least.  I don't use sweetened coconut or green food coloring (with one exception).  But I really, really wanted to make those little cupcake baskets with my boys that my Mom made all those years ago. 

Naturally colored Easter cupcakes lemon and coconut with matcha for green

So I did.

     I found Trader Joe's jelly beans, flavored and colored with fruit juice, modified an America's Test Kitchen recipe to taste exactly like the ol' boxed cake lemon flavor, and colored the coconut with matcha powder.  The result was pretty much exactly like what I remember from childhood.  Except the jelly beans.  I'm particular about jelly beans.  Beware the dark purple TJ's jelly beans.  They are not grape.  TJ's, if you're going to throw licorice about all willy nilly, you gotta warn folks.  Allz I'm sayin'.

Easter cupcakes with natural colors and flavorings

A beautifully decorated little basket with a not grape jelly bean on it.  And two others.  Who might be in cahoots.

To make the baskets Mom used to use construction paper, but I found a sweet little set of scrapbooking papers at Target.  Cut strips about 3/4 inch wide and 9 inches long and tape or staple them to an empty cupcake wrapper.  These are great for holding other candies or nuts, too!

How to color coconut for Easter grass with matcha powder

     To make the coconut, I found Bob's Red Mill unsweetened shredded coconut, and got some matcha powder at my local natural foods store.  I heated 1 tsp coconut oil in the microwave until it melted, then stirred in 4 Tbs coconut until just moistened.  Then I stirred in 1/2 tsp matcha powder.  It was a nice mossy/grassy color without changing the flavor too much.  Keep in mind, eating it plain, you will be able to taste the tea, but once you add the flavor of the frosting, you can't taste it any more.

  Since the Bob's Red Mill coconut doesn't have as strong a "coconut" flavor as the moistened sugar-coated stuff, I added 1 Tbs coconut oil (in solid form) to my butter cream frosting.  I used two sticks of softened butter, 1 Tbs coconut oil, 4 cups of organic confectioner's sugar, and about a Tbs of milk. Cream everything together with a mixer until frosting is smooth and fluffy. You may want to adjust the sugar and milk levels of your own depending on how fluffy you like your frosting.

Lemon Cake
Yields: 24 cupcakes

1/2 C whole milk, room temp
4 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract (I used Nielsen Massey)
1/4 tsp vanilla beans
1 3/4 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
16 Tbs (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin tins with 24 liners.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together.  In the bowl of your mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla beans, and zest together.  On low speed, mix the butter pieces in one at a time until the mixture resembles moist crumbs.  Beat in all but 1/2 C of the milk mixture, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until smooth, light, and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 C milk mixture and the lemon extract until the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.  Give the batter a final stir with a rubber scraper and portion into cupcake liners till they are 3/4 full.  Tap the pans on the counter to release bubbles and settle the batter.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes, rotating the pans 1/2 way through baking time.  Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on a wire rack.

The boys have been begging me for these all day.  I love these.  I may never share them.  You're just lucky I shared the recipe with you.  In fact, I take it back.  You can't have it.  Happy Easter, ya cake thieves.

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