Let’s face it kids, lots of bad things happen in life. You may feel ignored and downtrodden, hurt and betrayed by the way people act. You may feel disquiet at political powers amassing the means to annihilate each other, or dismayed by the crazy scientist manically threatening Slough with a new ice age. You may wonder – where did we go wrong, how can we humans treat each other this way? But there is always hope, there is always that moment of encounter that restores your faith in the goodness and beauty of the human race.
Last night was one such of those moments – Mr and Mrs L. came round to the Apocalypse Bakery and sampled the joys of the Lemon Meringue Cupcake. (Is it bad that I have started capitalising cupcake names??!) Mr and Mrs L. are kind, gentle, and funny, whilst still being beautifully honest about life, just the people to make me remember how wonderful humanity can be. Our conversation swirled around the brilliance and brokenness of our lives, and although we never posed solutions, the walk forward feels possible, and perhaps even joyful. We also decided that the Lemon Meringue Cupcake has exactly the same kind of potential.
Its taste is light and measured, certainly never imposing. The tart lemon filling and the sweet icing balance each other out beautifully, there is no bitterness or cloy. And, what’s more, it is a sheer joy to produce – it was my first time making the filling and the frosting and the results were great. In case of the bleak abandon of dystopian horror, these may restore your faith in humanity. If humans can invent cupcakes like this, then we are all right.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
156g plain flour
1) Preheat oven to 350oF, 180oC. Fan oven 160oC.
2) Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3) Beat in egg and vanilla until well mixed.
4) Add the dry ingredients and beat gently until just combined
5) Add milk and beat gently so that the batter is combined and free of lumps. This batter quite runny for a cupcake batter.
6) Fill cupcake liners. Between ½ to ¾ full is best. I am a wimp when it comes to filling the liners, as I am terrified of overfilling the liners, which leads to the cupcake overflowing and sinking. One day I will face my fear, just not today.
7) Bake for 18-20 minutes. They should be springy and slightly golden on top. I got too caught up in the conversation with Mr and Mrs L. and ended up leaving them in for a minute too long. No irreparable damage though!
1 egg and 1 yolk
Juice of 1 lemon (if you want it to be more tart, I would suggest adding lemon rind too)
1) Beat egg and yolk in a bowl, set in simmering water at a low temperature.
2) Beat in lemon, butter and sugar until well combined.
3) Raise the temperature to high and keep stirring. If you have a handy candy thermometer, then you want to get the mix to about 150oC. If not, you are waiting for the mix to thicken enough so that it will cover the back of a spoon without pouring off. It should be pourable but not runny.
4) Remove from heat and pour into a different bowl to aid the cooling process. A teacup does admirably. When the mix is cooler, place in the fridge for at least an hour, if not overnight.
The result of this is a sweet, marshmallowy, billowing frosting. Honest to goodness I didn’t know this was possible to achieve in the Apocalypse Bakery. However, it has divided opinion. Mr and Mrs L. were fans, as were my parents. S. liked it enough, but thinks it would be better with Swiss meringue buttercream. I think more comparison is necessary.
5 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
250g sugar (I used slightly less, probably more around 220g)
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (it’s an American thing…there really isn’t a british equivalent, so get on down to a specialist store)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
The way it should be done: in a metal bowl in a pan of simmering water with a handheld whisk/beater. The way I did it: hand whisked the mix in a glass bowl in simmering water, and then transferred it to a stand mixer. Do whatever you can. I’m sure they are both delicious, although I wanted my mix to be thicker.
1) Beat together water, cream of tartar, sugar, egg and syrup at a low speed in a bowl in simmering water.
2) When mixture reaches 140 degrees, beat on high speed for 5 minutes.
3) Remove from heat, add vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.
Putting the cupcake together
1) Cut a circle in the top of the cupcake with a sharp knife. When you pull gently on this circle, a cone of cupcake should pull away. Cut off the bottom of the cone, leaving just the top.
2) Place the lemon filling in the gapping cupcake hole. Replace the lid of the cupcake
3) Spoon or pipe the frosting on to the cupcake. My frosting was too runny to pipe.
4) If desired, place under a grill on high for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the frosting. Or use a blowtorch, like I really really want to.
Eat. Enjoy. Believe in the goodness of people and baking.
Tea recommendation: these go perfectly with a spot of earl grey with a slice of lemon.