Restoring your faith in humanity – the Lemon Meringue Cupcake…..OR when life gives you lemons, have your friends over and bake

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

The recipe is mostly from here, but I wasn’t so keen on the actual cake part of the recipe when it came out the oven, so I made a half batch of Amy Sedaris’ cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes 12.


85g butter

150g caster sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

¼ teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

156g plain flour

120ml milk

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!

Lemon Filling

1 egg and 1 yolk

Juice of 1 lemon (if you want it to be more tart, I would suggest adding lemon rind too)

56g butter

100g sugar

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.

I didn't style or edit this image...it just kinda ended up in this film noir style.


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.


6 comments on “Restoring your faith in humanity – the Lemon Meringue Cupcake…..OR when life gives you lemons, have your friends over and bake

  1. I love you – thank you for the cupcakes of joy yesterday. After the horror of stumbling my way through the science vs religion debate in the sermon yesterday, your gift of cupcakes restored my equilibrium c.2.30pm aka ‘preacher droop time’.
    Light, fluffy, sweet but not ickily so, harmony replaced the horror in my soul and gave me courage to face Mr Knox once more in the evening.
    Bless you for your ministry
    Really very much appreciated matey xx

  2. Ok, hunger is outweighing golf. A visit north is clearly in order

    LOVE a particular line in teh opening paragraph, though i don’t know why such threats would dismay you. Some of my best memories include maniacal scientists and their anti-slough wont

  3. Best use of lemon curd EVER. F’real serious.

  4. Nikki – I am glad they helped! The service certainly wasn’t a horror, but I am glad that the cupcakes were there for your post-preach plummet.

    Andrew – You got the reference! 5 cupcake points to you, to be awarded on your next visit!

    Sandy – but anything is better than lemon curd pitta bread. Plus, this isn’t really the same kind of lemon curd.

  5. SCORE!!!!!!!!

    What’re you up to over the bank holiday weekend?

  6. We stopped to say hello and take a taster session- a wonderfully light, yummy, lemony-mallow, heavenly mouthful of cupcake washed down with a cup of earl grey. A delicious and delightful taste experience.

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