I grew up in New Jersey, the land of the bakery. You know those bakeries, where they offer a selection of dozens of different types of pastries and cakes and cookies in the pretty cases. You come out with a treasure in a cardboard box tied up with a red and white string, and a black and white cookie or a lindsor tort as a snack. Oh, I have always loved those bakeries and I miss them.
*Photo Credit for above 365 Things To Do In Bergen County
Also, I have always loved to bake. My first concoction was created when I was around 8 years old. I made brownies and thought the idea of raspberries & chocolate sounded good together (a good hunch), so I added raspberry vinegar to a brownie mix. The result was not so good and I recall feeling pretty disappointed at how it turned out. But I persisted.
Years later as a young adult, I confided in my Aunt (who is a fantastically talented gourmet chef, she writes this blog and will make you drool), that I had been secretly thinking about pursuing a career as a professional baker. Her response was, “Start baking. Bake, bake bake. Experiment. Decide if you like it. And then go from there.” At the time, it was a great thing to hear because it gave me a course of action. I did exactly what she suggested. I baked everyone I knew cakes for their birthdays, and turned the kitchen into a mess of flour and frosting experiments. It didn’t take me long to figure out the hard truth: while I love to bake, I’m actually not very good at it. I wasn’t overly disappointed to figure this out, and if anything, this was a helpful piece of information to have before I embarked on an expensive career as a pastry chef.
I was re-telling this story to a friend recently and she said, “Yea, most people will be either a baker or a cook. But not both.” I asked why and she said it was because baking is a precise series of scientific formulas. You can’t wing baking. You have to measure. Whereas, with cooking a meal, you can build a recipe as you go. Like a tomato sauce – sure – add whatever is in the vegetable drawer, and then maybe some bacon at the end. The truth in this floored me and it totally explained my lack of talent in the baking department, but why I can still cook some pretty decent grub. I love to improvise as I cook. I rarely follow a recipe exactly, nor do I use my measuring cups or spoons unless I absolutely have to.
So despite this knowledge, I am stubborn and I still try to wing baking recipes. Sometimes life just calls for it. Like yesterday – I knew for the past week that I was going to need to bring a dessert for a school event. I had planned on making peanut butter brownies (still trying to put things in my brownies), until I learned at the last minute that someone else was bringing exactly that.
Well, crap. So I searched through my pantry and came up with a bottle of lemon curd and a box of cake mix. Okay, I thought. This will work. Despite the nagging voice in my head saying, “NO, don’t wing it!”, I went forth because I have also discovered over time that you can mix pretty much anything with a cake mix and it will still turn out great. So I created a Lemon Curd Vanilla Cupcake.
Here’s the recipe in the most vague and non-scientific way possible.
- 1 cake mix and ingredients on back (I used a vanilla gluten free cake mix.)
- 1 jar lemon curd (baking aisle)
- fixings for your favorite buttercream recipe – here is a good one. 2 cups butter, 8 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Beat butter, add sugar, then cream a little at at time. Beat well. This makes enough for a small army, so half if it you need to.
- Lemons (f you have a chance, purchase Meyer lemons. They have a great flavor, tart, yet delicate.)
For the cupcake, mix it as specified, and then instead of some of the liquid (water, oil, etc.) add the lemon curd and some fresh lemon juice. Mix it until it looks like cake mix. Throw some lemon zest in there. Bake.
Make the vanilla frosting the way you normally would, but add more lemon curd, and a little lemon zest. You could add a little fresh lemon juice here, but be careful how much extra liquid you add. You don’t want it to get soupy, right? Frost.
Top the cupcake with some fresh lemon zest. Voila!
What you get is a tasty, fresh cupcake that is perfect for spring and took no more than an hour to make. While I am quite sure I will never master the fine art of creating perfect pastry, I am excited to add this to my collection of recipes. It’s easy, it’s casual, it has great flavor, and you can wing this or some variety of it at the last minute.
SJPmama is the schemer, founder, and the editor at San Juan Parent. She created San Juan Parent because she wanted to find fun activities for families that would tire her kids out and make them go to bed at a decent hour. She has been banging away on computers for longer than she can remember and freelances at various tech jobs. She considers herself extremely lucky to have such awesome friends and family who are willing to let SJP feature their stories on the interwebs.
SJPmama is the schemer, founder, and the editor at San Juan Parent. She created San Juan Parent because she wanted to find fun activities for families in the San Juan Mountain Region that would tire her kids out and make them go to bed at a decent hour. She has been banging away on computers for longer than she can remember and freelances at various tech jobs. She considers herself extremely lucky to have such awesome friends and family who are willing to let SJP feature their stories on the interwebs.