The vote has closed, and we have a by-and-far winner: Angel Food Cupcakes! I'm surprised, I was expecting the Mint Chocolate Cupcakes to win. I should thank you all for voting though, 'cos these wouldn't have been top of my list to make otherwise - the chocolate would have been. What can I say! I'm a chocoholic.
I've read descriptions of summer recipes that always include "airy," "light," and "melts on the tongue." Well, now I'm adding one to the list. Guys, this recipe is airy, and light, and melts on the tongue, and is more than that besides. The angel food is basically foam with a gentle lemon edge to it; the buttercream is rich with a gentle sweetness, but no weight. The overall effect is a fluffy bite that whispers lemon and sugar - the strawberry is by far the most substantial part of the dessert. If I were to hold a tea party (and it is definitely on my to-do list) these would absolutely be on my menu.
Recipe, recipe! There are several parts to this one: the angel food, the buttercream, a lemon simple syrup, and the strawberries.
Angel Food (adapted from Fresh from the Oven):
Makes ~30 cupcakes
* 1 cup cake flour
* 1 1/2 cup sugar
* 12 large egg whites, at room temperature
* 1 tsp cream of tartar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 2 tbsp juice from 1 lemon
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
Whisk flour and 3/4 cup sugar in a small bowl, set aside. In a dry, clean electric mixer bowl, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. Add in cream of tartar and salt, and increase speed to medium high. Continue to beat, adding the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks. Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla extract, lemon zest until just blended.
Sift the flour mixture over the whites, about 1/4 cup at a time, and gently fold it in using a large rubber spatula. Fill each cupcake liner almost full (a little over 3/4) and smooth the tops so they are flat and touching the liner on all sides (these cupcakes rise only a very little and tend to get malformed and oval if the tops have not been smoothed.) Bake until the tops are lightly golden and spongy to the touch, 20-25 minutes.
Remove from cupcake pan and let cool completely before assembly.
Lemon Simple Syrup (Candied Lemon Peel from The Kitchn - not a misspelling!):
Makes ~ 1 1/2 cups
* 5-6 lemons
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cup cold water
* 2 cups sugar
* Superfine sugar (optional)
Peel the lemons with vegetable peeler, taking off long, thin strips (slice to 1/4 inch if yours - like mine - peel off in wider strips). Fill a medium sauce pan 3/4 full with water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the lemon peels and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat, using the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt. This is softening the lemon peels and taking away the residual bitterness of the white pith.
Drain the peels for a second time and set aside. Add the cold water and two cups sugar to the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar dissolves add the lemon peels and simmer on low for 45-60 minutes. Watch near the end to make sure the sugar doesn't caramelize.
Immediately lift out the peels with a fork and let them cool on a piece of wax paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. If you want to eat them as candy, roll them in superfine sugar while they are still wet. When they have cooled and dried put in a sealed container in the refrigerator, where they will last for quite a long time. The syrup can also be stored in the fridge and used for flavoring and sweetening.
Lemon Buttercream (from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible - best cake recipe book I've found yet. Recipe also here.):
Makes ~ 4 cups
* 6 large egg yolks (4 oz)
* 3/4 cup sugar (5.25 oz)
* 1/2 liquid cup corn syrup (5.75 oz)
* 2 cups butter
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 tsp lemon extract
Have ready a greased 1-cup heatproof glass measure.
Beat the egg yolks in a stand (or hand held) mixer until light in color. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan (preferably with a nonstick lining) and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.
If using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. Don't allow syrup to fall on the beaters or they will spin it onto the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the yolks with the mixer turned off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. For the last addition, use a rubber spatula to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure. Continue beating until completely cool.
Gradually beat in the butter and lemon extract. Place in an airtight bowl. Bring to room temperature before using; rebeat to restore texture.
Once cupcakes have cooled, place a small dollop of buttercream on the top and line the top with thin slices of strawberries (ADDED: after slicing the strawberries, gently pat down with a paper towel. You want them to be as dry as possible so they won't leak juice). Lightly brush strawberries with lemon syrup. Pipe buttercream on top. Brush small slices of strawberries with lemon syrup and use for garnish.