Zesty Lemon Zingers

As Spring rolled around, I started to crave the fresh, zesty flavor of lemons.  I found this recipe at a fun food blog (Perfect Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream, Recipe Perfect Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercreamand modified it just a little.

For the Cakes:

1 (18.25 oz.) box of Betty Crocker Lemon Cake Mix

1 small box (3.4 oz.) of lemon instant pudding

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

For the icing:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1-2 lemons zested, very finely minced. This is going to be in the icing, so really mince it well.

1/2-1 cup of lemon juice

For the Garnish:

Fresh fruit.  I prefer blueberries, but a slice of strawberry or a raspberry would be nice, too. You could even shave a slice of lemon and twist it onto the top.

  • First, turn your oven on. The temp. is either 325 or 350, depending on your pan.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together (cake mix and pudding mix).
  • Add the wet ingredients (sour cream, water, oil, and eggs). Mix well with an electric mixer on medium speed for about two minutes. The batter should be bright yellow and thick.

  • Line a cupcake/muffin pan with liners, or spray with Pam for baking, or grease however you want.
  • Fill each cup 3/4 full (or less if you prefer smaller cakes). Bake for 15-20 minutes. Check with a toothpick after 15 minutes to see if they are done (toothpick will come out clean if they are). If not, check every 2-3 minutes after. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will be dry and you’ll be pissed. They may fall a bit when they come out and start to cool.  This is normal. But then again, they may not.  I’ve made them twice- once they fell, once they didn’t. So if they fall, fill the indentation with icing. Big whoop.

  • After a minute or so, pop them out of the pan and let them cool on a rack or the counter. This will prevent them from continuing to cook as they sit in the warm pan.
  • While the second batch of cakes is in the oven, make the icing: Combine softened butter and powdered sugar in bowl. You can use a mixer, but I think it makes a mess. I freak out when the powdered sugar starts spraying out of the bowl and I can never find a bowl tall enough to keep it in…anyway.  So this time I used a rubber spatula. It takes a little more effort, but to me it’s worth it.
  • Mix in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the lemon juice. You could use fresh squeezed (count on about 5-6 lemons for 1 cup of juice), but I didn’t. It would probably be better, but it seemed like too much of a PIA.
  • After the mixture is soft and smooth and all the ingredients are well incorporated, taste it. Is it too sweet? Does it need more lemon? Use your judgement here. It’s your icing. Continue adding lemon juice and powdered sugar until you get the flavor/consistency you want. I like the ratio listed in the ingredients, but it’s up to you. The consistency should be easily spreadable (remember, you’re going to be spreading it on the top of those yummy cakes in a second). If it gets too thick, add a drop (and go easy here) of milk to thin it out. It will keep your flavor profile and help with the consistency.

  • Once you love your icing, mix in the well-minced zest.

Once the cakes are cool to the touch, just spread the icing on top (using as much as you want) and then top with your favorite garnish. I suggest storing them in the fridge. Not because they will go bad, but because they just taste better chilled. At least to me.

These little cakes are a favorite in our house. Whip up a batch to have around for the weekend.  They have a perfect little pop of lemon combined with the sweet, buttery icing. And that one bite with the blueberry…wow. Maybe I should start covering the whole top with berries…NICE!

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