Lemon… is there any better flavor for a fresh, light dessert? In my opinion, no. Once spring rolls around, I tend to use lemon flavor in a lot of different recipes, especially in baking. I know plenty of people who will choose lemon-flavored sweets over chocolate in a heartbeat. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate, too, but lemon definitely serves its purpose.
Who doesn’t love a lemon meringue pie? My aunt makes one that is to die for, but making a whole pie for two people doesn’t work out the best. When we developed the recipe for these Lemon Meringue Cupcakes for our downloadable Spring Brochure, I was totally on board with the idea. Not only is it awesome to have individual servings of lemon meringue pie, they are also super easy to make, thanks to a box of cake mix.
With a new baby around the house, I don’t get much free time to bake, but I ended up with a few extra minutes during nap time the other day. We were planning on having the grandparents over for dinner, so I thought this would be a special treat they would enjoy—and I would enjoy the time in the kitchen, which doesn’t come so easily anymore.
As I mentioned earlier, this recipe uses a box of cake mix. But don’t let that fool you into thinking these won’t taste like they’re made from scratch. Adding milk instead of water, butter instead of oil, a few extra eggs and a punch of fresh lemon zest makes these cupcakes taste like they came straight from the bakery.
Before you start mixing up the cupcakes, heat your oven to 350°F and put 24 paper liners into muffin pan cups.
In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, milk, melted butter and eggs in the amounts listed in the directions, substituting milk for water and melted butter for oil. Zest about two small lemons to get 4 teaspoons of lemon zest.
Beat all cake ingredients until the batter is well mixed.
Now, divide the batter evenly among the baking cups. I use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake paper liners. It really saves on cleanup. No dribbles of cake batter on the pan!
Bake for 16–18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool completely.
In the meantime, turn the oven up to 425°F.
When the cupcakes have cooled, place them back into the cooled muffin pan cups. This will make it easier to put the meringue topping on the cupcakes and to transfer them into the oven.
Spread about 1 teaspoon of lemon curd over the top of each cooled cupcake.
Mmm… even more lemon flavor.
Now it’s time to make the meringue. It might seem intimidating at first. I remember the first time I saw the meringue on my aunt’s pie. It looked so difficult to make, but it really is quite easy. Here’s how you do it:
Start by separating your eggs, letting using only the whites drip down into the bowl.
Gather the ingredients for the meringue: egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar.
Combine the meringue ingredients in a saucepan.
Cook over low heat, beating with a whisk, for about 5–6 minutes or until the temperature of the mixture reaches 160°F. If you don’t have a digital food thermometer, I would suggest picking one up as soon as you can. It makes your life so much easier, especially when “temping” things such as egg whites. You don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs. This thermometer is also great for making the perfectly cooked steak.
Now, pour the mixture into a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.
This means when you remove the beaters, the peaks should stand on their own like this:
Carefully spoon the egg white mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large tip. You can find piping bags at any craft store and they’re relatively inexpensive, but if you don’t have one you can also use a resealable plastic food bag and cut the tip off one corner as a substitute.
Pipe the meringue onto the top of the cupcakes making a “beehive” shape.
Once all of the cupcakes are topped, place them back into the oven for 3–6 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.
How beautiful are these? So impressive, and without much effort. Lemon lovers are sure to enjoy these cupcakes. And, even those who usually prefer chocolate might take a second look when they see these beauties.
Try this twist on the classic pie. Lemon Meringue Cupcakes are a great way to celebrate spring! And don’t forget to check out our downloadable Spring Brochure.
Mallory is a product specialist in the Test Kitchens at Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.