I took a walk on Monday. A long, meandering, aimless walk, long grey cardigan flapping in the breeze and flip flops slapping against the asphalt.
There was a yard graced with drooping willows, long branches still bare. Ivy sprawled the yard in tangled slumber. I stopped below the pink-hued magnolia blossoms to admire the peaceful chaos of it all.
I journeyed on. Spiky white blossoms dotted a tree whose branches reached straight for the sky. A basketball thudded against the hoop. A young girl in a bright orange shirt, blonde hair disheveled, grabbed the ball with plump arms and aimed for another shot.
I walked past the drone of a lawn mower and glimpsed a buttery daffodil in full bloom, bright against the dark earth. I didn’t stop this time, but as I continued on my wayward path, the sight of the daffodil stayed with me. And as my mind is wont to do, it drifted to the blissful intersection of taste and memory – this time, the remembrance of these cupcakes with their sunny citrus and velvety meringue, as vivid as a snapshot of golden petals open to the hope of an early spring.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
zest of 4 small lemons
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 egg whites
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of cream of tartar
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Then beat the sugar with the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Beat in each egg and egg white one at a time until fully incorporated, then beat in the vanilla extract and lemon extract.
- With the mixer on low, beat in half of the flour mixture.
- Combine the milk and lemon juice, then beat it in after the first half of the flour mixture.
- Follow the wet ingredients with the remainder of the flour mixture and beat until combined.
- Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 of the way up. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
- In the meantime, make the meringue by beating together the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes with an offset spatula if you like the wild, craggy look or pipe the meringue for a more refined aura.
- Finish the cupcakes with a blowtorch.
A reward for those who bothered to scroll to the bottom – I once wrote a poem in 3rd grade about the color yellow. All this talk of lemons and daffodils jogged my memory. I only remember three lines:
Yellow is the color of my cello
And yellow is the warm sunshine shimmering on the pool
Yellow is wonderful
My cello wasn’t yellow. I was just an opportunistic rhymer, I suppose.