Whenever I make treats for an event (be it a birthday, baby shower, progressive dinner, just because it’s Saturday and I feel like baking), I try to keep the guest of honor’s preferences in mind. That means I’ve done peanut butter chocolate combos, monkey bread, cheesecake… you name it. I like to think that most people enjoy a dessert just a little bit more when they know it’s been made just for them. (It’s like coming home from college to discover that mom made your favorite dinner. You always knew they were happy to see you, but now there’s that extra bit of love.)
For this latest baby shower though, I got to choose the dessert. You’d think that would be easy, right? Umm, not so much. See, I have this ever-growing list of recipes to try. And I’ve never bothered to count, but a good guess is that at least 70 percent of those recipes are desserts. Now add in the fact that it takes me forever to make a decision (just ask Andy; he’s forever shooing away the waiter at a restaurant). What do you get? Weeks (probably four or five weeks) of agonizing over the choice.
I wanted something light and springy, most likely with fruit. I wanted it to be kind of delicate and dainty (this is a baby girl we’re celebrating here!). I needed it to be low-maintenance (Thursday evening showers mean there’s almost no time for last-minute touches). So, I read books. And blogs. And asked friends and coworkers. And went over my options again and again.
Finally (four days before the shower!), I made a decision. Lemon poppyseed cake. With whipped cream. And berries. Yum.
Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Strawberries & Whipped Cream
2 1/3 cups cake flour
2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk (all I had on hand was skim and heavy cream, so I used a combination of the two)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
splash of vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. (Side note: I made 24 cupcakes with this recipe. Unfortunately, I overfilled my tins and had to pry the cupcakes off the pan. If you exercise more restraint and don’t overfill your pans, you’ll probably get 26 cupcakes.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, poppyseeds, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs on medium until foamy. (I use the whisk attachment for this step.) Add in the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium-high. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Transfer the egg whites to a clean, dry bowl and set aside. Clean the mixing bowl and break out your paddle beater for the cake batter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar, beating to incorporate it, and then add in the lemon zest. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and beat until just blended. Turn the mixer speed to low (or risk a giant cloud of flour everywhere… trust me on this), and add the dry ingredients and milk in three batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 1/4 of the egg whites. Once those are all incorporated into the batter, fold in the rest of the egg whites, being careful not to deflate them.
Divide the batter between your cupcake pans and bake until cupcakes test done and are golden brown on top. (Mine took around 18-20 minutes.) Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pans. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the whipped cream, chill the whisk attachment and bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the cream into the bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until the cream reaches the consistency you want. I beat the cream until I had a consistency that I thought would pipe nicely on top of the cupcakes. (Two cups of cream gave me JUST enough whipped cream to frost 24 cupcakes. If you end up with more cupcakes, you’ll want to make just a little more whipped cream.)
Pipe whipped cream on top of cooled cupcakes and top with strawberry slices. Serve within a couple hours of topping. (I can’t tell you how long these keep; there weren’t any leftovers!)
Cake from Annie’s Eats