The Perfect Excuse

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or if you’ve tried to play catch-up in the archives, you may have noticed that I went crazy for Meyer lemons last winter. With my limited amount of free time (until now) I hadn’t been able to come up with an excuse to buy any. No time to bake = no reason to buy totally awesome citrus.

Roly poly lemons rolled into a cupcake.
Roly poly lemons rolled into a cupcake.

Until I had some free time and went poking around to try and catch up with Cupcake Hero. Once I discovered this month’s theme, I knew I had my perfect excuse.

What could possibly be going on here?
What could possibly be going on here?

Olive oil? Ohh yes, this would be wonderful! Sunny and fruity and creamy and salty…wait, what?

And you though BUTTERCREAM was fattening!
And you though BUTTERCREAM was fattening!

Yes, I decided that since Meyer lemons and cream go oh so very well together, these cupcakes wouldn’t need a real frosting, just a nice dollop of freshly whipped Chantilly cream. And then I thought of olive oil gelato, and of the lemon salt my mom had recently given me (yes another salt)…

A Serious Cupcake.
A Serious Cupcake.

I ultimately decided that a little extra virgin olive oil plus the lemon salt would be the only proper way to top off these cupcakes, keeping in mind the simple garnishes usually given to frozen olive oil-flavored dairy-based treats.

Surprisingly complementary elements.
Surprisingly complementary elements.

The first one I assembled and ate…eh, I was not that impressed. Oh, the elements were good, but the balance was off on top. So when I went to eat another one the next day (ok, the next MORNING, for BREAKFAST), I neglected to add the olive oil and salt. But after the first bite I realized the cupcake was missing exactly those elements of fruity savoriness and salty finish. So I adjusted the balance to add just the slightest bit of olive oil…and it totally and completely worked.

Maybe it needed a little more of this?
Maybe it needed a little more of this?

A cupcake with Meyer lemon just isn’t complete without a blob of wonderful, citrusy curd in the middle…perhaps a little more than these actually had. I used my smallest round cutter to cut out the middle and had contemplated using the next-biggest size, but feared that the cupcakes might not have the structural integrity to hold together. I probably should have gone with the bigger size – these cupcakes are fairly sturdy, and much stronger than my standard, fluffy recipe.

Meyer lemon curd = basically tangy spoonable crack.
Meyer lemon curd = basically tangy spoonable crack.

I made half the recipe of cupcakes you see here, but the full amount of curd. This is not the Meyer lemon curd recipe I’ve used before. While totally awesome, that recipe used whole eggs only, and I needed one that used yolks – four yolks, to be precise. Because I still had yolks leftover from the crazy awesome meringue topping on these babies. Because I made the full curd recipe, I have a lot left over. Um, significantly less left over today than the day I made them…mmm, curd.

Very elegant.
Very elegant.

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Sunshine Cupcakes

First, Make the Curd (adapted from Martha Stewart):

  1. 2 whole eggs
  2. 4 egg yolks
  3. 1 cup (200g) sugar
  4. Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  5. 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, strained
  6. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut in small cubes

Place the eggs, yolks, sugar and zest in a medium bowl over simmering water. Whisk often until somewhat thickened, then add the juice and whisk until thick. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the butter. Strain and cool in the refrigerator or over an ice bath with plastic wrap pressed into the surface.

Then, Make the Cupcakes (adapted from Matt Bites):

  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 cup (200g) sugar
  3. Zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  4. 3 cups (380g) AP flour
  5. 3/4 cup (160g) extra virgin olive oil
  6. 2/3 cup (160g) milk
  7. 4 Tbsp Amaretto liqueur
  8. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  9. Large pinch of Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale yellow. Beat in the zest. Combine the liquids together; do the same with the remaining dry ingredients. Alternately add in three additions, beating until smooth. Immediately pour into lined muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the tins to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, use a small round cutter to punch deep holes almost all the way to the bottom (but not quite). Fill the holes with curd, trim the middles from the removed cylinders of cake and replace the remaining circular lids of cake onto the curd. Enjoy your little trimmings.

You Gotta Whip Some Cream:

Note: If you’re not serving the cupcakes all at once, it’s a good idea to make this in smaller batches. I know it can be a hassle to whip a tiny amount of cream, but once you get hand-whipping down it’s really no big deal. If you try to whip all the cream ahead of time or top the cupcakes all at once in advance, the cream will separate and get runny. You want it STIFF. Stabilizing it with gelatin is also an option but I didn’t have any.

  1. 1 cup (240mL) heavy cream
  2. 1 Tbsp sugar (I used vanilla sugar)

Chill your bowl and whip/whisk before whipping and make sure the cream is kept cold as well. Add the sugar to the cream and whip to stiff peaks (but not until it gets grainy).

And Then You’re Gonna Serve Them:

  1. Filled cupcakes
  2. Chantilly cream
  3. Extra virgin olive oil
  4. Lemon salt

Using a teaspoon, dollop the whipped cream onto the cakes, smoothing and flattening slightly. Drop a few dots of extra virgin olive oil on the whipped cream with the back of a spoon:

You only need a little...
You only need a little...

Using a toothpick, swirl the olive oil into the cream, then sprinkle with a small pinch of salt. Eat as soon as possible!

Makes 24 slightly-smaller-than-average cupcakes (18-20 normal?)

These cupcakes are, as usual for me, a little odd, but overall really tasty. I imagine if you are a fan of preserved lemons you’d dig these. At first you taste the dense, not-too-sweet cake, the tangy curd, a hint of almond; then sweet cream, slick oil and a fun little acidic, salty finish. These easily brighten up even the coldest, snowiest Northeastern winter day.


  1. Mmmm. Interesting. I’m a massive fan of preserved lemons so I should give them a try.

    I’ve found that meyer lemons are really nice, but they are way more subtle than regular lemons, so its been disappointing in some of my recipes that the flavor has been a little lost…

  2. So different… I’m intrigued. I just wish my friends were adventurous enough to try these with me. I’m afraid I’d have to eat them myself. : / There are worse things… I guess.

  3. Mmmm… lemon… curd. And I love that you drizzled some olive on the top too. Thanks for participating in Cupcake Hero:: February!

  4. A genius cupcake! After all, lemon and olive oil are natural partners in savory dishes, so why not sweets, too? I am particularly fond of soft-serve ice cream drizzled with olive oil and a little sea salt.

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