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Friday, March 11, 2016

Recipe: Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream

Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream

Recipe: Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream



One of the earliest recipes on the Blog (in fact, it calls back to the pre-culinary school era) was a recipe dubbed Fourth of July Blueberry Poundcake Cupcakes. Filled with a "Sweet Grilled Corn on the Cob Cream" and topped with Strawberry Buttercreamthe Cupcakes were an appropriately seasonal treat. But more importantly, they were one of the earliest examples of ground-up recipe testing.

How did they work out? Probably better than they should have. The Cake itself tasted intensely of Blueberry (success!), but it skewed dense. A denser Cake had been the goal - after all, Pound Cake had been used as the base for the recipe. But the amount of sugar-heavy Blueberry Syrup may have taken it a step too far.

In terms of flavor, less successful was the Sweet Grilled Corn on the Cob Cream. As a filling, I had hoped for an intense Corn flavor, but it was subtle at best. The Cream also felt too thin. Although not some disaster oozing out of the Cupcakes (thankfully), it could have had more body. 

Live and learn...

I continue to love the format of filled Cupcakes (fillings over frostings!). And the Blueberry Cake was already good enough to warrant a slight rethinking to make it that much better. So here's a full recipe redo.

Settling on Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream was easy (despite that admittedly long, descriptive name). The Blueberry Cake is just slightly modified to address the density issue. As for the Corn Filling, it has been replaced with a Lemon Cream - a traditional Lemon Curd enriched with Cream Cheese. Switching to Lemon solves the intensity-of-flavor problem (boy does it!) as well as the practical reality that Corn is not in season at the moment. And as for the Poppy Seed Buttercream, after a week of making Bagels, I have Poppy Seeds on the brain. 

Cross Section of Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream
There were several changes made to the base Blueberry Cake recipe. Unlike the original recipe, this update uses All Purpose Flour rather than Cake Flour. Cake Flour, with its lower protein content, is often used to create more tender baked goods. In this case, the Blueberry Cupcakes actually benefit from the higher protein content of the All Purpose Flour, which provides more structure.

Some quantities and proportions have also been modified. The  overall amount of Flour has been increased while the amount of Eggs has been reduced. In combination, that makes for a less dense final Cupcake (think of it as the difference between a Crepe and a Pancake).

The final change is in the amount of Baking Powder, the chemical leavening agent. The amount has been tripled, and while that still remains below the rule-of-thumb ratio of 1 Tsp of Baking Powder per 1 Cup of Flour, the increased leavening materially improves the texture of the Cake.

Blueberry Syrup
To impart the strong Blueberry Flavor, the recipe still uses a Blueberry Syrup. However, the new Blueberry Syrup is more concentrated - it's cooked to a higher temperature - meaning that a lower volume is necessary.

Blueberry Cupcake Batter
While it is not a change to the original recipe, it is worth reiterating that it is critically important to beat the Batter to the point of being light and airy with the addition of each ingredient. The mixing process traps air, which expands in the heat of the oven (mechanical leavening). When it comes to the final product, this is just as important as the increased Baking Powder.

Cupcake Tin Filled with Blueberry Cupcake Batter
When mixed properly, the final Blueberry Cupcake Batter will be very airy and should be baked immediately. The trapped air will continue to escape with time. If you wait too long, you will have denser Cupcakes.

Cupcake Tins Filled with Blueberry Cupcake Batter
The Blueberry Cupcakes can be baked in standard Cupcake tins or in silicone molds. Prepare silicone molds by lightly spraying them with non-stick spray. Approximately 65g of Blueberry Cupcake Batter per portion is recommended.

Do not fill the Cupcake tins all the way. The batter will spill over as the Blueberry Cupcakes rise in the oven.

Baked Blueberry Cupcake
The Blueberry Cupcakes should be baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) for 20 to 25 minutes. They are done when they spring back to the touch and a cake tester removes clean.

Lemon Cream Filling
The Lemon Cream filling is a traditional Lemon Curd that is enriched with Cream Cheese. When making the Curd, it is important to gently heat the mixture and to stir continuously once the Eggs have been added, otherwise the Eggs may curdle.

While a Lemon Curd mixed with Cream Cheese is naturally thick, the addition of some Gelatin helps to further stabilize the filling.

Italian Meringue for Poppy Seed Buttercream
The Poppy Seed Frosting is a simple Vanilla Italian Buttercream with Poppy Seeds. Poppy Seeds do little to change the flavor of the Buttercream, but they do add a nice visual and textural element. The flavor of the Buttercream can easily be enhanced with Lemon Zest to complement the Lemon Cream filing.

Blueberry Cupcake with Space for Lemon Cream Filling
Only when the Blueberry Cupcakes have fully cooled should they be filled and frosted. 

The center of the Blueberry Cupcakes can be easily removed with an apple corer, although a paring knife will also work. Regardless of the tool used, do not cut too deeply into the Cupcakes. 

Blueberry Cupcake Filled with Lemon Cream Filling
Filling the Blueberry Cupcakes using a pastry bag is the cleanest method. Given the added Gelatin, the Lemon Cream will set in the refrigerator. As a result, the filling should be beaten smooth before it is used.

Blueberry Cupcake with Poppy Seed Buttercream Petals
When it comes to frosting the Cupcakes, design is up to you... 

Fully Frosted Blueberry Cupcake
... but regardless of how you frost them, make sure to seal in the Lemon Cream filing.

Fully Frosted Blueberry Cupcakes
The Blueberry Cupcakes should be served at room temperature, but once they are filled with the Lemon Cream Filling, they should be stored in the refrigerator.

Cross Section of Fully Frosted Blueberry Cupcake
Unfilled and unfrosted Blueberry Cupcakes will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. The Blueberry Cupcake will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but will dry over time. Unfilled and unfrosted Cupcakes can be frozen for up to a month.

Filled and frosted Cupcakes will keep for several days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the Cupcakes to temper at room temperature before serving. The cake will become dry over time, and the Lemon Cream Filling can spoil.







- The Recipe -




Lemon Cream-Filled Blueberry Cupcakes with Poppy Seed Buttercream:


Yield: 16 Cupcakes


Ingredients:

Blueberry Cupcakes:


For Blueberry Syrup:

Yield: 200g


  • Blueberries: 340g (12 oz)
  • Sugar: 100g (0.5 Cup)
  • Lemon Juice: 30g (2 Tbls)



For Blueberry Cupcake Batter:

Yield: 1,050g - 16 Cupcakes (65g each)


  • Butter, cubed: 225g (1 Cup / 2 Sticks)
  • Sugar: 200g (1 Cup)


  • Eggs: 200g (4x)


  • Blueberry Syrup: 195g (0.75 Cup) 
  • Vanilla Extract: 4g (1 Tsp)


  • All Purpose Flour: 300g (2.5 Cups)
  • Baking Powder: 10g (2 Tsp)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)



Lemon Cream Filling:


Yield: 450g (about 2 Cups)


  • Lemon Juice: 120g (0.50 Cup / 2 large Lemons)
  • Sugar: 100g (0.5 Cup)


  • Eggs: 100g (2x)
  • Egg Yolks: 55g (3x)


  • Gelatin Sheets (Silver): 2.5g (1x)
  • Cream Cheese: 85g (3 oz)



Poppy Seed Buttercream:


Yield: 550g


  • Egg Whites, tempered: 90g (3x)
  • Sugar: 50g (0.25 Cup)


  • Sugar: 150g (0.75 Cups)
  • Water: 80g (1/3 Cup)


  • Butter, cubed: 225g (1 Cup / 2 Sticks)
  • Salt: 3g (0.5 Tsp)
  • Vanilla Extract: 2g (0.5 Tsp)
  • Poppy Seeds: 2 Tbls


Directions:


Blueberry Cupcakes: 


1. Place the Blueberries, Sugar and Lemon Juice in a medium pot and stir to combine. Allow the Blueberries to macerate at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes.

2. As the Blueberries macerate, prepare the other ingredients and tools.

Remove the Eggs and Butter from the refrigerator and allow them to temper. Place the dry ingredients (All Purpose Flour, Baking Powder and Salt) in a large bowl, stirring well to combine, and set the bowl aside.

3. Once the Blueberries have macerated, place the pot over medium high heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and stir to break down the Blueberries. Continue to heat the mixture to the Thread Stage of Sugar - approximately 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius). Remove the pot from the heat and place it over an ice bath. Once the Blueberry Syrup has cooled to a safe temperature, blend it with a hand blender or in a food processor. Strain the Blueberry Syrup to remove the skins. Set the Blueberry Syrup aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). If using silicone Cake molds, spray them with a thin layer of non-stick spray. If using Cupcake pans, line them with paper liners.

Chef's Note: The Cupcakes can be made in a variety of shapes and sizes based on personal preference and the molds you have available. The recommended portion is 65g of Blueberry Cupcake Batter per Cupcake for a total of 16 Cupcakes.

5. Cube the Butter and place it in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the Butter until it is soft and smooth - approximately two minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the Sugar and continue beating the mixture until it is light in color and airy - approximately two minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

Chef's Note: It is very important to beat the Blueberry Cupcake Batter well at each stage before adding the next ingredient, otherwise the Blueberry Cupcakes will be dense. The air that is incorporated during this mixing process helps leaven the final Cupcakes.

6. With the mixer on medium speed, add the Eggs one at a time. Wait until each Egg is fully incorporated and the mixture is again light and airy before adding the next Egg. When the Eggs are fully incorporated, stream the Blueberry Syrup and Vanilla Extract into the mixture while beating on medium speed. Once again, continue beating the mixture until it is light and airy. 

7. Once the Blueberry Syrup is fully incorporated, scrape down the bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix the Blueberry Cupcake Batter on low speed until it becomes streaky. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix the Blueberry Cupcake Batter until all of the ingredients are just combined.

Chef's Note: Do not over-mix the Blueberry Cupcake Batter. Gluten is developed during the mixing process once the All Purpose Flour has been added. Too much gluten development will make the Blueberry Cupcakes tough.

8. Using a pastry bag or a spoon, portion the Blueberry Cupcake Batter into the Cake molds or Cupcake pans - approximately 65g per Cupcake for a total of 16 Cupcakes. Do not fill the Blueberry Cupcake Batter to the top of the molds - the Blueberry Cupcakes will rise during baking.

Chef's Note: Bake the Blueberry Cupcake Batter immediately after mixing. The air trapped during the mixing process will slowly escape and the Blueberry Cupcake Batter will deflate resulting in a denser final product.

9. Place the Blueberry Cupcakes in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) for 20 - 25 minutes, rotating the Blueberry Cupcakes after 10 minutes. The Blueberry Cupcakes are done when they spring back to the touch and a cake tester removes clean. Allow the Blueberry Cupcakes to cool completely before filling or frosting.

Storage:
- Unfilled and unfrosted Blueberry Cupcakes will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. The Blueberry Cupcake will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but will dry over time.
- Unfilled and unfrosted Cupcakes can be frozen for up to a month.




Lemon Cream Filing:


1. Remove the Cream Cheese from the refrigerator and allow it to temper while you prepare the other ingredients. Bloom the Gelatin in ice water.

2. Combine the Lemon Juice and Sugar in a medium pot. Heat the Lemon mixture to approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). While the Lemon mixture heats, place the Egg Yolks and Eggs in a large bowl and whisk briefly to combine.

3. When the Lemon mixture reaches temperature, remove the pot from the heat and temper the Eggs -  stream the Lemon mixture into the Eggs while whisking actively. Return the tempered mixture to the pot and continue heating it over medium heat while stirring constantly.

Chef's Note: Once the Eggs have been added, it is important to closely monitor the heat. To prevent the Eggs from curdling, do not use high heat.

4. While stirring, heat the tempered mixture to approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius) or until it thickens such that it fully coats a spoon ("nappant").

5. Once the mixture reaches temperature, immediately remove the pot from the heat and pour the cooked mixture into a clean, dry bowl. Squeeze any excess water from the bloomed Gelatin Sheets and stir them into the cooked mixture until they dissolve. Add the tempered Cream Cheese to the cooked mixture and stir until the ingredients are well combined.

Chef's Note: It is important to transfer the mixture from the hot pot to another bowl in order to prevent the Eggs from curdling from the residual heat of the pot.

6. Strain the Lemon Cream to remove any undissolved pieces of Gelatin or potentially over-cooked pieces of Egg. Place the strained Lemon Cream over an ice bath with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface until it cools.

Storage:
The Lemon Cream will keep for 3 - 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Always place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the Lemon Cream to prevent a skin from forming.
- The Lemon Cream will thicken considerably in the cold of the refrigerator. Beat or hand-blend the chilled Lemon Cream smooth before using.




Poppy Buttercream:


1. Combine the Egg Whites and 50g of Sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and begin to make a French MeringueAt the same time, combine the 150g of Sugar and Water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Heat the Sugar and Water mixture (i.e. Simple Syrup) to the Soft-Ball Stage of Sugar - approximately 240 degrees Fahrenheit (116 degrees Celsius).

Chef's Note: Timing is important. The French Meringue should start to come together as the Simple Syrup is approaching temperature.

2. As the Simple Syrup reaches temperature, increase the mixer speed to high and stream the hot Simple Syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the whipping Meringue. Continue to whip the Meringue until it reaches stiff peaks and has cooled close to room temperature (i.e. the mixer bowl should not feel hot).

3. Change to the paddle attachment and continue beating on high speed. Add the Salt and Vanilla Extract, then slowly add the cubes of soft Butter. Continue beating the mixture until the pieces of Butter are fully incorporated and the Italian Buttercream comes together into a smooth, shiny Frosting.

Chef's Note: The Italian Meringue may appear soupy when the Butter is first incorporated. Add all of the Butter and continue beating until it comes together into a more stable Frosting, which will take several minutes. If the Buttercream continues to be too liquid, put the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for several minutes.

Storage:
Italian Buttercream can be refrigerated for a couple weeks and frozen for several months.
- Before using Italian Buttercream that has been refrigerated or frozen, allow it to temper to room temperature and then beat it smooth in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.



Assembling the Cupcakes


1. Prepare the Blueberry Cupcakes, Lemon Cream Filling and Poppy Seed Buttercream.

2. Once the Blueberry Cupcakes are completely cooled, remove the center of the Cupcake with an apple corer or pairing knife. Be careful not to cut too deep into the cake such that you cut through the bottom.

3. Remove the Lemon Cream Filling from the refrigerator and beat it smooth. Transfer the Lemon Cream Filling to a pastry bag and carefully fill each Cupcake with approximately 25g (~1oz).

4. If the Poppy Seed Buttercream has been refrigerated, beat it smooth before using. Either using a spatula or a pastry bag fitted with your desired tip, frost the Blueberry Cupcakes as you please. Regardless of how you frost the Blueberry Cupcakes, cover and seal the center core of Lemon Cream Filling.

Storage:
Filled and frosted Cupcakes will keep for several days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the Cupcakes to temper at room temperature before serving. The cake will become dry over time, and the Lemon Cream Filling can spoil.


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