Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Key Lime Cupcakes

I live in the South.  Like, the deep South.  On Labor Day here, it is still extraordinarily hot-- you'd never know that in other places in the US, Labor Day marks the start of fall.  Here, it's where we start to think, "Well, maybe in another two months we will be at 75 degrees.  At night."  What these cupcakes do mark is the end of my mental summer.  I've been teaching for three weeks now, and it feels like I never left-- like the summer never even happened.  I also just turned thirty.  So in a lot of different ways, the party is officially over.  I made these cupcakes for the Labor Day family gathering that my parents hosted-- they were a special request. :)  This is the second time I've made these key lime cupcakes, and they were excellent this time around.  They are time-intensive, but definitely worth the work.  And keep in mind-- TRUE key lime pie filling is NOT some electric shade of green! 

Graham Cracker Cupcakes
(Adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes)

NOTE:  This recipe makes about 12 cupcakes.  I plan to double this next time I make these.

Graham Crust Bottoms
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/8 cup sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Mix all ingredients together until the sugar is absorbed and all the graham cracker crumbs are wet.  Press into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  It took about a tablespoon to crumb mixture to cover the bottoms.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes
1 cup flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 5-7 pieces
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400.  (Or, if your oven is as hot as mine, 375.)  In the large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Mix in the butter a piece at a time.  Beat in sugar thoroughly-- at this point, the mixture will look pretty sandy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Next, add vanilla and milk. mixing until just incorporated.  (I know this is a weird recipe, but it works.  I kept telling my husband that these were not going to come out right-- but they did.  And they are really good.)  Spoon the cake batter on top of the graham crusts already in the cupcake liners.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack, then core for filling.  (If you are unsure how to core a cupcake, Annie's Eats has an excellent tutorial.  I used the cone method on these.  Also, Annie's Eats is my favorite baking blog.  I want to be Annie when I grow up.)

Key Lime Filling
(Recipe from Vanilla Garlic)

5 egg yolks, beaten
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice (approximately 20 key limes)
1 tsp key lime zest

Zest a few of the key limes before you start juicing them.  Then, juice the key limes over a mesh strainer.  I use a citrus reamer to do mine-- this part is boring and irritating, but worth it.  I will tell you right now-- DO NOT USE FAKE LIME JUICE.  It will not taste same.  Put on your big girl pants and juice the key limes.

My key lime juicing set-up.
 Next, beat they egg yolks thoroughly, then add the key lime juice and the sweetened condensed milk.  Beat until smooth.  (I use the whisk attachment for the KitchenAid to do this.)  Chill for at least 10 minutes-- I chill this while I am making the whipped cream from the next step.

Whipped Cream (for the filling and topping)
(Recipe from Vanilla Garlic)

3 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until the cream is billowy and holds peaks.

Final Assembly

Finish the filling-- stir 1-2 cups of the whipped cream into the chilled key lime filling, until it reaches your desired taste/consistency.  (I don't add a ton-- we like it tart over here.)  Spoon the prepared filling into your cored cupcakes and replace the "lid" of the cupcake.

Filled cupcakes.  Notice the filling is a nice creamy color-- NOT GREEN.
Put the remainder of the whipped cream into a pastry bag with a large star tip, or into a baggie with a corner cut off. Pipe the whipped cream onto the top of the cupcakes.  Finish by sprinkling a small bit of the key lime zest on top of the whipped cream.

The finished product!  A yummy and fitting end to summer.  Now-- on to fall.  I am SO EXCITED about fall baking.  I don't care if it is 90+ degrees outside!  Time for apples and pumpkins in my kitchen.  Happy Autumn, friends!  Welcome to the start of a new season.