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Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes with Sweet Revenge and Limoncello Liqueurs

5 Jul

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Summer is in full swing here in the Mid-Atlantic, and we are loving another absolutely perfect, sunny, warm summer weekend. Not a cloud in the cerulean blue sky, just plenty of happy bright sunshine. My bees are busy coming and going, flying here and there, gathering the nectar and pollen they need to provide me with the absolutely best crop of honey around.

One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh, local fruits and veggies: summer squashes and lettuces and tomatoes, peaches and melons and of course, all the berries. Loads and loads of all kinds of berries – strawberries and blueberries and raspberries – when the berries are ripe for picking, it’s a sure sign summer has begun.

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Strawberry picking has been a rite of summer for as long as I can remember. Of course, back in the day, pick-your-own berries was something we did as way to save a few pennies. My mom would pack all of us in the old station wagon and drive us to the nearest pick-your-own farm, arm us each with our own berry container and send each of us to our own row to begin picking, simultaneously admonishing us to stop eating so many and to “please stop pestering your sister!” We would bring home mounds and mounds of red, juicy strawberries which were macerated for strawberry shortcake or turned into jars of ruby-red strawberry jam, each topped within its own paraffin wax seal.

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Now it costs more to pick your than it does to by them pre-picked at the grocery store, but I still like to head to the nearest berry farm each June to pick a basket or two. Of course, my strawberries are now more likely to get mixed in with some greek yogurt and honey than to be made into jam, and more often than not, I pick way more than I can use. So I freeze some  to remind me of summer when there’s snow on the ground, and I look for different ways to use the rest. Which was how I came up with these yummy cupcakes…strawberries and lemonade, two classic summer favorites, combined in one amazing cupcake, and swirled together for an unbelievably delicious buttercream topping….enhanced, of course, with some Sweet Revenge strawberry liqueur and Limoncello liqueur. Biting into one of these is like tasting the perfect summer day.

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STRAWBERRY LEMONADE CUPCAKES

Because this recipe calls for two different buttercream frostings, I saved some time by starting with a boxed mix, but added in some extras to boost the flavors. Makes approx. 24 cupcakes.

1 box strawberry cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup Sweet Revenge liqueur

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

juice of 1 small lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

Combine all ingredients in large bowl of a stand mixer, mixing at low speed for 30 seconds and then at medium speed for two minutes, scraping bowl one or twice. Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Set aside to cool.

SWEET REVENGE STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup fresh strawberry puree

3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon Sweet Revenge

Cream butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, strawberry puree and Sweet Revenge and mix at low speed until combined, then at high speed until light and fluffy. Spoon into a small pastry bag and set aside.

LIMONCELLO BUTTERCREAM

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

juice and zest of 1 small lemon

3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon Limoncello

Cream butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and Limoncello. Mix at low speed until combined and then at high speed until light and fluffy. Spoon into a separate small pastry bag.

Place both filled pastry bags side by side into one large pastry bag fitted with a large decorating tip. Frost as desired.

Enjoy!

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Mardi Gras King Cupcakes with Limoncello Frosting

3 Mar

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Fat Tuesday – the last day before Lent begins, the end of Mardi Gras, a day dedicated to partying and eating. What a great day!

Good Catholic girl that I was, the Lenten season was probably the worst time of the year. It always began with a day of walking around with a huge, embarrassing smear of ashes across the forehead (my bangs, no matter how much I let them grow out beforehand, were never quite long enough), followed by lots of fasting and abstinence and fish, at least one round of Stations of the Cross led by the slowest, yet most devout nun, and the obligatory semi-annual Saturday afternoon of confession. I always looked forward to Palm Sunday because it meant 1) the end of Lent was near, and 2) I would receive a fresh crop of razor-sharp palms leaves with which I could torment my younger siblings. Finally Easter Sunday, when all my sacrifices were rewarded with a basket full of drug store candy delivered by an abnormally white, large rabbit who, much like Santa, was able to circumnavigate the Earth in one night.

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Fat Tuesday’s significance increased with each passing year. I mean, this was it before 40 days of pure torture. Fat Tuesday was the last day to fill up before facing 40 days of no candy, no baked goods, no “beverages”, no chocolate, or no desserts. 40 days is a long time. A long, long time. So stocking up on Fat Tuesday was serious business.

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The folks in New Orleans know how to do Mardi Gras: parades, costumes , and brilliant colors, beads, booze and debauchery. And food…loads and loads of amazing food. Spicy jambalaya, red beans and rice, étouffée , sugary beignets and of course, King Cake. A rich, sweet yeast bread with cinnamon filling, King Cake is traditionally served during Mardi Gras. Often baked with a penny or little baby inside, legend says who ever finds the trinket has to make next year’s King Cake. Although I’ve never found the baby, somehow I always end up making the King Cake.

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This year I thought I’d switch it up and bake up a batch of King Cupcakes. I found a delicious recipe by King Arthur Flour, which I topped with my creamy Limoncello frosting and decorated with a sprinkling of the traditional King Cake green, yellow and purple sugars. Go ahead an insert the little lucky baby in one of the cupcakes after baking but before frosting. And then sit back and enjoy these little gems..all of them if you want to…40 days is a long, long time.

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KING CUPCAKES

Makes one dozen cupcakes.

1 cup sugar

1 2/3 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2/3 cup milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon lemon extract

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line cupcake tin with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk tougher the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Add the butter and beat with electric mixer at low speed until it looks like sand.

Combine the milk, vanilla and lemon extracts and add to dry ingredients all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.

With mixer at low speed, add one egg. Increase to medium for 30 seconds, then add the second egg, and mix again for 30 seconds.

Scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Beat briefly, just until smooth.

Fill the cupcake tins with approx. 1/4 cup of batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown around the edges, they spring back when lightly pressed and toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before inserting plastic baby and frosting.

LIMONCELLO FROSTING

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons limoncello

4 cups powdered sugar

green, purple and yellow decorating sugar

small plastic baby (can be found at Michael’s or A.C. Moore in the baby shower department)

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar and limoncello and mix at low speed until combined, then at high speed until light and fluffy.

Frost as desired, decorate with colored sugars and Enjoy!

 

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Limoncello Cupcakes

23 May

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A couple of Christmases ago, my friend Nancy was kind enough to bring a bottle of limoncello to the office holiday party. This was no ordinary bottle of limoncello, however. This was homemade limoncello, loving crafted by her very talented father, who was well-known for his home recipe.

Nancy had been telling us for some time just how good her dad’s limoncello was, so we were all quite excited to finally have a chance to sample this wonderful liqueur. I for one had never had limoncello before, homemade or otherwise, so I was really looking forward to my first taste. A day or two before the party, Nancy popped by her dad’s house to pick up the limoncello. He wasn’t home at the time, but was kind enough to leave the bottle of pale yellow liqueur waiting on the porch for her.

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Fast forward to the evening of the party. Nancy proudly presented the bottle of yellow liqueur and very graciously offered it to anyone who wanted a sample. I read somewhere that limoncello and champagne made a nice cocktail, and so I had her pour a generous amount of the limoncello into my glass of champagne. So confident was I that this was going to be THE cocktail of the evening, I encouraged several of my other friends to do the same. As Nancy  strolled off to share the golden elixir with others, I took a nice big sip, my taste buds eagerly anticipating the delightful mix of syrupy, sweet lemon and effervescent champagne. Imagine then, the look of horror on my face as the liquid ravaged its way down my throat, annihilating anything in its path, burning a hole in my esophagus and quickly bringing tears to my eyes. A quick glance at my co-victims’ faces told me they were experiencing the same torture. I hurriedly composed myself, politely hid the unfinished “cocktail of the evening”, and attempted to cool my throat and soothe my soul with a new glass of pure, unadulterated champagne. Nancy, who is nobody’s fool, could tell something wasn’t right,  tried a bit of the liqueur herself and had a similar reaction.

It turns out that limoncello isn’t the only craft beverage Nancy’s dad likes to make. The bottle he left out on the porch that unfortunate day? Not  limoncello at all but rather a bottle of raw, homemade, un-aged gin. Yes, I had coerced my friends into drinking raw gin and champagne….not quite the cocktail I had in mind.

I still haven’t tried Nancy’s dad’s limoncello, but I do look forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve had to satisfy myself with the commercial stuff, which is mighty fine too.

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Life has thrown Nancy a couple of curve balls lately, both good and bad, including a move to a different part of the office. So, to celebrate the move and wish her all the best, I dedicate these delightful limoncello cupcakes to my friend Nancy….and her dad.

Limoncello Cupcakes

This recipe is the quick, easy, but no less delicious version. These cupcakes received some high praise.  But for a total from-scratch experience, check out Brown Eyed Baker  (my favorite blog) for her Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes – even the curd is homemade and looks fabulous.

Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

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1 box white cake mix (I used 18.25 ounce size)

1 cup water

1/4 cup limoncello

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in cupcake tins and set aside.

Combine the cake mix, water, limoncello, oil, egg whites, lemon juice and zest in large mixing bowl. Combine ingredients on low until just mixed, then at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake tins about half full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.

When cool, use small melon baller, corer or frosting tip to cut a small hole in each cupcake. Fill each hole with a small amount of lemon curd and then frost as desired.

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Limoncello Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons limoncello

4-5 cups confectioners sugar

zest of one lemon

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add limoncello, lemon zest and 3 cups powdered sugar. Mix together at low until blended, then at high speed for several minutes, adding additional powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost as desired and sprinkle lightly with additional zest.

Enjoy!

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