lemon poppyseed cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting

Yum. Just, yum.

Someone recently said to me that cooking is an art, and baking is a science. 

I always thought of the scientific aspects of baking and using appropriate proportions, but it has never been so clear to me until now. 

I love baked goods. And I do bake often. I love the smell and taste of home-cooked bread, breakfast buns, cakes... For me though, it is so difficult to leave the cookbook behind when baking, well, anything. When preparing a stew, you can add this spice and that spice, dash an extra bit of salt or fresh herb as you attempt to reach the perfect consistency or flavor you sought out to achieve. Even when thinking about plating and styling the food, the oven plays a huge role in this step for baking. Look at the cupcakes before they were frosted for instance: height of cake determined by ingredients per amount in the cupcake liner. Ah... science!

These are seriously my new favorite cupcakes. The center is moist, fluffy, and so tasty. The strawberry frosting is subtle and not overly sweet, so it pairs very well with the lemon + poppyseed. (Plain cream cheese frosting is just fine for these cupcakes, too. Follow the same recipe below omitting the strawberry juice and add more softened butter by the tablespoon.)

I read a few baking cookbooks before finalizing the amounts of ingredients and proportions. I flipped through the Miette cookbook and everything seems so challenging! I am always up for a good challenge when it comes to cooking, but I really wanted to bake something delicious with a shareable recipe. And here ya have it:

lemon poppyseed cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

8 tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup whole milk

for the strawberry cream cheese frosting:

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 pint strawberries, hulled + sliced to make 1/2 cup strawberry juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake holders.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Slowly and gradually beat the sugar into the butter mixture on a low speed until light and fluffy - about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat reaching a fluffy consistency. Then beat into the mixture the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture a little bit at a time, switching off adding in the milk a little bit at a time. When all ingredients are combined begin pouring into the muffin pan. Fill the cups 3/4 of the way and be sure each is evenly full! Bake for 12-15 minutes, checking with a toothpick in the middle of one cupcake. If the toothpick comes out dry, they are ready.

Place pan on cooling rack for 15 minutes. When the pan and cupcakes are cool enough to handle, remove from pan and place individually on cooling rack. Do not frost until completely cooled or it will melt off!

To prepare the strawberry juice, take a pint of (or about 12) strawberries hulled + sliced, and place them in a bowl or mason jar. With the back of a wooden spoon muddle the strawberries until no chunks are left. In a separate bowl, strain the juice with a mesh strainer. You may need to stir the strawberry mixture in the strainer to allow the juice to fall into the bowl. This yields about 1/2 cup of liquid. 

To make the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and strawberry liquid. Blend on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy.

The frosting method is totally up to you. Once the cupcakes have cooled, you may simply spread frosting with a butter knife or special frosting knife: start from the center of the cupcake and work your way to the sides. If you have decorating tips and bags for frosting, you might want to choose that method to create fancy, decorated cupcakes.

Share and enjoy!