Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Lately my kitchen has been crazed with cupcake production. I haven't even been sharing all of the recipes as I fear it may be cupcake overload (although I plan to share others over the course of the summer). These individual treats are as popular as ever, and new fun flavor combinations are abound. Boards on Pinterest are devoted solely to the art of the cupcake. Cupcakes are flooding our senses from every direction and there is no denying they are fabulous.

It's summertime in the Northern Hemisphere and there seems no better time to enjoy cold, refreshing beverages. I have been brewing iced tea nonstop in my kitchen, alternating between different flavors and such, always from scratch using loose leaf tea. Its my favorite cool, summer, non-alcoholic drink. Another popular choice is lemonade, or even pink lemonade, it's ladylike cousin. Though these chilly drinks are great any time of year, they seem evermore popular when the sun is shining down and the air conditioners are heating up :-D

I decided to make some pink lemonade cupcakes for a trip on my aunt's boat last weekend. We would be spending the entire day on the boat, sailing to Newport, RI and enjoying ourselves and the scenery around us. A delicious spread of imported Italian cold cuts and cheeses, freshly baked breads, pasta with roasted vegetables, best-ever potato salad, and more were on the menu. For dessert I knew these cupcakes would be the perfect combination of a sweet treat and a refreshment.

They feature oil instead of butter which not only offers a more neutral flavor but instills some serious moistness. Also, instead of whole eggs I used egg whites to maintain as white a canvas I could to work with. The yolks would give the cupcakes a yellowish tint which would mar the perfect pink look I was going for.  This recipe is also very easy to halve (lots of even numbers, especially for eggs) so you can always make less if you desire.

The frosting begins as a straightforward American buttercream, but with the addition of more of the frozen pink lemonade concentrate and an extra shot of bright lemon flavor from some lemon juice, it transforms into a lemony treat that honors the cupcakes so perfectly. Individually, the cupcakes and frosting scream with the flavors of pink lemonade, but together, they are a perfect whole. One compliments the other in complete harmony.

The icing on the cake (literally) is piping the pink frosting to resemble a rose. This is done quite easily using a large closed star tip and piping a circle starting from the center of the cupcake and working your way out. With very little effort, the result is 24 blush roses screaming with the flavor of summer. These cupcakes would also be perfect for bridal showers, baby showers, Mother's day, your mom's birthday, your birthday, your daughter's birthday, or any breast cancer awareness function. They are just that dynamic. Please, make them soon. You'll thank me.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Makes 24

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 egg whites
1/2 cup buttermilk
Red food coloring, as needed

8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 T. frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 T. lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt
Red food coloring, as needed

Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, pink lemonade concentrate, oil, and egg whites until well blended. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Then add the buttermilk and mix again, followed finally by the remaining dry ingredients. Do not over mix. Add red food coloring one drop at a time to achieve desired pink color. The color will fade slightly when baked.

Fill each liner 3/4 full with batter. Bake the cupcakes for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until nice and fluffy. Pause the mixer occasionally to add the confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until combined and fluffy. Add the pink lemonade concentrate, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add red food coloring one drop at a time to achieve desired pink color.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large piping tip (preferably a closed star tip to achieve a rose look) with the frosting and frost the cupcakes as desired. To achieve a rose look with the frosting, pipe in a circle from the center of the cupcake outward.

Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 2 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

*Note* If you can find frozen pink lemonade concentrate that is devoid of corn syrup, I recommend you use it. I believe most of them feature corn syrup of some kind, but the concentrate really is the most impactful way to cram all that lemonade flavor in there. If you'd like, you can easily use this Frozen Organic Lemonade Concentrate from Cascadian Farms or Trader Joe's Frozen Lemonade Stand Lemonade. These are for regular lemonade, not pink lemonade, but don't contain any corn syrup and will make very little difference in the final result (color-wise) since you'll be adding food coloring anyway. They can be found at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's respectively. If you're concerned about the corn syrup factor, then definitely go this route.


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