Lemon curd is one of my pastry items. First off, it’s delicious; tart, delicately sweet, and refreshing with its vibrant citrusy flavour.
You can use it to fill cakes, donuts, and pastries, turn it into a pie, bake it into squares, or simply combine it with a little whipped cream and enjoy it all by itself (which I often do).
What is lemon curd? Well, it’s basically lemon pudding, or lemon custard- a liquid base thickened with a starch, in this case the starch being cornstarch.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to make it, just a big bowl, a whisk, and a pot on the stove top. You also don’t need a million ingredients. You will need 5 ingredients to be exact: eggs, sugar, lemons, cornstarch and butter-that’s it. If you can’t use cornstarch (for whatever reason) you can substitute it with tapioca starch, but not potato starch- at least not if you want to use it to fill a cake. The potato starch just doesn’t make the curd thick enough.
I use lemon curd in many of my desserts, but one of my all-time favs is my lemon cream cupcake: a classic vanilla cupcake with the center hollowed out, filled with lemon curd, then topped with whip cream.
For me, it is the perfect cake; light and airy vanilla cake that’s not too sweet, tangy lemon curd in the center to brighten it up, and finally the delicate creamy whipped cream to give a little richness. I love it, and my clients seem to also. You can use any type of vanilla cupcake for this recipe. The one I use is a vanilla sponge cake. I prefer a sponge to a butter-based vanilla cake because it has a more refined taste- not sickeningly sweet or heavy. But feel free to chose whatever cake you prefer.
Before you make your cupcakes, first make the lemon curd because it will need to cool down and firm up.
What You’ll Need:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs and 2 yolks
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
What to do:
Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter in a large glass or stainless steel bowl.
Over medium-high heat, place the bowl on top of a pot with simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook the curd until it is pale and thick. This takes about 8 minutes.
You can tell when a curd is almost ready based on the way it looks. When you first begin whisking, the mixture is completely liquid and thin. As you continue, you will see a foam develop on the surface- this means the curd is beginning to cook.
After a few minutes, you will see the foam begin to dissipate and feel the curd begin to thicken. After a few more minutes, the foam will disappear completely and you will have a thick, pudding-like mixture, thick enough so that when you run your whisk through it, the mixture will stay in place and not come back on itself.
When the curd is nice and thick, off the heat add in your butter a few chunks at a time and whisking until each addition is fully incorporated. Once all the butter is fully mixed in, you may chose to pass the curd through a sieve so as to remove any lumps. This step is totally optional.
Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap so that it’s touching the curd. Then put a second layer of plastic wrap covering the bowl. The piece of plastic wrap directly covering the curd will prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate it until cool. The curd will keep for a few days. It can also be frozen and defrosted for later use.For these filled cupcakes, you will need to make the lemon curd at least a few hours in advance. You could also make it a day in advance. This recipe will fill about 18 regular sized cupcakes.
To make my lemon cream cupcakes, you will need any standard vanilla cupcakes. Using an apple corer, hollow out the inside center of the cupcake.
Take your chilled lemon curd and spoon into a piping bag. if you don’t have a piping bag, you could use a regular ziplock bag.
Cut the tip off the bag, and pipe into the hollowed out center of each cupcake.
Top the cupcakes with whipped cream and sprinkle with yellow coloured sugar.
Because of the whip cream and the lemon curd, it is best to keep these cupcakes in the fridge until 30 minutes before serving.
They will keep in the fridge for 2 days or so before the whip cream deflates.
A good variation on this would be to make parfaits with all the elements of the cupcake: take vanilla cake and cut it into small 1/2 inch cubes. Prepare your whipped cream and curd. In tall glasses, or mason jars begin layering the elements starting with the cake, then curd and finally the cream. Repeat the layers until your containers are full. These would also be best kept in the fridge.
Lemon curd is a beautiful dessert and can be used in many ways. This is my favourite way. I urge you to try it out and you can discover for yourself your own favourite way to enjoy it.