This Lemon Meringue Cupcakes Post was published back in 2019. I developed the recipe for this tender butter cupcake with lemon curd filling in honor of the great news that our house sold after an hour and a half on the market and Hector getting a new job. We were preparing to pack up our house and move 2 1/2 hours south to San Antonio. I guess it’s only fitting to refresh this post. We just found out we’ll be closing on our home by the end of this month. Yay us! More on that in an upcoming post.
While the images are new and the directions are more concise, the recipe hasn’t changed much. I did add weight measurements for those of you who prefer them.
What are Lemon Meringue Cupcakes?
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes are my spin on a lemon meringue pie.
Fun Fact: lemon meringue pie was the very first dessert I made as a kid. My 9 y/o-self just knew I was doing the damn thing! I don’t think I believed that recipes were hard and fast rules, so I improvised most of it. As a result, my final pie was a runny, eggy mess with white goo that shames me to think about. It was a complete disaster.
These cupcakes, however, are not. They are amazing. And the only thing runny about them is the gooey, lemony curd that slowly oozes out when you bite into them. I am now doing the damn thing, my friend.
What do I need to make Lemon Meringue Cupcakes?
The cupcakes require cake flour, baking powder, and ground ginger (optional but tastes fantastic). You also need the zest of one lemon, separated from the juice of the same lemon. The zest you will use to make a lemon simple syrup to brush on the cupcakes after they bake. To finish the cupcake batter, you need room temperature eggs, butter, and buttermilk. Vanilla extract and sugar, too.
The filling for these lemon meringue cupcakes is a Meyer Lemon Curd. I recommend making the lemon curd a day before to give it time to firm up.
The topping is a simple Swiss Meringue made from egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of cream of tartar.
Can I use store-bought lemon curd for these cupcakes?
Before you begin this recipe, know that store-bought lemon curd is perfectly fine to use in these cupcakes. Choose one that is flavorful and tangy. Stonewall Kitchens lemon curd is one that I often enjoy when I don’t have any homemade stuff on hand.
Of course, I think homemade is always best. My Meyer Lemon Curd recipe is easy to make if you plan ahead, but yes, you can totally swap it out for the store-bought stuff. You can even replace it with an entirely different fruit curd altogether. Lime, mango, passion fruit, or guava curd will all taste amazing in these cupcakes.
If you opt to use homemade curd, be sure to make it the evening before you plan to bake the cupcakes. No need to rush everything and potentially end up with too warm (and thereby runny) curd.
Swaps and Subs
While we’re on the subject of swaps and substitutions, if you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own for this recipe:
- Measure out 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
- Remove 3 tablespoons of the flour from the bowl.
- Replace those 3 tablespoons with the same amount of cornstarch.
- Sift as instructed below.
For homemade buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk. Stir together to combine, then allow this mixture to sit for 15 minutes before using as instructed.
If you only have salted butter, use that, but omit the salt from the recipe.
How do I make light, fluffy cupcakes?
The key to making the lightest and fluffiest cakes and cupcakes is to incorporate as much air into the batter as possible. Incorporating air begins with sifting the dry ingredients- the flour, ground ginger, and baking powder- together at least 3 times.
I sift them together twice and leave the final sift until just before it’s due to mix into the batter but you can do it all at once. Sifting aerates the flour and breaks apart clumps. The consistency of cake flour is inherently clumpy, so this is essential. Sifting the dry ingredients together also helps blend them, which is always a good idea.
Set the bowl containing the dry ingredients to the side once you’ve sifted them together thrice (that’s super posh-talk).
How do I make the rest of the lemon meringue cupcake batter?
Another way to achieve fluffy cupcakes is to beat the butter and sugar together long enough and at a high enough speed to incorporate air. Always begin with room temperature ingredients. If you feel a chill on it, it’s not room temp. You shouldn’t feel any difference when you touch the butter or the vessel holding the eggs (or the milk later on). Room temperature ingredients blend and whip properly and evenly, whereas cold ingredients leave you with lumps and an imbalanced mixture.
In a mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer set at low speed to initially blend the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and salt together until smooth. The juice of the lemon will be used later. Alternatively, you can complete this creaming step in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once the mixture is smooth, be sure to stop the mixer and scraper down the bowl and the beaters.
With the mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes, or until light, fluffy, and lemony-yellow in color. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters once during this process. Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, to the bowl while the mixer is on low. Once the first egg is incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters before adding the next egg.
Once the eggs are in, increase the mixing speed to medium-high and beat for 4 minutes. Stop and scrape 2 times during this stage.
The final result should be nearly white in color and fluffy.
What causes cupcakes to be tough?
The biggest cause of cupcakes being too tough is overmixing. You can’t go crazy once the flour is in there. A trick to minimize the risk of over-mixing is to add the flour and milk in stages.
Give the dry ingredients that third and final sift if you haven’t already, then add one-third of it to the bowl with the butter-sugar mixture. With the mixer on low, blend it in just until it’s barely distinguishable. Add half of the buttermilk/vanilla mixture to the bowl. Once the milk is almost incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters.
Mix in another third of the flour mixture at low speed, and follow it with the remaining milk mixture. Stop again and scrape down, then add the last of the flour.
This stage’s final step is to do away with the mixer altogether and finish mixing the batter by hand.
Concerning cupcakes being tough, if I’m honest, the butter in this recipe, coupled with the fact that the cupcakes have to be refrigerated, means that the cupcakes will be firmer than what we all desire. It’s the lesser of two evils considering the alternative, which is food poisoning. These mixing steps will keep the firmness at a bare minimum, so they’re totally worth the effort.
How long do I bake the cupcakes?
Before you get to baking the cupcakes, use a #16 portion scoop to scoop the batter into a paper-lined muffin tin. This recipe makes exactly 1 dozen cupcakes. But that’s if you use a 2-ounce portion scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup. If you go willy-nilly in your scooping, you may only end up with 11 cupcakes or eke out 13. The choice is yours.
Once you scoop the batter into the prepared pan, bake the cupcakes in a preheated 350°F (177°C) oven for 18-20 minutes. Try to avoid over-baking the cupcakes as that causes them to dry out. The tops of the cupcakes should spring back quickly when you press them.
How do I make the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes moist?
Remember how I said that the necessary refrigeration can make the cupcakes firmer than you’d expect? Though that is inevitable, brushing a simple syrup on the warm cupcakes will help keep the cupcakes moist.
Make the lemon simple syrup while the cupcakes are baking:
- In a small bowl, stir together the reserved 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (from the lemon you zested) and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
- Pop this bowl in the microwave and heat the mixture on high for 15-20 seconds. The lemon syrup will begin to bubble, so keep an eye on it.
- Once it boils up, pull it out of the microwave and stir to dissolve the sugar.
That’s all it takes!
Now, you just need to brush the lemon simple syrup over the cupcakes after taking the cupcakes from the oven.
You can get two layers of simple syrup from this one bowl. You can also skip the lemon simple syrup, but I think it adds a nice touch.
When the cupcakes are done, allow them to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. This helps them set up. Transfer the cool cupcakes to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
How do I fill the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes?
LIFE HACK AHEAD!!
Well, I guess it’s just a “baking hack,” not a life hack. Okay, so you know I’m not a fan of one-hit kitchen wonders, right? That means that I can’t stand to buy a product that’s only good for one thing in my kitchen. You’d think an apple corer would fit that description, right? WRONG.
Not only do I use my apple corer to core apples, but also to remove the center from my soon-to-be-filled cupcakes! Yes, I know. I know. I’m a genius. If you don’t have an apple corer, you can use a round piping tip or cookie cutter. I prefer the corer because it extracts the circle of cake when you pull it up. After removing the middle, use your finger to press down any remaining cake in the center of the cupcake. This helps form a barrier between the paper liner and the lemon curd. I hate these paper liners, by the way. Because they’re so non-stick, they peel away from the doggone cupcakes!
Now, spoon a tablespoon of the Meyer lemon curd into the hole you made in the cupcake. Give the cupcake a gentle tap to settle the curd a bit. If there’s a dent, add a little more curd. It’s okay if the curd overflows slightly (or more than slightly), but remember that the meringue needs something dry to stick to later.
Continue poking holes and filling them. Set the tray of cupcakes aside while you make your Swiss meringue topping.
What is Swiss Meringue?
Swiss meringue is the process of whipping egg whites, sometimes warmed over a double-boiler, with sugar until they hold a stiff peak. Though the meringue is often the base for buttercreams, you can bake it or use it as we’re about to: as a topping. You have had Swiss meringue if you’ve eaten lemon meringue pies.
I don’t bother with heating the egg whites and sugar together. The process usually ensures the sugar is completely dissolved before whipping the whites, but I never have an issue with undissolved sugar crystals. Yes, we’re going to end up with semi-raw egg whites, so if you have someone who is immunocompromised, just heat the egg whites and sugar in a double-boiler over medium heat until the whites are very warm to the touch. The sugar, the speed at which we’ll eat the cupcakes, and the fact that we’re going to keep them refrigerated means the risk of food poisoning is minimal, but I do have to tell you it exists.
Instead of heating the whites and sugar, I use superfine sugar, which I slowly shake into the foamy egg whites. To begin, make sure you are using a very clean glass or metal mixing bowl. Fat is the enemy of egg whites as it inhibits them from developing volume. Plastic bowls love to hold onto fats, so glass, ceramic, or metal is your best bet.
Begin whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed. Once the whites look foamy, start slowly shaking in the sugar. Once all of the sugar is in, stop the mixer and quickly scrape down the bowl and beaters. You want to work quickly to avoid losing whatever volume you’ve created.
How do I know my meringue is ready?
Return the beaters and increase the speed to high. Whip the egg whites for another 7-8 minutes, or until they stand out stiffly in peaks. This is called the “stiff peak stage.” Fitting, no?
Don’t whip past this point. Doing so causes the egg whites to break, making them look foamy and grainy. You know your whites are perfect if they still look glossy.
I think I over-whipped. How do I fix a broken Swiss Meringue?
We’ve all been there. It’s hard to know when to stop whipping egg whites, so don’t feel bad if you over-whipped your meringue. Usually, whipping in another room-temperature egg white will sort things out. If not, it may be too far gone, and you will have to start all over again.
Once you have the stiff peaks needed, fit a piping bag with a 1M (large star tip) or 809 (plain round tip). Fill the piping bag, but try not to be too rough transferring the meringue to the bag. The more you handle it, the more you’ll deflate them.
Pipe a nice mound of Swiss meringue onto each cupcake, making sure to cover the lemon meringue filling. We filled the cupcakes first because we want the least amount of time to pass between when we whip the meringue and when we set it by toasting it with the butane torch.
How do I toast the Meringue on my Lemon Cupcakes?
While I’m a huge fan of using butane torches to toast my lemon meringue cupcakes, I realize not everyone has one lying around. If you do, it’ll make this next step super easy. The torch I have is just a handle that attaches to a can of butane gas. It’s easy to store when I’m not using it, which is why I like it so much.
Just ignite the torch, lower the flame to medium, and toast the exterior of the piped Swiss meringue. You know the meringue is properly torched when it swells, browns, then contracts. Not only does it heat the egg whites, but it also sets them in place.
How do I toast Meringue without a torch?
If you don’t have a torch, set your oven broiler to low. Arrange the cupcakes on a sheetpan and toast the meringue for 2-3 minutes under the broiler or until they’re as brown as you’d like.
Can I bake the cupcakes ahead and freeze them?
If you want to make these lemon meringue cupcakes ahead, hold off on whipping the egg whites until the day you plan to assemble and serve them.
The Meyer lemon curd stores well in the fridge for a few weeks. The cupcakes you can bake, cool, then transfer to a freezer storage bag. Freeze the cupcakes for 3 months. When you’re ready to assemble them, allow them to thaw at room temperature.
The Swiss meringue can’t be frozen because it will lose its volume.
How do I store the decorated cupcakes?
The cupcakes do need to be refrigerated. I usually transfer them to an open storage container and put them in the fridge uncovered. The longer Swiss meringue sits in the chilled air, the more it will weep, but mine have been fine in the fridge for up to two days.
Remember that because there’s butter in them, they’re going to be a little firmer than they would be if you stored them on the countertop. For my family, that’s not a big deal. But, if it bothers you terribly, let them sit out for 10 minutes before enjoying them.
What holidays do I serve these Lemon Meringue Cupcakes on?
Does Monday count as a holiday?
These Lemon Meringue Cupcakes serve well on any occasion if I’m being honest. Serve them on Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or at any Spring or Summer get-together. There’s really no inappropriate time for them. Serve them as an “I’m finally getting out of this god-forsaken traphouse of an apartment!” dessert. That’s what I’m going to do.
Be sure to pin this Lemon Meringue Cupcake recipe to your desserts board, then share it with your friends. If you made it and loved it, leave me a rating and review in the comment section!6
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
- butane torch (optional)
- muffin pan
- handheld (or stand) mixer
- #16 portion scoop (optional)
- apple corer (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) cake flour
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger optional
- 1 cup (250 milliliters) buttermilk at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 3/4 cups (170 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (6 grams) lemon zest from 1 large lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 3/4 cups (180 grams) Meyer Lemon Curd (or jarred lemon curd)
Lemon Simple Syrup (Optional)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 milliliter milliliters) lemon juice from zested lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 milliliter milliliters) cold water
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- pinch cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) caster sugar (also called superfine sugar)
- fresh lemon slices (cut in halves or quarters)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly grease cupcake pan with non-stick baking spray, then line it with baking cups.
Make the Lemon Cupcakes
- Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and ground ginger together 3 times. Set this dry mixture aside. In a separate pitcher or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Set this wet mixture aside as well.
- In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, blend together the unsalted butter, sugar, lemon zest, and kosher salt on medium speed for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle. Begin mixing the butter-sugar mixture again, this time on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater once during the mixing time.
- Add the eggs to the mixing bowl- one at a time- mixing for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl down after you add each egg. Once both eggs have been added, increase the speed to medium-high and whip the mixture until it looks light and airy, this should take about 4 minutes. Stop the mixer 2 times to scrape down the bowl and beater.
- Add a third of the flour to the mixer's bowl and mix just until the flour is absorbed. Next, add half of the buttermilk and mix for a few seconds.Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters. Repeat the 1/3 flour-remaining milk-remaining flour cycle, making sure to scrape down the bowl after adding the milk, and one final time after the last addition of flour.
- Stop the mixer after 30 seconds of mixing and finish mixing the batter by hand. Use your rubber spatula to fold the batter 10 times.
Bake the Lemon Cupcakes and Make the Simple Syrup
- Once the batter is smooth, use a #16 (or a 1/4 measuring cup) portion scoop to fill each cavity of your cupcake pan 2/3rds full of batter. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, or until they're golden and their tops spring back when lightly pressed. Avoid over-baking the cupcakes as that causes them to dry out. The tops of the cupcakes should spring back quickly when you press them.
- Make the lemon simple syrup while the cupcakes are baking. In a small bowl, stir together the reserved 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (from the lemon you zested) and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Microwave this mixture on high for 15-20 seconds. Once it boils, pull it out of the microwave and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the cupcakes are baked, remove their pan from the oven and brush two layers of the lemon simple syrup over the cupcakes. After the cupcakes are brushed, allow them to cool in the pan for 5 minutes to allow them time to set up. Transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
Fill the Lemon Cupcakes with the Lemon Curd
- Press an apple corer (or cookie cutter) into the center of a completely cool cupcake. After removing the middle, use your finger to press down any remaining cake in the center of the cupcake. This helps form a barrier between the paper liner and the lemon curd.
- Spoon a tablespoon of the Meyer lemon curd into the hole you made in the cupcake. Gently tap the cupcake to settle the curd a bit adding a little more curd if there's a dip in the filling. It's okay if the curd overflows slightly (or more than slightly), but remember that the meringue needs something dry to stick to later. Continue removing and filling the cupcakes' centers. Set the tray of cupcakes aside while you make the Swiss meringue topping.
Make the Swiss Meringue Topping
- Begin with a meticulously clean glass or metal mixing bowl. Fat is the enemy of egg whites as it inhibits them from developing volume. Begin whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed. Once the whites look foamy, start slowly shaking in the sugar.
- Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and quickly scrape down the bowl and beaters. Work quickly to avoid losing what volume you've created.Return the beaters to the bowl and increase the speed to high. Whip the egg whites for another 7-8 minutes, or until they are stiff peak. Don't whip past this point or the egg whites may break, making them look foamy and grainy. The whites should still look glossy.
Decorate and Enjoy the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
- Once your Swiss meringue is ready, fit a piping bag with a 1M (large star tip) or 809 (plain round tip). Fill the piping bag, but try not to be too rough transferring the meringue to the bag, or you'll deflate them.Pipe a mound of Swiss meringue onto each cupcake, making sure to cover the lemon meringue filling.
- Using a butane torch, lower the flame to medium, and toast the exterior of the piped Swiss meringue. The meringue is properly torched when it swells, browns, then contracts. Serve as is or decorated with lemon slices. Enjoy the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes within 2 days of decorating. Store in the refrigerated in an uncovered container.
Swaps and Subs:
- Use store-bought lemon curd, or replace the lemon curd with lime, mango, passion fruit, or guava curd.
- To make your own cake flour at home: Measure out 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Remove 3 tablespoons of the flour from the bowl. Replace those 3 tablespoons with the same amount of cornstarch. Sift as instructed in the directions above.
- For homemade buttermilk: add 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk. Stir together to combine, then allow this mixture to sit for 15 minutes before using as instructed.
- If you only have salted butter, use that and omit the salt from the recipe.
- If you've over-whipped the egg whites, whip in another room-temperature egg white. If the mixture doesn't return to a glossy state, it may be too far gone, and you will have to start all over again.
Broiling the Meringue:
- Set your oven broiler to low. Place one of the rack 8-12" from the overhead heating element.
- Arrange the cupcakes on a sheetpan.
- Place the pan into the oven and toast the meringue for 2-3 minutes under the broiler or until they're as brown as you'd like. Keep an eye on them as they will brown quickly.
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions:
- To make these lemon meringue cupcakes ahead, hold off on whipping the egg whites until the day you plan to assemble and serve them.
- The Meyer lemon curd stores well in the fridge for a few weeks. The cupcakes you can be baked, cooled, then transferred to a freezer storage bag. Freeze the cupcakes for 3 months.
- When you're ready to assemble them, allow them to thaw at room temperature.
- Transfer the decorated cupcakes to an open storage container and put them in the fridge uncovered. The longer Swiss meringue sits in the chilled air, the more it will weep.