Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

Let me tell you about one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. This person is not one of my children nor my goofy husband; I give them plenty of feature time here and will pick up with discussing them tomorrow.

Today, I want to talk about my little sister Amy.

Amy, to put it eloquently, is simply the best. She is upbeat, easy-going, and smart. She also has a great sense of humor and infectious laughter, loves music, animals, and children, is a blossoming Beatles fan, possesses a great eye for photography and art in general, and has a faith life that is pretty deep for a kid her age.

But the best thing about Amy is her compassionate, loving heart. She has such a big capacity to love and cares deeply about each and every person she meets. Legitimately cares. You would be hard pressed to find someone with a bigger heart than Amy.

I'd like to think that Amy's beautiful nature is largely due to the fact that I supplied her with an impeccable role model while growing up. I was fifteen when Amy was born and my parents asked me to be her godmother, a role that I continue to take very seriously. But in all reality, I have pretty much nothing to do with how awesome Amy is. Even as an infant, she was always so sweet, so patient, and so ready to please. While growing up, she always tried her best to follow rules, obey her parents, and give her all at school. She also fostered a relationship with God that she has continued to grow and I have no doubt that her spiritual growth is the dominant force shaping her into the adult she is quickly becoming.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Matthew was scheduled to receive the remainder of his sacraments of initiation: Confirmation and Communion. As part of the Confirmation process, he was instructed to select an adult sponsor, someone whom he greatly admires who will be able to help guide him in his faith journey. He took only a few minutes to think before deciding upon Amy. His choice did not come as a surprise to me and Amy was thrilled that he thought of her. I thought it was kind of neat because I had also been Amy's Confirmation sponsor just a few years earlier.

So, my Mom flew out along with my three youngest siblings - Amy, Susanna, and Bruce - to witness Matthew's reception of the sacraments. Amy got to sit with him throughout the entire 2 hour long Mass and held tightly onto his shoulder as Matthew walked up to be confirmed. Amy also was the one who informed the priest what name Matthew had chosen for his Confirmation - Saint Francis of Assisi - and got to watch close up as her eldest nephew was anointed with the blessed chrism oil. It was an emotional moment for me as a mother. I remember when my little baby boy was baptized and now here he was old enough to receive our Lord in the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. I also remember my baby sister receiving all three of her sacraments of initiation and now she gets to stand as a witness and role model to my son.  How quickly time passes.

It was beautiful - every bit of the Mass. And when it was over, we had a little party with lots of cake.

Oh, and there is one more thing about Amy that I'd like to share. She likes to cook. More specifically, she like to bake. When she came out to my house this past summer, she baked quite a bit. One of the most amazing things she made were these Lemon Lavender Cupcakes. I am in love with lavender in cakes and cookies, so when this recipe intrigued her, I encouraged her to try it. Amy discovered after trying her confection that she was not in love with lavender flavored frosting. However, I found it delicious and so did Paul and the kids. Amy might be able to bake, but I'm beginning to suspect that she lacks properly formed taste buds. These were amazing.

If you're like Amy and are suspect of lavender in baked goods, keep away. However, if lavender-scented sweets are your jam, give these elegant cupcakes a go!

Lemon Lavender Cupcakes
recipe from Jessica Merchant

For the Cupcakes:
1-1/2 cup All Purpose Flour, sifted
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 Lemons, Zest Freshly Grated
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
1 cup Sugar
1 Large Egg
2 Large Egg Whites
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Lemon Extract (optional)
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

For the Lavender Frosting:
3/4 cups Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
3-1/2 cups To 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Dried Culinary Lavender, Finely Chopped
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Milk Or Cream If Needed
1 drop Purple Food Coloring (optional)
Fresh Lavender, For Garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Zest the lemons and set the zest aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add in the sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides if needed and increasing it to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar and butter is fluffy. Beat in each egg and white until incorporated, then add the vanilla and lemon extract (you can also use a lemon baking emulsion) and lemon zest until combined. Beating on low speed, add in half of the dry ingredients until combined, then add in the milk and lemon juice. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and beat until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop the batter into the liners filling them 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 16–18 minutes, or until the tops are set. Let cool completely.

For the lavender frosting:
Add butter to the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar and lavender. Increase the speed of the mixer, scraping down the sides if needed, beating the frosting until fluffy and combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.

If the frosting seems too thick, beat in the tablespoon of milk. If it seems to runny or too thin, you can beat in more powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time. Once the frosting is a spreadable consistency, drop in the purple food coloring and mix until evenly colored. Frost the cupcakes and top with a few lavender flowers if you wish.

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