Recipe Lem Brulee Cupcakes

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This one took me a long time to figure out, so don't be surprised if it takes me a long time to explain. You've probably already guessed that the Lem in Lem Brulee Cupcakes means lemon. That was the easy part. Getting a crème brulee in cupcake form? That was the tricky part.

Search the internet for “Crème Brulee Cupcakes”, and you’ll find several recipes. But, there’s only one problem: NONE OF THEM ARE CRÈME BRULEE CUPCAKES! All of them get the brulee part, where they cover the cupcakes with sugar and then apply the torch to create the glassy sugar coating. This has always been my favorite part. But, what do you get when you crack the sugar surface? You get cake, not cream. In other words, they’re all really….brulee cupcakes. Sprinkling sugar on a cake and setting it on fire is easy. Somehow getting a cream into a cupcake, and then applying the torch? That’s what I’m about to show you.

The logistics of making a true crème brulee and then somehow putting it into a cupcake didn’t seem workable: crème brulee takes 45 minutes to bake and set, while cupcakes typically take half that long. So, I settled on making what amounts to a super thick pudding, putting that into a hollowed-out cupcake shell, and then covering that with sugar and torching it.


The Filling

Crème Brulee consists of egg yolks, cream, sugar, and some sort of flavoring (usually vanilla). Pudding consists of egg yolks, milk, sugar, some sort of flavoring (usually vanilla), and a thickener. So, you can see why I figured this would be a small leap. I’ve made crème brulee several times. I make it with half-and-half, whereas 99.99999% of the world uses heavy cream (which I find too buttery, and not in a good way). It wasn’t that big a step to use half-and-half in the pudding. I used cornstarch (which is pretty standard for pudding), then added xanthan gum to firm up the surface. The result wasn’t quite as firm as crème brulee, but is was very close.

And, this being a lemon challenge, it made sense to get some lemons. I wanted this to explode with lemon flavor, since the flavor filling was going to be reduced somewhat by having a cake as a base. The result was like a lemon meringue pie and a bag of lemon drops candies had a child. A big part of the reason was the massive amount of lemon zest I used (see the dark yellow in the image below). By the way, the other yellow is what happens when you don't read your own directions: I mixed the egg yolks into the sugar and cornstarch before I added the half-and-half. No harm done, though.

IMG_0769.JPG


The Base

This was the easy part. I just used the cake part of the recipe I recently used for strawberry crumble cupcakes. I wanted the filling to really fill the cake, so I hollowed out the cakes after they cooled a bit, then filled the well with the filling. The carved out insides made tasty bites, which I wish I had tossed in cinnamon-sugar to make them even tastier. Note that cupcakes sometimes have bubbles in them, creating holes, which then need to be pressed closed to keep the filling in.

IMG_0770.JPG


The Finished Product

There are a few differences in the properties between a true crème brulee and what I made. I tried to more or less flatten out the filling, ala the inspiration for this cupcake, but I didn't see the need to make it perfectly flat:

IMG_0771.JPG


And, the filling is wetter, so I had to dust a few at a time with sugar to prevent the sugar from being absorbed.

IMG_0772.JPG


Then, hilariously, I found out the hard way that cupcake wrappers are flammable! So, I had to peel them off the cupcake base before applying the heat.

IMG_0774.JPG

I still had to redust a few of the cakes with sugar as I went, but extra sugar is hardly a problem. I was concerned that the final result would be a let-down after all the planning (I spent about a month off-and-on thinking about how to pull it off). But, my family gave me their verdict when they ate half of them in the first day.
IMG_0775.JPG


Recipe

Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Filling Ingredients


4 lemons (or 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons light butter, room temperature

Cake Ingredients

3/4 cup light butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pure
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
3/4 cup half-and-half

Finishing Ingredients

8 tablespoons sugar

Required Tools

Brulee torch (not sure if using the broiler will work, since the sugar tends to absorb into the surface so quickly).

Directions

  1. Zest lemons into a small bowl and set aside. Juice lemons into a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Add half-and-half and whisk until fully combined. Add egg yolks and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly. While continuously stirring, sprinkle in xanthan gum.
  3. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently with a large spoon. Continue stirring until liquid thickly coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and butter until blended. Pour through strainer into a container. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 2 hours, until set.
  5. Once filling is set, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Combine butter with brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Blend in eggs, vanilla extract, salt, and half-and-half.
  7. With a mixer running on low, gradually blend in baking powder and flour, scraping down the sides if needed.
  8. Place 24 cupcake papers in cupcake tins, and spoon batter evenly into each.
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out cleanly from the cupcakes. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool somewhat.
  10. Remove wrappers from the cakes. This is necessary to keep the paper from buring when the torch is used.
  11. Scoop out some of the cake to make a well, ensuring it's about a 1/4 inch thick (thinner than that may cause the filling to leak through the sides). Press together any holes that bubbles may have formed in the carved-out cake to ensure the filling stays in the cake.
  12. Spoon enough filling to fill the well, and smooth out to make a level surface. Don't spend too much time with making it perfectly smooth.
  13. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on a few cupcakes at a time. Don't do more than a few at a time because the sugar will start to be absorbed by the filling. Tap the sides of the cupcake to level out the sugar if needed. Using a brulee torch, melt the sugar on the surface of the first cupcake. When it starts to smoke, move on to the next cupcake. Return to the first cake, if needed, to melt the remaining sugar. Repeat, doing a few at a time, until done.
 
Last edited:

MypinchofItaly

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This one took me a long time to figure out, so don't be surprised if it takes me a long time to explain. You've probably already guessed that the Lem in Lem Brulee Cupcakes means lemon. That was the easy part. Getting a crème brulee in cupcake form? That was the tricky part.

Search the internet for “Crème Brulee Cupcakes”, and you’ll find several recipes. But, there’s only one problem: NONE OF THEM ARE CRÈME BRULEE CUPCAKES! All of them get the brulee part, where they cover the cupcakes with sugar and then apply the torch to create the glassy sugar coating. This has always been my favorite part. But, what do you get when you crack the sugar surface? You get cake, not cream. In other words, they’re all really….brulee cupcakes. Sprinkling sugar on a cake and setting it on fire is easy. Somehow getting a cream into a cupcake, and then applying the torch? That’s what I’m about to show you.

The logistics of making a true crème brulee and then somehow putting it into a cupcake didn’t seem workable: crème brulee takes 45 minutes to bake and set, while cupcakes typically take half that long. So, I settled on making what amounts to a super thick pudding, putting that into a hollowed-out cupcake shell, and then covering that with sugar and torching it.


The Filling

Crème Brulee consists of egg yolks, cream, sugar, and some sort of flavoring (usually vanilla). Pudding consists of egg yolks, milk, sugar, some sort of flavoring (usually vanilla), and a thickener. So, you can see why I figured this would be a small leap. I’ve made crème brulee several times. I make it with half-and-half, whereas 99.99999% of the world uses heavy cream (which I find too buttery, and not in a good way). It wasn’t that big a step to use half-and-half in the pudding. I used cornstarch (which is pretty standard for pudding), then added xanthan gum to firm up the surface. The result wasn’t quite as firm as crème brulee, but is was very close.

And, this being a lemon challenge, it made sense to get some lemons. I wanted this to explode with lemon flavor, since the flavor filling was going to be reduced somewhat by having a cake as a base. The result was like a lemon meringue pie and a bag of lemon drops candies had a child. A big part of the reason was the massive amount of lemon zest I used (see the dark yellow in the image below). By the way, the other yellow is what happens when you don't read your own directions: I mixed the egg yolks into the sugar and cornstarch before I added the half-and-half. No harm done, though.

View attachment 7561

The Base

This was the easy part. I just used the cake part of the recipe I recently used for strawberry crumble cupcakes. I wanted the filling to really fill the cake, so I hollowed out the cakes after they cooled a bit, then filled the well with the filling. The carved out insides made tasty bites, which I wish I had tossed in cinnamon-sugar to make them even tastier. Note that cupcakes sometimes have bubbles in them, creating holes, which then need to be pressed closed to keep the filling in.

View attachment 7562

The Finished Product

There are a few differences in the properties between a true crème brulee and what I made. I tried to more or less flatten out the filling, ala the inspiration for this cupcake, but I didn't see the need to make it perfectly flat:

View attachment 7563

And, the filling is wetter, so I had to dust a few at a time with sugar to prevent the sugar from being absorbed.

View attachment 7564

Then, hilariously, I found out the hard way that cupcake wrappers are flammable! So, I had to peel them off the cupcake base before applying the heat.

View attachment 7565
I still had to redust a few of the cakes with sugar as I went, but extra sugar is hardly a problem. I was concerned that the final result would be a let-down after all the planning (I spent about a month off-and-on thinking about how to pull it off). But, my family gave me their verdict when they ate half of them in the first day.
View attachment 7566

Recipe

Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

Filling Ingredients


4 lemons (or 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon xantan gum
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons light butter, room temperature

Cake Ingredients

3/4 cup light butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pure
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
3/4 cup half-and-half

Finishing Ingredients

8 tablespoons sugar

Required Tools

Brulee torch (not sure if using the broiler will work, since the sugar tends to absorb into the surface so quickly).

Directions

  1. Zest lemons into a small bowl and set aside. Juice lemons into a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Add half-and-half and whisk until fully combined. Add egg yolks and lemon zest and whisk thoroughly. While continuously stirring, sprinkle in xanthan gum.
  3. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently with a large spoon. Continue stirring until liquid thickly coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and butter until blended. Pour through strainer into a container. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, loosely covered, for at least 2 hours, until set.
  5. Once filling is set, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Combine butter with brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Blend in eggs, vanilla extract, salt, and half-and-half.
  7. With a mixer running on low, gradually blend in baking powder and flour, scraping down the sides if needed.
  8. Place 24 cupcake papers in cupcake tins, and spoon batter evenly into each.
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out cleanly from the cupcakes. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool somewhat.
  10. Remove wrappers from the cakes. This is necessary to keep the paper from buring when the torch is used.
  11. Scoop out some of the cake to make a well, ensuring it's about a 1/4 inch thick (thinner than that may cause the filling to leak through the sides). Press together any holes that bubbles may have formed in the carved-out cake to ensure the filling stays in the cake.
  12. Spoon enough filling to fill the well, and smooth out to make a level surface. Don't spend too much time with making it perfectly smooth.
  13. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on a few cupcakes at a time. Don't do more than a few at a time because the sugar will start to be absorbed by the filling. Tape the sides of the cupcake to level out the sugar if needed. Using a brulee torch, melt the sugar on the surface of the first cupcake. When it starts to smoke, move on to the next cupcake. Return to the first cake, if needed, to melt the remainng sugar. Repeat, doing a few at a time, until done.

I like them so much! :thumbsup::thumbsup: very greedy!
 
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I forgot to mention: even though the first step of the recipe sounds simple, zesting and juicing several lemons is time-consuming! I actually made double the amount of filling, since I wasn't sure how much I'd need, and it took me about 15 minutes to zest and juice 8 lemons (I was thorough, since I wanted to shred all the peel).
 

Morning Glory

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I forgot to mention: even though the first step of the recipe sounds simple, zesting and juicing several lemons is time-consuming! I actually made double the amount of filling, since I wasn't sure how much I'd need, and it took me about 15 minutes to zest and juice 8 lemons (I was thorough, since I wanted to shred all the peel).
Its the zesting I presume which took time - there are no mechanised gadgets for that to my knowledge! The juicing is quick if you have a juicing attachment on a food processor - or if you have a juicer.
 
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Its the zesting I presume which took time - there are no mechanised gadgets for that to my knowledge! The juicing is quick if you have a juicing attachment on a food processor - or if you have a juicer.
Right. I have a zester (though a fine grater would also do). Working around all the curves and such on each lemon was a real challenge. I do have a juicer - this one to be exact - and it does the job quickly (all 8 were done in about a minute, including cutting each in half). The funny thing is, they also sell a lime juicer and lemon juicer: I figured I'd just get the largest one (the orange juicer) and use it for whatever citrus I needed. Silly to think that someone out there is buying all three.

main_variation_Default_view_1_425x425.jpg
 

Morning Glory

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. I have a zester (though a fine grater would also do). Working around all the curves and such on each lemon was a real challenge.

For zesting I use a microplane (very fine sharp grater). I don't know if you have that brand in the US. Re the juicer, I used to have a similar one. I don't know what happened to it! These days I just use a simple lemon reamer. But I do agree it seems daft to have various sizes of the juicer you have. The good thing about that one though is that it leaves the pips out.

The microplane zester looks like this:

46020u_380.jpg
 

Cinisajoy

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For zesting I use a microplane (very fine sharp grater). I don't know if you have that brand in the US. Re the juicer, I used to have a similar one. I don't know what happened to it! These days I just use a simple lemon reamer. But I do agree it seems daft to have various sizes of the juicer you have. The good thing about that one though is that it leaves the pips out.

The microplane zester looks like this:

View attachment 7568
Yes, we have that microplaner.
The recipe looks fabulous. So basically a hollowed out cupcake, use greased, unlined muffin tins to bake them, with a thick custard center.
I will leave out the xantham gum.
 
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For zesting I use a microplane (very fine sharp grater). I don't know if you have that brand in the US. Re the juicer, I used to have a similar one. I don't know what happened to it! These days I just use a simple lemon reamer. But I do agree it seems daft to have various sizes of the juicer you have. The good thing about that one though is that it leaves the pips out.

The microplane zester looks like this:

View attachment 7568
This is exactly the same kind I have (there once as a sleeve for it, too, but that's long since gone). But, looking at that picture, I have to wonder: how did the chef get that much zest from that lemon??
 
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Because its an orange? :D
Even more suspicious! The fruit looked like it tapered off on the lower end, like the lemons on the left, but I now see that it's more of an orange color. But, still, where did the zest come from if the fruit has its entire peel? :meh:

BTW, the only reason I used xanthan gum is because I bought some on a discount, and now finally seemed to be the perfect time to use it. I imagine adding 2 extra tablespoons of cornstarch would provide close to the thickening you'd get from the xanthan gum, even if it's not quite the same in terms of surface tension.
 
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