Meyer Lemon-Ginger Cupcakes With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
In June 2006, two weeks before I was scheduled to have my third pelvic surgery in nine months, I planted a Meyer lemon tree in my backyard. I had been struggling with endometriosis since 2005, and no matter how many times my doctor went in to remove the large, painful growths it produced, they grew back with an even larger, more painful vengeance. I won’t gross you out with the particulars. My female organs were, to quote my doctor, a complete mess. I was sick of getting cut open every three months, and I was sick of being in constant pain. I reluctantly agreed to have the offending organs removed.
I had already made my peace with infertility. After the relative ease of Max’s conception, I was pretty surprised when I couldn’t get pregnant again. I wasn’t interested in any “help” getting pregnant, though. If I couldn’t conceive another child the old-fashioned way, Max would be an only child.
Reluctance to have the surgery had more to do with the uncertainty of a successful outcome than confronting the reality that this body would bear no more children. Would I still be doubled over with pelvic pain? (For a while, yes.) Would I be able to convince the doctor who did the procedure that I’d be just fine without hormone-replacement therapy? (Yes. It turns out I’m quite persuasive even in the wake of general anesthesia.) Would I then have hot flashes that would turn my face and neck red and cause me to sweat rivers? (Thankfully, no.)
I suppose it’s metaphoric that I planted a Meyer lemon sapling with two beautiful lemons waiting to be picked two weeks before I would be rendered unable to bear fruit myself. But, really, I just love to cook with Meyer lemons and couldn’t continue sponging off my friend Kathy, who has a massive Meyer lemon tree in her Pasadena backyard.
After those first two lemons, my tree didn’t produce any fruit until this year. I coaxed her along and told her I wanted a dozen lemons. Every day I’d tell her how beautiful she was what a great job she was doing. Right after Thanksgiving, I harvested 13 gorgeous, juicy lemons from that little tree, and I used each one. My girl is dormant now, resting up for the big job ahead of her: She’s agreed to 14 lemons this year―all to be produced the old-fashioned way.
Meyer Lemon-Ginger Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes a dozen cupcakes
Meyer lemons are a lemon-orange hybrid. That makes them a bit sweeter than a regular lemon, but nowhere near as sweet as an orange. They’re in season from November to May, but if you can’t find them, feel free to use regular lemons.
I use what I call vegan half-and-half in these cupcakes: half light coconut milk, half unsweetened almond milk. If you want to use dairy half-and-half, go ahead. If the spice is too tame for you, add more ginger.
If you want to forgo the frosting and make a vegan muffin, reduce the sugar to ¾ cup and substitute ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce for the eggs. I’m all about options, yo.
Canola oil spray (if not using baking cups)
1 cup blanched almond flour
⅔ cup GF Classical Blend flour
⅓ cup coconut flour
1 scant cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon xantham gum
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, room temperature
⅓ cup canola oil
½ cup light coconut milk
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
Juice and grated peel of 1 medium Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare muffin pan by lining with baking cups or spraying with canola oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, ginger, baking powder, xantham gum and salt.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, canola oil, coconut milk, almond milk, lemon juice, grated lemon peel, and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients into wet. Spoon batter into muffin cups to ¾ full and bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to rack to cool completely, about an hour.
4. For the frosting: In a medium mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and salt. Beat in ½ cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon coconut milk until combined. Beat in second ½ cup of confectioners’ sugar and the second teaspoon of coconut milk until combined, followed by the last ½ cup of confectioners’ sugar. Taste it. Do you think it’s sweet enough? If you want to add more sugar, go ahead. You’ll probably need to add a bit more coconut milk as well. When all ingredients have been combined, add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5. Make sure cupcakes have cooled completely before attempting to frost. Trust me on this. When cupcakes have cooled completely, frost and serve. The butter in the frosting will melt, so refrigerate if you’re not serving these right away; same with the leftovers. They’ll keep in the fridge for about 3 days and are quite delicious cold. And for breakfast.