I've been a fan of bestselling cookbook author and Middle Eastern cooking wizard Yotam Ottolenghi ever since I first opened Plenty. So when I heard a few months ago that he was coming up with a cookbook focused on baking and desserts, I started counting down the days.
The book, written with Helen Goh, a pastry chef and longtime Ottolenghi collaborator, met all my expectations. It's filled with beautiful, inspired recipes, some satisfyingly challenging, others very easy to execute.
I picked the lemon and raspberry cupcakes to try first because it seemed like an easy one to start with and it also had a lemon curd-mascarpone frosting and I was like "WHOA! This is brilliant and I need to try this asap."
I usually don't care for cupcakes, because IMO, the cake is often dry and bland — traditional cream cheese frosting can be sickeningly sweet. But this recipe changed all that.
The mascarpone gives the frosting a creamy and deliciously smooth texture, while the lemon curd brings up the sweetness and tanginess to complete it all. It's perfect and you could definitely use it on regular cakes too. The cupcakes were super light, moist, and fluffy, filled with fresh raspberries, and the whole process was super easy — the only small challenge is the lemon curd if you decide to make it from scratch, but you could also go for store-bought and no one would judge you.
Here's the recipe if you'd like to make them:
Lemon and Raspberry Cupcakes
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
6 tbsp/90 ml lemon juice (from 2 lemons; the zest of these lemons needs to be
used for the cake batter, so grate the zest before juicing)
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp/90 g granulated sugar
5 tbsp plus 1 tsp/75 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3/4-inch/2-cm cubes
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp/125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 tsp)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp/225 g granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup/120 g sour cream
1 ¼ cups/160 g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups/150 g fresh raspberries, plus 12 extra for garnish
1 cup/270 g lemon curd
1 1/4 cups/300 g mascarpone
To make the lemon curd, whisk together the whole egg and egg yolks in a bowl and set aside. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then, as soon as it comes to a boil, pour the syrup over the eggs, whisking the whole time. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat for 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and one or two bubbles appear on the surface.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, one cube at a time, waiting until each piece melts before adding the next. When all the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth, transfer the curd to a clean container and cover the surface with plastic wrap; you want the plastic wrap to actually touch the surface to prevent it from forming a skin. Set aside to cool completely before placing in the fridge until needed.
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and line the 12 molds of a regular muffin pan with paper liners (if you don’t have liners, brush the molds and the top of the muffin pan with barely melted butter and dust all over with flour, tapping away the excess).
Place the butter, lemon zest and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and add this to the mixer. Continue to mix until combined, again scraping down the paddle and sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat for another 20 seconds. Lower the speed, add the raspberries and mix for just a few seconds so that the fruit breaks up and the mixture is roughly rippled with the raspberries.
Spoon the batter into the paper liners—they will be nearly full—and bake for about 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Set aside in the pan to cool for 5 minutes before transferring the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the lemon curd and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until thick, about 1 minute.
Use a small spatula or butterknife to frost the cupcakes. Finish with a whole raspberry in the center of each cake and serve.
The lemon curd can be made up to 3 days before frosting the cakes and then stored in the fridge. To prevent lemon zest from drying out, pop it in a ziplock bag or plastic container and freeze; it will keep for a couple of months.
Once baked, the cakes are best eaten on the same day. If not frosted, they will keep in an airtight container for a day.
Reprinted with permission from Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.