Yesterday hubby and I went up to Riverside County; he wanted to check out Tom’s Farms in Corona (we’d seen it on a recent drive up to LA – yes, we went up the 15; it was rush hour on Friday and we got there a lot sooner than if we’d have taken the 5!) and do a little wine tasting. Plus, we’d hoped to go olive oil tasting with friends earlier this month but it didn’t work out.
We spent the whole day meandering around – first at Rancho Bernardo Winery, then up at Tom’s Farms, Bella Vista Winery in Temecula, and lastly at the Temecula Olive Oil Company. We were really impressed with the last one – you can try all of their oils and vinegars for free! I’d definitely reccommend stepping into the front room before your tasting, though, and picking up a (gorgeous, cheap, and super-yummy!) cibatta bread to dip into the oil. They say it dulls the taste, but really most of us aren’t used to taking olive oil as shots. And after a few, it gets just a little heavy on the tummy!
That said, we decided to pick up a lemon olive oil while we were there. All evening and this morning, that olive oil was on my mind – I had to use it in a baking project!! I ended up googling olive oil cupcakes and came up with a few recipes; ultimately I adapted this one, from a blog I hadn’t yet seen (but quickly bookmarked – YUM!). I wanted something that would be nice and light, with a good flavor of lemon and brown sugar. But I’ve gone off by myself too many times and come up with would-be recipes that don’t have the right proportions, so I had to start somewhere!
This recipe was supposed to make 12 cupcakes; either my cupcake pans are smaller than hers or perhaps I didn’t fill mine enough; anyway, I filled up all 12 of my cupcake cups and had plenty to spare. But that was okay – it gave me a chance to experiment and bake a little cake!
Lemon, Brown Sugar, Olive Oil Cupcakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 wheat pastry flour and 1/2 unbleached white; you could probably use cake flour as well but sifting the flour made it nice and light)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1-2 tbsp lemon zest
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar (you might be able to use all brown sugar, but I didn’t want it too molassess-y)
- 1/2 cup lemon olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine zest, sugars, olive oil, and lemon juice. Combine with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the milk, beat well. Add 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture and 1/2 of the remaining milk, beat well. Add the remaining flour and milk and beat until smooth. Pour into cupcake cups (I used 1/4 cup measure) and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (I decided to go for 350 instead of 375 because I didn’t want them to dry out – you could probably go up to 375, as the original recipe suggests).
I didn’t frost these yet (they literally came out of the oven 20 minutes ago), and I might actually not frost them at all but eat them with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Otherwise I think they’d be really nice with a lemon or almond buttercream or whipped cream. They have a really beautiful dainty and soft texture; they’re not very heavy, but they’re incredibly moist. They taste lightly of lemon and brown sugar – if you want more of a lemon flavor, you could up the amount of lemon juice in them and remove some of the milk – and are not too sweet. Just the way I like a cupcake!
As I said, I had some leftover batter once I poured all the cupcakes into their cups. So I decided to be daring! 🙂 I know how much I love basil and lemon together, and I had some fresh basil we’d bought last week at Henry’s. So I pureed a little of the basil (a good handful – sorry, I didn’t measure) and threw it into the batter before I baked up a little cake out of it! It came out a little strange-looking, but it’s very tasty. It’s unexpected and doesn’t really taste very “basil”-flavored, but it really adds a little kick to the recipe!
Edited to add: I frosted these with a quick C&H buttercream variation: I used half a box of powdered sugar, 2 tbsp of butter, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, a tsp of almond extract, and some cream (I have no clue how much – it just had to be the right texture). It was tangy and sweet but balanced, and since the cupcakes themselves were pretty mellow it just was a little wakeup call for them. Very nice! I still like them plain, though, too, or with berries…