Limoncello Cupcakes

23 May

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A couple of Christmases ago, my friend Nancy was kind enough to bring a bottle of limoncello to the office holiday party. This was no ordinary bottle of limoncello, however. This was homemade limoncello, loving crafted by her very talented father, who was well-known for his home recipe.

Nancy had been telling us for some time just how good her dad’s limoncello was, so we were all quite excited to finally have a chance to sample this wonderful liqueur. I for one had never had limoncello before, homemade or otherwise, so I was really looking forward to my first taste. A day or two before the party, Nancy popped by her dad’s house to pick up the limoncello. He wasn’t home at the time, but was kind enough to leave the bottle of pale yellow liqueur waiting on the porch for her.

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Fast forward to the evening of the party. Nancy proudly presented the bottle of yellow liqueur and very graciously offered it to anyone who wanted a sample. I read somewhere that limoncello and champagne made a nice cocktail, and so I had her pour a generous amount of the limoncello into my glass of champagne. So confident was I that this was going to be THE cocktail of the evening, I encouraged several of my other friends to do the same. As Nancy  strolled off to share the golden elixir with others, I took a nice big sip, my taste buds eagerly anticipating the delightful mix of syrupy, sweet lemon and effervescent champagne. Imagine then, the look of horror on my face as the liquid ravaged its way down my throat, annihilating anything in its path, burning a hole in my esophagus and quickly bringing tears to my eyes. A quick glance at my co-victims’ faces told me they were experiencing the same torture. I hurriedly composed myself, politely hid the unfinished “cocktail of the evening”, and attempted to cool my throat and soothe my soul with a new glass of pure, unadulterated champagne. Nancy, who is nobody’s fool, could tell something wasn’t right,  tried a bit of the liqueur herself and had a similar reaction.

It turns out that limoncello isn’t the only craft beverage Nancy’s dad likes to make. The bottle he left out on the porch that unfortunate day? Not  limoncello at all but rather a bottle of raw, homemade, un-aged gin. Yes, I had coerced my friends into drinking raw gin and champagne….not quite the cocktail I had in mind.

I still haven’t tried Nancy’s dad’s limoncello, but I do look forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve had to satisfy myself with the commercial stuff, which is mighty fine too.

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Life has thrown Nancy a couple of curve balls lately, both good and bad, including a move to a different part of the office. So, to celebrate the move and wish her all the best, I dedicate these delightful limoncello cupcakes to my friend Nancy….and her dad.

Limoncello Cupcakes

This recipe is the quick, easy, but no less delicious version. These cupcakes received some high praise.  But for a total from-scratch experience, check out Brown Eyed Baker  (my favorite blog) for her Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes – even the curd is homemade and looks fabulous.

Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

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1 box white cake mix (I used 18.25 ounce size)

1 cup water

1/4 cup limoncello

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in cupcake tins and set aside.

Combine the cake mix, water, limoncello, oil, egg whites, lemon juice and zest in large mixing bowl. Combine ingredients on low until just mixed, then at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake tins about half full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.

When cool, use small melon baller, corer or frosting tip to cut a small hole in each cupcake. Fill each hole with a small amount of lemon curd and then frost as desired.

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Limoncello Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons limoncello

4-5 cups confectioners sugar

zest of one lemon

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add limoncello, lemon zest and 3 cups powdered sugar. Mix together at low until blended, then at high speed for several minutes, adding additional powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost as desired and sprinkle lightly with additional zest.

Enjoy!

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