Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

When someone says "summer" what do you think of? Here's what I think:

Air Conditioners.
Pink Lemonade.

Pink lemonade is probably one of the most refreshing beverages on the planet. I cannot say why. When it is poured over a mountain of ice, it's just always the most desirable beverage after a long day in the sun.

On an unrelated note, another thing that I love to use in cooking and baking is lemon. The flavor is  so aromatic and it brings a note of freshness to any dish.

Fresh. That's another thing I think of when I hear "summer." Fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh summer cocktails. Everything is just so fresh!

I was poking around the internet for some new cake recipes a while back when I stumbled upon a Paula Deen recipe for Pink Lemonade Layer Cake. The thought of pink lemonade sweetness in a cake really caught my attention. I tucked the thought away in my mental "recipes to try at some point in my life" file and continued my day.

Now summer is upon us (and rapidly leaving us!) and cookouts are aplenty. And I'm sure many of you would agree that bringing a dish to a cookout is a given. I always rack my brain trying to think of a reasonable dish to bring to a friend's summer get together.

That's when Paula Deen's charming southern accent came flowing through my cerebellum saying "Piiink Lemonaddeee Caakkkee y'aaallll!" Of course!

Now, cake is not always a practical option for a casual backyard barbeque. And, also, I don't have any cake pans. But cupcakes. Well, cupcakes are always in style. (Cupcake recipe adapted from Your Homebased Mom)

 I need to be honest here. I had an EPIC fail with this recipe a few weekends ago. I'm talking cupcakes that burned on the bottom and never cooked through, overly concentrated lemonade mixes that reacted oddly to the heat of the oven, and a complete mental breakdown. So, think carefully about your ingredients -- remember that baking is a science and little deviation from the recipe below will allow you to be most successful. Alas, if out first you don't succeed, try, try again. And now, finally, a yummy and refreshing dessert!

Here's what you need for Pink Lemonade Cupcakes:

1 box white cake mix such as Betty Crocker (ok, ok. So we are using the store's help on this one. But it's summertime! The kitchen is a hot place to be--and shortcuts allow more time for fun in the sun!)
Zest of 2 lemons, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3 tablespoons sweetened pink lemonade drink mix (Country Time is the ideal choice here)
2 sticks margarine (16 tablespoons)
1 cup shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed (I used Minute Maid)
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 pounds confectioner's sugar (may need slightly more or less depending on how thick or thin you want your icing)

Here's what you do:

Prepare the white cake mix according to package directions, being sure to add in the pink lemonade mix, 1 lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Line muffin tins with paper or aluminum muffin cups--this recipe yields about 24 cupcakes.
Fill each liner with 1/3 cup of the cake mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, start by creaming the margarine, shortening, milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and lemonade concentrate with a hand mixer until smooth. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the remaining lemon zest.
Again using your mixer, add the confectioner's sugar in batches until the frosting is the desired consistency. If you want to make these super pink, mix in the red and blue food dye before adding the sugar.
Ice your cupcakes using a piping bag or the old fashioned way -- that is, with a regular old butter knife! Sure, it's a little more rustic, but it is still every bit delicious.

Make your cupcakes extra cute by garnishing with mini straws and lemon candies!

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