Last week I found myself wide awake at 3am brainstorming recipes and blog ideas. It’s an infuriating curse at times, but some of my best ideas occur then. These summer-inspired cupcakes are one such product of my insomnia and sacrificing a bit of beauty sleep was completely worth it!
Basil and lemon are some of my favorite ingredients to work with, but I was concerned about the flavors overpowering each other. Much to my delight, this recipe strikes the perfect balance between them, so you get a fluffy, moist cake with just the right amount of sweet and tart, topped off with an airy mound of whipped cream frosting made with a basil cream that’s as fragrant as it is fresh!
This may seem a little backwards to list the frosting first, but since it requires a few extra steps, you’ll want to knock it out first before starting on the cupcakes.
Basil Whipped Cream Frosting:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped
4oz light cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
Cake recipe adapted from Crazy For Crust’s Perfect Triple Lemon Cupcakes
(makes 15-16 cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 Tbs lemon zest + a bit of extra to garnish with (1 lemon)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk, but any kind will do)
Add heavy cream and basil to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The cream will reduce down to about 1 cup. Remove from heat and let basil leaves steep for an hour or until completely cooled. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve in a bowl and discard basil leaves.
Place cream in the refrigerator to chill again for 30 minutes. It’s always important to use chilled cream when making whipped cream or whipped cream frosting or you’ll never get that perfect consistency. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. With the mixer still running, slowly beat in the basil cream. Beat for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed, until frosting can hold a stiff peak. It should be light and airy, but firm enough to hold shape.
If you were multitasking while doing the frosting, your cupcakes might already be cooked, cooled, and ready to frost, but if not, just place the frosting in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together melted butter and sugar. Beat eggs in one at a time then beat in vanilla extract, lemon zest, and juice.
Alternate adding flour and milk and beat until just mixed. Distribute batter into prepared muffin tin, filling about 2/3 of the way full (about 1/4 cup of batter per cupcake). Remember that this recipe makes about 15 to 16 cupcakes so you’ll either want to use another muffin tin or wait until your first batch comes out to finish off the batter. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
Transfer frosting to a pastry bag and frost cupcakes once they’re completely cooled. Garnish with a bit of lemon zest and a fresh basil leaf and serve right away. You can also make them the night before and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Remove cupcakes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.