Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Each passing year, I like to try something new for my birthday treat. In 2012, I made these insanely sweet banana cupcakes with brown butter cream cheese frosting and caramel drizzle (which also win the Longest Name award). In 2013, I used my green thumb in the kitchen to bake these adorable "seedling" cakes in canning jars (which are sadly still on the long list of treats to blog about).
Birthday 2013

The inspiration for this year's birthday cupcake started early; four months ago to be exact. On the very last day of August, I enjoyed a lovely lavender lemon cupcake from High Point Cafe in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. I knew then and there that I would have to adapt this cupcake for my birthday. If you have been keeping up with me in the kitchen, you know it's been the year of lavender.

Cupcake courtesy of High Point Cafe

Here was my short list of things to consider:
  1. I wanted a hint of lemon in the frosting, not the cake.
  2. I wanted the lavender in the cake and to only appear as a garnish on the frosting. Lavender in frosting would make for  a weird texture.
  3. I wanted fluffy piles of icing to top the cakes, but not so much that the lavender cake flavor disappeared. 
I flipped through cookbooks and browsed the internet for various vanilla cake and buttercream recipes to set the foundation for my recipe. Here is the delicious result. 

Notes on the recipe:
  • We had two birthday celebrations this year so this recipe makes 36 cupcakes, not the usual 24. Simply halve the ingredients to make a smaller batch.
  • I happened to have left over vanilla beans in my cabinet from a holiday batch of homemade vanilla extract, so the beans made their way into the cake. If you are in a hurry or don't want to spend the money on vanilla beans, simply add one heaping tablespoon of lavender to your favorite vanilla cake mix. I recommend Trader Joe's naturally flavored Vanilla Cake and Baking Mix.
  • There is only a hint of tart lemon in the icing. If you're looking for a strong lemon flavor, play around with adding more zest or juice in small amounts to your frosting as you mix it. If you sour it up too much, just add more powdered sugar to balance the flavor.
  • The fluffier frosting look was created using Wilton's No. 2 Drop Flower Tip, instead of my usual open star tip #2110.

Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream
Makes 36 cupcakes

3 vanilla beans
3 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
2 c. milk (I used almond milk)
4 eggs
2 T. dried lavender, plus extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Run a knife down the inside of the bean, removing the seeds.

Whisk together melted butter, milk, vanilla beans, and eggs in a large bowl or electric mixer. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in lavender. Spoon batter into cupcake liners and bake 16-18 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough frosting for 36 cupcakes

5 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 T. vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon

Cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Add vanilla, zest, and lemon juice and mix until fluffy.


  1. Well, those look amazing. I love that the you used the lavender like sprinkles on top of the frosting. Such a cute idea.

  2. Oh, and Happy Birthday, of course. Hurry up and blog about those seedling cupcakes, so I can gush about them.

  3. Agreed. I need to see these seedling cupcakes in detail. These lavender cupcakes are absolutely picture perfect. Happy birthday!