Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Frosting

I never really been an Easter person. As far as the actual celebration of Easter as a giant bunny costume and plastic eggs in the yard situation, I am just slightly repulsed. I mean those bunny costumes are terrifying...right up there with clowns! 

Despite my mixed feelings about Easter, I do LOVE spring. Its amazing, its new life, its color and flavor, its a fresh start, clean home and warm sun on your back. That is what inspired me to make these cupcakes--the freshness of lemon, the sweetness of mascarpone cheese and the simplicity of a cupcake. To me, these  are little pieces of spring and all it has to offer and they are really, really delicious!

My love of spring transcends from my kitchen throughout my home and life, right now I am inspired to grow an herb garden, cover my home in moss and sprinkle birds nests with tiny speckled eggs all over! I have a hard time physically keeping up with all the decorating and projects that I want to do. Right now its a battle between what I want to do, what I need to do and what I am actually going to do. Sound familiar? I know everyone and anyone can relate to this battle of responsibility vs. creativity. But I am consciously trying everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me and not terrify me. I think spring is the perfect time to do this, to practice patience and to push the reset button. This idea of "spring cleaning" isn't just for our homes, its for our lives. I think that this idea of a fresh start  is what Easter is really all about. Its the Son of God interceding for us, covering us in grace, stripping us of the messes we make of ourselves and giving us a new life. 

Even though I can't get behind the fake bunny, I do love spending Easter with my family. Any excuse to get together, make good food and sit around a well decorated table is welcome. These little lemon poppy seed cupcakes are a perfect addition to any Easter spread. And if cupcakes aren't your thing, the batter would make an excellent cake! {recipe after the photo jump}

Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes

4 cups + 2 TBSP cake flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda 

1 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened 

2 cups sugar, I used superfine but regular granulated works just fine! 

2 tsp good quality pure vanilla extract

zest of two lemons

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups buttermilk

1 tsp poppy seeds

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, then add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Slowly beat in the eggs one at a time,  mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. With mixer on low speed slowly add the buttermilk, the mixture will look curdled. Add the flour mixture in three additions. Once the flour is incorporated (don't over mix) beat on med-high speed for 30 seconds. Fold in the poppy seeds. 

Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. I found that the longer I chilled it the easier it was to scoop out and the better shape the cupcakes had when baking. 

Once your cupcakes have chilled preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your muffin tin with liners and scoop the batter into them filling only about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for about 14 minutes. Start checking them around 12 minutes. 

Let the cupcakes cool completely before attempting to frost! 


Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

6-7 cups confectioners sugar

1 TBSP fresh lemon juice, or to taste.

1 heaping tsp lemon zest

2 tsp good vanilla

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low speed until combine. For a lighter frosting beat on high for about 30 seconds. You want the frosting to have a medium spreadable consistency, (not super thick, but also not super soft) you may need to adjust the amount of confectioners sugar you use depending on the temperature inside your house. 

You may choose to decorate your cupcakes with a candied lemon curl, its a fairly simple but sticky process that I wont get into here. If you want to add this decoration to your cupcakes jump on over to Homemade Toast's blog for a detailed tutorial. 

Note: The cake recipe is adapted from an original recipe by Smitten Kitchen. I wouldn't dare try to claim the cake as my own because lets be real...good homemade yellow cake recipes are hard to come by!

Traditional Italian Meatballs

Nothing is more delicious to me than Italian food. Maybe its that quarter of Italian heritage that runs through my blood, or maybe its just that Italians are brilliant when it comes to comfort food. In my opinion they really own it. I mean...pizza, fresh pasta, cheese! Those are the staples of the carb lovers diet and who doesn't love carbs? I know I do! I really love them. But for me what is even better than eating Italian food is cooking it. Steeped in tradition, their is something so comforting about standing over your stove cooking a pot of fresh sauce. Or rolling out pasta dough for a fresh ravioli. For me, Italian cooking is more than just cooking, it is a traditional way of living. Every time I make Italian food I picture myself in Italy. I find myself in the kitchen of a countryside villa with the fresh scent of lemons blowing in from the orchard through the open windows. The sweet warm summer wind gently caressing the hem of my apron. It is tradition that moves me, tradition that inspires my imagination and tradition that is rooted in every Italian recipe. Meatballs are tradition, their are countless recipes for them and I have never met anyone that doesn't enjoy them. Covered in sauce and cheese these are the epitome of traditional comfort food. 

Traditional Italian Meatballs 

2 lbs ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 1/2 cups fresh ground bread crumbs (I used sourdough that I had leftover in the freezer)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for browning

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Place all ingredients except buttermilk and egg in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl beat the egg with the buttermilk and pour over meat mixture. Mix with your hands or with a fork until well combine. Shape the meat mixture into 2 inch balls.

Place about 1/8-1/4 inch of olive oil in a dutch oven set over med/high heat. Once the oil is hot place meatballs in the hot oil, (don't over crowd them) and let brown on both sides. 

Once all the meatballs have been browned, bake them in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes until they are cooked through. This makes them so amazing! I never used to do this step, I would just let them finish cooking in the sauce, but I think this step is what made these meatballs so good!

Serve over pasta with your favorite sauce, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil! 

Note: These freeze exceptionally well. I used the leftover frozen meatballs for a "Meatball Parmesan" where I took them directly from the freezer, placed them in a baking dish covered them in sauce + cheese and baked them at 350 until bubbly and hot. Served with mashed potatoes this was a really yummy (and easy) dinner that my husband LOVED!