Finally! A lemon meringue pie makes it into a cupcake! These cream cheese cupcakes have mini lemon pies baked inside, and they’re topped, of course, with a sweet cloud of meringue that’s been perfectly toasted to a gorgeous golden brown.
Now, I tried making a lemon filling recipe from scratch and unfortunately, it never set. I think I needed more corn starch. Or less lemon juice. Or something. So! After that failure, I took a shortcut and just filled the pies with Jell-O lemon pudding. Still so good! And quicker, too. But you can absolutely make the lemon filling from scratch, if you have a tried and true favorite recipe. Or you could experiment with lemon curd, too.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
2 (16-ounce) batches pie crust dough (your favorite recipe or store-bought, enough to make 2 two-crust pies)
1 cup lemon pudding (or lemon curd or lemon pie filling)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1⅓ cups whole milk
¾ granulated sugar
3 egg whites
a pinch of cream of tartar
1. To make the mini lemon pies, preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a 24-cup miniature muffin tin. Use a rolling pin to roll out the pie crust dough on a lightly floured smooth surface until the dough is about ⅛ inch thick. Then use a 2½-inch circular cookie cutter to cut out 24 small disks. Ball up the scraps of dough and wrap in plastic wrap for later use.
2. Press the dough circles into each cup in the prepared tin. Use a toothpick to poke holes into the bottom of the pie shells—this will keep the bottom of crusts from bubbling up too much while baking. Bake the pie shells for about 7-10 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the pie shells to cool, then fill them with a heaping teaspoon of the lemon filling. Store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. To make the cupcakes, line 2 standard muffin tins with 24 paper liners. Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer on medium speed to combine the butter and cream cheese for about 90 seconds, until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in each egg completely before adding the next. With the mixer on medium speed, add the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Finally, add the flour, ½ cup at a time, alternately with the milk, ⅓ cup at a time, mixing until each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue to mix the batter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds, until smooth and creamy.
4. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each cup in the prepared tins. Place a lemon pie into the center of the batter and press it gently. You don’t want the pie to touch the bottom of the tin. Cover the pies with another heaping tablespoon of batter so the top and sides of the mini pie are completely covered and the cup is about three-quarters full. Bake for 25 minutes, until the edges and tops of the cupcakes have turned golden brown and the cake springs back when you gently press your finger into the top of it. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. For the meringue topping, pour two cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring it to a bowl over medium-high heat. Place the granulated sugar, egg whites, and cream of tarter into your stand mixer’s mixing bowl (or, if you’re using a hand mixer, a medium-sized metal mixing bowl will also work). Beat for 20 seconds, so all ingredients are incorporated, then place the bowl over the saucepan of boiling water, stirring with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved. It will take about 5-7 minutes (and use a candy thermometer to make sure it doesn’t go above 160 F or so). Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat, and whip the mixture on high speed until it forms stiff peaks.
6. Spread or pipe the meringue onto the cupcakes and, if you have a culinary torch (you should, they’re so fun!) use that to toast the meringue. Otherwise, you can turn on your oven’s broiler and pop the frosted cupcakes under the broiler for just a few seconds, until the meringue peaks start to brown.
My cookbook Bake it in a Cupcake: 50 Treats With a Surprise Inside is out now on Andrews McMeel Publishing and available at your favorite local bookstore as well as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.org!