Lemon Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream

by Jillian
Fluffy lemon cupcakes topped with a sweet swirl of fresh cherry buttercream!

Fluffy lemon cupcakes topped with a sweet swirl of fresh cherry buttercream!

Lemon Cupcakes (title)

Lemon is one of those flavors that pretty much goes with any fruit. Whether it’s paired with blueberries, strawberries, or even coconut, it adds the most refreshingly tart flavor to anything. 

For the most part, lemon is commonly paired up with blueberries or raspberries. Both are fantastic combos, but this week I was hit with another idea…CHERRIES.

With cherry season in full swing, why not take advantage of one of the most delicious fruits on the planet? In my case, it would be absolutely absurd NOT to utilize this season since my uncle owns a cherry orchard. You’d think that after several summers working in the heat of the orchard while sorting endless bins of cherries, I’d be sick of them. But to me, they’re the true nature’s candies–NOT raisins. They’re plump, juicy, sweet, and one of the most addictive fruits ever. When you think about it, it’s amazing that something so delicious can grow from a tree!

So instead of mindlessly popping an entire gallon-sized bag of cherries into my piehole, I decided to do something a little more “fruitful” (get it??) by creating a dessert that would transform those cherries into something better…

Lemon Cherry Cupcakes-4

These Lemon Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream are summer personified. With a soft and pillowy lemon cupcake and a luscious crown of REAL cherry buttercream, these cupcakes are bound to be a hit at any gathering you bring them to.

I love how well the sweetness of the cherries complements the citrus of the lemon. The cake itself is moist, fluffy, and bursting with so much lemon flavor. While these cupcakes are packed with a good amount of lemon zest and lemon juice, they’re not at all sour nor the least bit overpowering. They have all the flavor of fresh lemon without any of the pucker. 

Lemon Cherry Cupcakes-9

Like most of my recipes, these cupcakes are a snap to throw together. Just cream a “little” butter and sugar together, add a couple of eggs, some vanilla, almond extract, and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt ensures that these cupcakes remain moist for days, and the almond extract adds that subtle hint of flavor reminiscent of bakery-style cupcakes.

Once the wet ingredients have taken a ride in the mixer, the dry ingredients are added–flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. After the wet and dry ingredients have been combined, the lemon juice and zest are added. See? Easy peasy lemon squeezy! (I’m sure this isn’t the first time I’ve made this reference in a lemon recipe post.)

Lemon Cherry Cupcakes-5

The cherry buttercream requires a little more time just because of the cooking and cooling. To extract as much juice from the fresh cherries as I could, I first pitted and stemmed them before placing them in a saucepan over medium heat. I also added a little sugar for extra sweetness and lemon for tartness. It took about 10 minutes of constant stirring for the cherries to soften and release all of their juices. I found that a potato masher worked best for smashing the cherries as they cooked. Once the juice gets strained through a fine mesh sieve, it needs to cool completely. This process can be sped up by placing the juice in the freezer. Just make sure to check on it every ten minutes or so!

Lemon Cherry Cupcakes-11

Aside from the cooked cherry juice, the frosting is your standard American Buttercream recipe. First, you cream some butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Then the cooled cherry juice is added along with some vanilla and almond extract. To lighten the buttercream up a bit, a little heavy cream is whipped in at the very end to produce that satisfyingly smooth and pipable texture. Speaking of, I used a Wilton 1M frosting tip to frost these cupcakes.

Lemon Cherry Cupcakes-14

Adorned with a fresh cherry on top, these cupcakes are nothing short of stunning. 

Seriously, lemon and cherry need to get together more often…

Lemon Cupcakes (collage)

Fluffy lemon cupcakes topped with a sweet swirl of fresh cherry buttercream!

Lemon Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream

Fluffy lemon cupcakes topped with a sweet swirl of fresh cherry buttercream!
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 52 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 18 Cupcakes

Ingredients
  

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

For the Cherry Buttercream:

  • 8 ounces fresh red cherries stemmed and pitted
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions
 

To make the Cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF degrees. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until lightened and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the Greek yogurt, vanilla, and almond extract on medium speed.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add the milk, lemon juice, and zest then mix until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the Buttercream:

  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the cherries, granulated sugar, and lemon juice together until mixture begins to boil and juices start to release. Continue cooking and stirring, smashing the cherries as they soften (a potato masher works great!), until all the cherry juices have released, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to press as much cherry juice out as possible.* Refrigerate cherry juice until completely cooled.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the cooled cherry juice, the vanilla, and almond extract. Add the heavy cream, and whip on high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Frost or pipe buttercream onto cupcakes, as desired.

Notes

*You should end up with about 1/3 cup of cherry juice.
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