Lemon Cupcakes with Bitters, Sorrel, and Toasted Meringue

January and citrus are a natural pair when it comes to me and cupcakes. As is typical, I ate too much chocolate and too many sweets over the holidays and really had to dig deep to find the motivation to even think of baking. But dig deep I did… Well, actually, I perused the latest issue of Imbibe (I will admit I have a recipe and photo featured in an article about cooking with tea) and stumbled on many a drink recipe that provided just the inspiration I needed.

I settled quickly on bitters as a way to counteract my overindulgence in sweets. I love bitters. Likely because I love(d) to drink Manhattans. This combination came from a couple different drink recipes (both by Lance J. Mayhew of Meriwether’s in Portland, Oregon). The bitterness and tartness of bitters and lemon appealed to my post-holiday’s sensibilities. I decided on a lemon chiffon cake to keep it light and meringue for the same reason. The end result is a pillow of sweet/bitter/tartness that is quite sophisticated (especially for a cupcake). This recipe likely won’t be for everyone and I will be interested to see how they go over at work tomorrow. I was pleased with the experience though.

Lemon Cupcakes
~20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1-1/2 cups flour (cake if you have it, otherwise all-purpose)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup grape seed oil or vegetable oil
4 egg yolks (approximately 3 ounces)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract, all natural
grated rind from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon bitters
5 egg whites (approximately 5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar

1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon rind, and bitters. Stir to combine.
3. On a low setting, start to beat the dry mixture and slowly add the wet. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated.
4. Transfer mixture to another bowl. Wash and dry mixer bowl.
5. Whip egg whites with whip attachment on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer on medium speed, add cream of tarter and slowly add sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Scoop a cupful of the stiff egg whites into the batter and stir to combine. This should lighten up the batter.
7. Transfer the batter to the egg whites and gently fold until there are no more streaks of egg white.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups about 2/3s full and bake at 350 F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

batter & egg whites
step 6

lemon cupcakes with bitters
baked cupcakes

Sorrel Simple Syrup

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chopped Sorrel

1. Add sugar and water to a small saucepan set over medium high heat.
2. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until fairly thick, about 2 minutes
3. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in Sorrel and set aside to cool.

Sorrel Meringue Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
3 egg whites
Sorrel simple syrup
Splash of Bitters

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This only takes only a few of minutes.
2. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
3. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle sorrel syrup into the mixer. Splash in a bit of bitters. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.


1. Pipe meringue frosting.
2. Toast with a culinary or blow torch.

piping meringue

Leave a Reply