Zesty Lemon Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Zesty Lemon Cupcakes
I’m always a fan of anything lemon, especially when spring time rolls around.
These cupcakes are light and fluffy and full of flecks of tangy lemon zest.
They’re sure to brighten up any day. 
Zesty Lemon Cupcakes

¾ c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. cake flour

1 c. sugar
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ tbsp. lemon juice
½ c. whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with 12 paper liners. 

2. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice. 
4. Turn the speed down to low, mix in ⅓ of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Then ⅓ of the milk. Continue to alternate and mix in the remaining milk and dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (30 minutes or so) before frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2½ large egg whites

1/2 c. sugar (heaping)
½ lb. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

1. To divide an egg white, whisk one egg white in a liquid measuring cup. Divide the white into two equal portions (save the other half or toss it out). 

2. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (medium heat).
3. While the mixture begins to heat, whisk frequently to avoid setting the egg whites. Whisk until the mixture reaches 165° F and the sugar has dissolved (it will begin to look foamy).
4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled, about 7-8 minutes or so.
5. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated. Depending on the consistency and temperature of your frosting, you may want to chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before using it.
(Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes)