A lemon drop is a cocktail that is made with vodka, lemon juice and sugar. They are bright and refreshing, and since the acidity of the lemon takes the edge off of the vodka, they’re very easy to drink. These cupcakes are inspired in part by lemon drop cocktails and in part by summer strawberries – making them a sort of adult strawberry lemonade cupcake. There are lots of fresh strawberries in the cupcakes and quite a bit of vodka, too. I really like these as a bit of a grown-up alternative to classic cupcakes and cocktail-inspired cupcakes are usually a big hit at parties.
The cupcakes themselves are very moist and fairly sturdy, as cupcakes go. This means that the strawberries remain suspended in the cupcake batter and don’t all sink to the bottom. The cakes actually look gorgeous when they’re unfrosted and you can see bits of berry sticking out all over. The cupcakes are also not too sweet, thanks to the fact that they don’t include an excessive amount of sugar and because the vodka doesn’t lend any additional sweetness. This gives the berries another chance to stand out. Only a bit of lemon zest is included in the cupcakes and it doesn’t make a big impression on its own, although it does allow the cupcakes to tie in very well with the frosting.
The buttercream frosting has lemon zest, lemon juice and a bit of vodka. I’d say that you can get a hint of the vodka even with the lemon in the frosting, but it is very subtle. In fact, you don’t get more than a hint of the vodka in the cupcakes themselves even though there is about a 1/2 cup in the recipe. If it is necessary for you to leave it out, you can replace it with milk if you have to, but I don’t think that anyone at the party will get tipsy from these, even if they eat the whole batch. I used Ciroc vodka for these cupcakes, but feel free to use any brand that you like.
Strawberry Lemon Drop Cupcakes
(adapted slightly from Ciroc Vodka)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp lemon zest
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 cup vodka
2 cups fresh, chopped strawberries
Preheat oven to 350F and line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and lemon zest.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the milk and vodka.
Working in three or four additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and the vodka/milk mixture, ending with an addition of dry ingredients. Only mix until no streaks of flour remain visible. Stir in strawberries by hand.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tins.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.
Lemon Drop Frosting
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vodka
2 tsp lemon zest
approx 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
sliced strawberries, for garnish
In a medium bowl, cream together butter, lemon juice, vodka, lemon zest and about 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. With the mixer at medium-high speed, add in additional confectioners’ sugar (using even more than 3 total cups, if necessary) until frosting is thick , fluffy and spreadable.
Spread onto the tops of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with strawberry slices, if desired.
Makes 18 cupcakes