Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

My summer cupcake post is here! I loved all the cupcake toppers my goddaughter sent me, but I think I was most excited about the summer ones. Look how adorable they are! The crab googly eyes get me every time. Since they are beach themed it felt appropriate to post them at the end of my family’s annual beach week.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

I know we’re already halfway through August (UGH), but thankfully these cupcakes are not just summer cupcakes. These are classic vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. And by classic I mean perfectly moist, extra fluffy, damn good vanilla cupcakes. Do you know how difficult it is to find a homemade vanilla cupcake recipe that tastes just as good – or better – than those made from a box mix? I’ve tried several over the years and I’ve been disappointed every single time.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

Last week I stumbled upon this delicious vanilla cupcake recipe through a happy accident. I initially was planning on making nectarine cupcakes for the summer cupcake post that were an absolute flop. I plan to revisit that recipe idea, but until then I really wanted to bake and photo something for this post before leaving for beach week the next day.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

Deciding to revisit my perfect vanilla cupcake search I looked through all my cookbooks and Googled plenty, but there was one problem with every recipe: we only had one egg left in the fridge and I didn’t want to go to the store. I know, so lazy, but at least it led me to this recipe! Apparently there’s an old-fashioned recipe called a One Egg Cake from the Joy of Cooking and it requires minimal ingredients, is very simple and makes outrageously fluffy cupcakes!

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

I paired these with a traditional vanilla buttercream because sometimes you’re just dying for a classic vanilla-vanilla combo piled high with frosting like you would get at a birthday party. I used a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton 2D tip to frost these cupcakes. If you want something lighter and less sweet then I recommend my mascarpone frosting. Or if you want something chocolatey then definitely make my Perfect Chocolate Frosting. Of course, if you want to turn them into summer cupcakes then make sure to dye the frosting blue and add cute cupcake toppers! Enjoy, friends!

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream  |  Lemon & Mocha

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
 
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
  • ⅓ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk, any fat percentage you prefer
for the frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners so you have enough for 16 cupcakes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined with a whisk attachment, scraping down the sides as needed.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the large bowl and beat on low with the whisk attachment until just combined. Add the milk and beat with the whisk attachment until combined. If the batter is lumpy keep whisking until it isn’t lumpy.
  4. Use a cookie scoop or batter spoon to fill the cupcake liners so they’re half full. You should get 15-16 cupcakes. Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes. They are done with they are golden, the tops spring back when you touch them and just a few moist crumbs come out when you stick a toothpick in the center. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
for the frosting
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the powdered sugar and the vanilla and beat on low until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. I used a pastry bag fitted with a 2D Wilton tip to frost these cupcakes.

Cupcake recipe slightly adapted from Dinner with Julie.
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Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m so excited to share this recipe! Matt and I have been to San Diego together twice now and both times we went to different Ballast Point breweries. Matt is a big fan of their beers and, as we discovered on our first visit, they also serve awesome food. The first time we ordered their duck confit nachos: fresh tortilla chips piled high with crispy duck, a creamy blue cheese sauce, pickled red onions and a tangy sour ale blackberry sauce.

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

The combination had us dreaming about this appetizer until we were back in San Diego two years later and could order it again. I decided this summer I needed to at least attempt to re-create this dish so we wouldn’t have to wait until our next San Diego trip to eat it again.

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I loved how my Elote Wonton Bites turned out so instead of a full plate of nachos we have Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce. These little wonton cups have a lot of components, but a bite of everything all together is pure magic. It helps that you can make the duck carnitas, wonton cups, blackberry ale sauce and pickled red onions ahead of time.

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I was most concerned about making the duck because I have never cooked or even bought duck before except at a restaurant. The larger Whole Foods near me stocks duck legs so I placed those in my dutch oven along with orange juice, orange wedges and some seasonings. The duck legs came out so crispy and juicy! Considering how simple it was to just put everything in the pot and let it cook I will definitely be cooking duck again for Matt and I! Who knew it was so easy to get such restaurant-worthy results?

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Since we want the tender duck to be crispy for these nacho bites, I turned them into duck carnitas by shredding the duck meat and searing it on the stove-top for twenty minutes. Delicious! I love that we can eat this dish now whenever we feel that craving hit to hold us over until we can get back to San Diego again!

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Duck Carnitas Nacho Bites with Blue Cheese and Blackberry Ale Sauce
 
Yield: 24 wonton bites
Ingredients
for the duck carnitas
  • 1 pound fresh duck legs, about 2 legs
  • 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cinnamon
for the pickled red onions
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
for the blue cheese sauce
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup blue cheese crumbles
for the blackberry reduction
  • 4 ounces fresh blackberries
  • ⅓ cup sour ale
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
for the wonton cups
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • ⅔ cup blue cheese crumbles
Directions
for the duck carnitas
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the duck legs, skin side up, in a Dutch oven or other heavy oven safe pot with a lid. Add juice of the whole orange and the seasonings to the pot. Stir to combine then cut up the spent orange into wedges and toss in as well. Put on the lid and cook 1½ hours. Remove from the oven. Once it’s cool enough to handle, shred the meat and skin, discarding the bones, any excess fat and orange wedges. I also discarded some of the skin. Heat the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until the shredded duck is crispy, about 20 minutes, stirring often and being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
for the pickled red onions
  1. Combine the water, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then remove from the heat.
  2. Place the sliced red onions in a bowl then pour the vinegar mixture over top. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour
for the blue cheese sauce
  1. Gently heat the cream in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Once the cream starts to bubble, add the blue cheese crumbles. Stir and whisk while the blue cheese melts until the sauce is smooth. Remove from the heat.
for the blackberry reduction
  1. Heat the blackberries, ⅓ cup of the beer and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Let cook for 10 minutes while the blackberries reduce. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, either use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the seeds or puree in a high speed blender.
for the wonton cups
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a mini muffin pan then place the wrappers into the cavities so they create little wonton bowls. Lightly spray the wonton wrappers in the pan then bake for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. After the wontons have baked on their own, spoon the duck into the wontons in the mini muffin pan, evenly dividing between them. Top with the blue cheese crumbles. Bake for 6-8 more minutes. Top with the pickled red onions, a drizzle of blue cheese sauce and a generous drizzle of blackberry reduction then serve hot.
Notes
Duck can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple days. No need to reheat the duck before baking in the wonton cups.
Pickled red onions can be made and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks. Drain the onions before using.
Blackberry reduction can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. Reheat gently on the stove-top or in the microwave at half power.

 

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sometimes it takes a little while for me to remake a recipe. And sometimes that little while is ten years, but that’s okay, as long as it means I eventually got back to it. This Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce recipe comes deep from the archives of recipes I printed, made and tucked away in one of my binders.

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Way back when, I only read a handful of food blogs and one of them was For the Love of Cooking. This recipe is extremely important because it introduced Matt and I to the amazingness that is roasted garlic. How little we knew of life before that moment!

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

We made this pasta dish in Matt’s off-campus apartment the summer after junior year of college and with our limited space and kitchen equipment it was quite the ordeal. The recipe is fairly simple, there’s just a lot of ingredients and most of them require some chopping, shredding or zesting.

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love this dish because it’s so fresh, but all the veggies get a nice depth of flavor from being roasted. Asparagus, zucchini and grape tomatoes all get roasted before being tossed with pasta, toasted pine nuts, fresh Parmesan cheese and plenty of fresh herbs. There’s two standout other mix-ins, though. The first is the tender shrimp that get marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, basil parsley and garlic. The second is that zesty roasted garlic lemon sauce that should be used on every pasta, chicken and seafood dish from now until forever.

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

This dish is the perfect example of how some basic ingredients, like lemon, fresh herbs and roasted garlic, can take an ordinary pasta dish to a flavor-packed one that you don’t forget about for ten years. I’m so glad I finally made this dish again and with it fresh on our minds, I’m sure it won’t be another ten years until we have it again!

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Pasta with Shrimp and Roasted Veggies in a Garlic Lemon Sauce
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the shrimp
  • 1½ pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
for the pasta
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends removed and spears cut into thirds
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Sal and pepper
Directions
for the shrimp
  1. Combine the shrimp, olive oil, parsley, basil, garlic and lemon zest in a bowl or plastic container. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours.
for the pasta
  1. Roast the garlic. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the top of the head of garlic so almost all the cloves are exposed. Place the head of garlic in a little square of aluminum foil and curve up the sides. Lightly drizzle the garlic with some olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Seal up the foil to make a little packet. Roast for 35 minutes then carefully open the foil packet to let cool. Once it's cool enough to handle, squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves.
  2. When the garlic has 15 minutes left, start the onions. Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, lightly season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Remove the onions to a large serving bowl then sear the shrimp in the same skillet, trying not to get too much of the marinade in the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until shrimp are pink and no longer translucent. Remove from the pan and add to the serving bowl.
  3. While the onions are cooking, start boiling the water for the pasta. Cook the farfalle according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and add to the large serving bowl.
  4. On a large baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil, spread out the zucchini, asparagus and grape tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 of the teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. When you take the garlic out of the oven, add the baking sheet of veggies and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and add to the serving bowl.
  5. While the vegetables are roasting, roughly chop the roasted garlic cloves that you squeezed out of the skin. Combine in a small bowl with the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Pour into the serving bowl.
  6. When the onions, pasta, shrimp, veggies and roasted garlic lemon sauce have all been cooked and added to the serving bowl, toss to combine along with the Parmesan, parsley, basil and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more Parmesan on top, if desired.

Recipe from For the Love of Cooking.

Nutella S’mores Bars

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

Nutella. S’mores. Bars. Yes, you read that correctly. Graham blondies, Nutella and melted marshmallows combine together for the ultimate on-the-go s’mores treat. Also, tomorrow is National S’mores Day. Not like you need another reason to make these Nutella S’mores Bars as soon as possible.

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

I made these bars for family visiting last summer and they were such a big hit that I look for any excuse to make them now. The graham blondie is made with all brown sugar so it’s perfectly chewy. Layered on top of that is Nutella and then gooey marshmallows. The original recipe calls for marshmallow fluff and I’ve made them both ways. I personally prefer the mini marshmallows because it’s easier to just sprinkle them all over the Nutella layer instead of trying to spread sticky fluff on top of Nutella.

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

Speaking of the Nutella, if you wanted to make these, but someone has a nut allergy, there is a note in the recipe below for swapping it out with chocolate. If no one has a nut allergy then definitely load up on that creamy chocolate hazelnut spread!

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

Finally, a second layer of the graham blondie gets put on top and it gets the slightest bit crunchy in the oven. Chewy, gooey and crunchy – yes, please!

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

Not that you will have any leftover, but these bars do freeze well. I know this because Matt and I have tried putting some in the freezer to avoid eating them all right away, which has only ever resulted in us each eating them out of the freezer every single day after I’ve frozen them until they’re gone. Hmm, I guess that trick doesn’t work well for us, but at least now I know they taste fine after being frozen! I know you all will love these bars just as much as we do – enjoy!

Nutella S'mores Bars  |  Lemon & Mocha

Nutella S'mores Bars
 
Yield: 12 bars
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup marshmallow fluff or 1½ cups mini marshmallows (enough to form a single layer)
  • ⅓ cup Nutella (see note)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. I find it easier to line if I crumple the parchment paper first.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg, beat until combined. Add the graham mixture and beat on low until just combined.
  4. Spread out half the dough into the prepared baking sheet. Spread the Nutella on top of the dough then top with the fluff or mini marshmallows. Place pieces of the remaining dough on top, lightly pressing down, to form the top crust.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before cutting.
Notes
If you have a nut allergy, you can substitute the Nutella with a single layer of chocolate chips or Hershey bar squares.

Recipe from Buns in My Oven.

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sometimes I see a recipe and I need to scrap all my existing food plans and make the new recipe immediately. That is exactly what happened with these Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits and I’m so happy I did. The biscuits are buttery, tender and savory from the cheddar, asiago and Parmesan cheeses. Just like the Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, you don’t taste the zucchini in these biscuits, they just add some moisture. Also how good do all the little flecks of green make them look?

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

These are drop biscuits, which means you just drop the biscuit dough on your baking pan – no rolling out or cutting involved. Drop biscuits have a rustic and rocky looking exterior providing plenty of crispy nooks and crannies on the outside. I love making drop biscuits because you can make them so quickly, but they taste like such a special treat. The batter gets mixed together in one bowl and then they only have to bake in the oven for about twelve minutes after being dropped onto your baking sheet.

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

In fact, they’re easy enough for weeknights, but since they are so flaky and delicious, aka addictive, the last thing Matt and I need are daily biscuits! So we savored them while we had them. And by savor them I mean we snarfed them down in like three days tops. They of course taste so good when they’re hot and cheesy right out of the oven, but they also taste good at room temperature or – even better – reheated in the toaster oven.

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

I initially stumbled on this recipe because I was looking for recipes that would use up my zucchini that I thought I was going to have this summer. Thought is the key word because as usual I overloaded our vegetable planter and we haven’t even been able to pick a single zucchini yet. I’m already determined that next summer I’m going to figure out the perfect ratio of things to plant in the planter! We might just need a second larger ground planter for the veggies and keep our raised planter for herbs and maybe one cherry tomato plant. Oh well, I’m glad I found this recipe, even if I couldn’t use our homegrown zucchinis for it, because it is now on our must-make-at-least-once-a-summer rotation!

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

Oh, also, today is National Zucchini Day! So now you definitely need to make these biscuits tonight! Enjoy!

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits  |  Lemon & Mocha

Three Cheese Zucchini Biscuits
 
Yield: 12 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar
  • ¼ cup shredded asiago
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan
  • ¾ cup grated zucchini (about ½ large zucchini), excess water removed (see note)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted, for brushing
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the cubed butter then use your hands to mix until you have what resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Stir in the cheddar, asiago and Parmesan. Stir in the grated zucchini. Add the buttermilk and stir until just combined. Drop small handfuls of dough on the parchment sheet so you have 12 biscuits. It’s okay if they are close together because the biscuits don’t spread a lot during baking. Brush the tops with the melted butter then bake until slightly golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove to a wire cooling rack so the bottoms remain crispy then eat warm or let cool.
Notes
To remove excess water from grated zucchini, wring dry in a cheesecloth or several paper towels.
If you don’t have buttermilk just put a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a liquid measuring cup then fill with milk until you reach 1 cup. You can use milk with any fat percentage, even skim, which is what I used. Then let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.

Recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.