Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes, High-Altitude Style

March 13, 2012

For those of you who have been following my blog closely, you might notice that this post deviates a little bit from my standard format. With the last three recipes -- that is, the vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet cupcakes -- I started out with baking the original, unaltered sea-level recipe to see how it would fare at high-altitude.

However, I've been reading Christina Tosi's Milk Bar cookbook these last few days, which gave me some new ideas on how to approach my high-altitude experimenting procedures. In the book's introduction, Tosi discusses the concept of the "mother sauce" in French cooking. According to Tosi, there are only four mother sauces in French cooking. Almost every other French sauce is a derivative of one of these four sauces -- if you master each of these sauces, you can make nearly anything in French cuisine. She structures each recipe in her cookbook to include "mother recipes"; almost every other recipe in the book is a variation of one of these recipes.

Flipping through The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, I began to notice that same mother recipe concept in play. Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes had a recipe almost identical to vanilla cupcakes, except for the addition of some strawberries. The recipe for chocolate hazelnut frosting is identical to the recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting, except with Nutella substituting for cocoa powder.

Similarly, a comparison between the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe for lemon cupcakes with its recipe for vanilla cupcakes revealed striking similarities -- that is, the recipe for lemon cupcakes was simply the recipe for vanilla cupcakes, but minus vanilla extract and instead the addition of some lemon zest:

Maybe the Hummingbird vanilla recipe was the "mother recipe" for its lemon cupcakes recipe?

With this in mind, I decided to see if my high-altitude alterations for the vanilla cupcakes (increasing the oven temperature, increasing flour content, and decreasing baking powder) would work for the lemon cupcakes recipe.

These were my results:

BOOM, baby! I was right in my theory that the Hummingbird vanilla cupcakes recipe was the "mother recipe" for lemon cupcakes. The same alterations that yielded perfect vanilla cupcakes also produced perfect lemon cupcakes!

I mean, look at these perfectly domed tops:

And yes, they even passed the Hummingbird Bakery test -- tops that bounce back when touched.

This is so exciting! This whole "mother recipe" thing is totally gonna cut down my waste and expenditure. I mean, as awesome as it was seeing how each alteration affected my cupcake, it produced an incredibly embarrassing and shameful amount of waste. Erlend and I were literally sitting around with dozens of semi-decent-but-really-not-that-great cupcakes that were rapidly getting staler by the minute. We initially made half-hearted attempts to eat them, but to be honest, we're getting a little cupcaked out. Most eventually ended up the bin.

*shifts feet guiltily*

Anyway, so yes! Stay tuned for the final, adapted recipe for Hummingbird Bakery lemon cupcakes, adapted for high-altitude.

Here's a sneak preview:


  1. Since I am obsessed with the vanilla cupcake recipe, I will be trying these next! And I believe one good turn deserves another - if you'd like a nice high-altitude Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookie recipe check my blog today. We of the higher altitudes have to stick together...

    1. Ooo yes, I'll be sure to check out the cookie recipe this weekend. Come back to the blog tomorrow, I'll be posting the full recipe (with ingredients and steps) for the lemon cupcakes then.

    2. Here it is:

    3. I'll try this out next week! And I'll attempt my own lemon curd (okay, the Ina Garten's lemon curd) and let you know how it goes...

  2. i love how you frosted these!
    they look amazing.
    congrats on the recreation!

  3. Hi, I'm so happy I've found your blog! Thanks so much for this! :)

  4. nice opinion.. thanks for sharing..

  5. If you get anymore inferior cupcakes.. you may want to let them get a little stale.. crumble them up and make a bread pudding out of them.. seems a shame for them to go to waste...bread pudding is such a versatile dish.


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