Isabella’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake

At last! Star World is screening Australia’s first Junior Masterchef here in Singapore! When I was in Sydney last November, practically everyone I met was talking about it. My Australian colleagues were raving in disbelief about how 12 year old kids were cooking snails and  11 year old boy was making lamb wellington.

When this started screening 3 weeks ago,I was shocked and amazed by what the children could do.The skeptic in me wondered if this is all preconceived…that the producers had put the kids in some perversely dark boot camp where they had to practice all the dishes before hand. There was something incongruent about watching the kids hovering and fussing over a real stove when one has been more used to see them molding  playdough over kitchen play kits.

Nevertheless, the kids were amazing and it was pure delight to watch them. Stripped of the ugliness, the politics and the sacarsm that usually accompany competitive reality TV, Junior Masterchef was sweet, endearing and inspiring.

The judges were always encouraging and it was wonderful to see the children’s faces light up when they were praised. The camaraderie they showed for each other was also refreshingly sweet when compared to the conniving behaviour normally seen in the adult version of the same. Just yesterday, Pierre, the challenge winner from last week was asked to pick a leader for the opposing team for their new challenge.He picked Anthony (the goofiest of all contestants and my favourite!) because they are good friends…. how I wish the adult world can be as simple as this.

Today I share with you Isabella’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake which won her the first mystery box challenge. In the challenge,the children were given a mystery box with a collection of ingredients with which they had to create a dish in 40mins… without a recipe in sight. When it came to judging time, Isabella’s cupcakes were so luscious that it literally had the judges swooning over them.

When I saw the recipe in the Masterchef magazine, I knew that I had to recreate this….in 40mins. With enough focus, 40 mins is sufficient to create this 3 component cupcake which includes the cake, the tangy lemon curd and the meringue. The cake made with pouring cream instead of butter, is a breeze to make and yields a beautiful even dome shaped cupcake.

The verdict? I burnt the tip of the meringue a little but these cupcakes were GORGEOUS! The combination of fluffy meringue, tangy lemon curd and soft crumbly cake was an absolute winner. I now understand why judge Gary Mehigan almost melted when he tasted the cupcake.

So, dear readers, will you challenge yourself to complete this in 40mins? I hope you would.

Recipe (from Masterchef website )

250ml /1 cup pure cream
220g /1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
225g/ 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

Lemon curd
125ml/ 1/2 cup lemon juice
100g butter
110g/ 1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks

3 egg whites
110g/ 1/2 cup caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180′C. Place 12 patty cake liners in a 12 hole 1/2-cup capacity muffin pan.

2. Place cream, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add flour and zest and continue whisking until mixture is thick and smooth.
3. Divide mixture between prepared liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes spring back to touch. Cool in muffin pan.
4. For lemon curd, heat lemon juice and butter in a small saucepan and simmer until butter has melted. Add sugar, egg and yolks and cook, whisking continuously until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Pour into a shallow oven tray to cool.
5. For meringue, beat egg whites in an electric mixer until firm peaks form, gradually add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until sugar has dissolved between each addition. Spoon meringue mixture into a piping bag.
6. To serve, preheat grill to medium-high. Cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake and fill with 1-2 teaspoons of lemon curd. Pipe a swirl of meringue mixture on the top of each cupcake and place under heated grill for 60-90 seconds or until golden. Arrange on a serving plate with spoonfuls of lemon curd if desired.