Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Commencement at Harvard last semester was at the very end of May, but the weather was more like March. In spite of cold and wet, Clover, one of the restaurants in the square, had set up a lemonade stand on the side of the road. An employee was wrapped up in a raincoat against the drizzle, valiantly if somewhat unsuccessfully trying to sell various flavors of lemonade to the passing elderly alumni, who were far more interested in finding a hot cup of coffee than sampling iced lemonade. 

I'm back now, in Cambridge, and it's already getting getting a little chilly (though I've been assured by several people that low 70s is not cold at all).

Somehow the summer has passed in a blink, and I find myself wishing for a few more blazing hot days, for a bit more summer. I recall days in an air-conditioned office more vividly than the summer heat, sitting in front a computer more than sitting out in the sun, almost as if I haven't quite defrosted from the winter.

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Anyways, these cupcakes are reminiscent of those lazy summer days, of more carefree summers when I would go to the pool almost everyday and had the time to read Georgette Heyer novels back to back, going through a hefty stack of books every week.  

I don't necessarily want those days back, the boredom, the ways the days began to blend into each other. But it's nice to think about those summers.

The whipped cream and chiffon cake base in these cupcakes make them as light as air, letting the flavors shine through without being weighed down by excessive buttercream and sugar. They're the perfect summer cake, light and fluffy, sweet, and brightly flavored.


Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Yields: 15 cupcakes | Cake batter adapted from cooks.com

For the Lemon Chiffon Cake
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
½ cup vegetable oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup water
pinch of cream of tartar

For the Raspberry Lemon Curd
½ cup fresh raspberries
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
zest of two lemons, grated
⅓ cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
¼ cup butter, cubed
pinch of salt

For the Raspberry Whipped Cream
½ cup fresh raspberries
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream

For the Chiffon Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whip the egg whites in a clean glass or metal bowl on medium speed until frothy. Whisk in the cream of tartar. Whip the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, vegetable oil, lemon zest, vanilla, and water.
  4. Fold the the dry ingredients into the egg/oil/water mixture.
  5. Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Fold the batter into the remaining egg white mixture.
  6. Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the Raspberry Lemon Curd

  1. Push the raspberries through a fine mesh strainer over a cup or bowl. Discard the pulp.
  2. Heat the raspberry juice and lemon juice in a saucepan until it begins to simmer.
  3. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the hot lemon/raspberry juice.
  4. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat it begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the butter and salt. Let cool thoroughly.

For the Raspberry Whipped Cream

  1. Push the raspberries through a fine mesh strainer over a cup or bowl. Discard the pulp.
  2. Heat the raspberry juice, lemon juice, and sugar over medium low heat. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Let cool thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least one hour.. 
  3. Whisk the cream cheese and raspberry juice together. 
  4. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the cream cheese mixture and whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. 


  1. Cut a cone-shaped hole in the center of the cupcakes. Be careful not to pierce the bottom. 
  2. Remove the cone. Spoon or pipe 1-2 teaspoons of the raspberry lemon curd into the hole. Cut off the tip of the cone and replace the other half on top of the whole. 
  3. Frost with the raspberry whipped cream. Repeat for the other cupcakes.

Raspberry Meringue Cheesecake

Guysguysguysguys, guess what? It's a reallyreallyreally special day! Because it's our birthday! Pass the Cocoa turns two years old today.

Who'd have thought we'd still be doing this food blogging craziness after two years? To be honest, I thought this would be a passing interest, and that Monica and I would get tired of blogging pretty quickly, yet somehow I'm sitting here at 1 a.m., writing our 97th post instead of doing my history reading.

The story goes something like this:

Once upon a time, there were two high school seniors in Indiana who were on their school paper. They decided to start a blog about food on their high school paper's website, because their adviser was making a big push to get more traffic on the web, and they liked food, and, okay, they were managing editors on staff and were supposed to be, like, doing stuff for the paper.

Well, eventually they were about to graduate from high school, and couldn't take their blog with them, so they had to get a new URL. After much soul-searching, they chose to name their new website Pass the Cocoa, a name with great philosophical and personal meaning and reflected their most sacred beliefs about food and baking. (Okay, fine, we were just looking for an available URL).

For the first year, their only readership consisted of their mothers and one high school friend (thanks Andy!) who may or may not have been bribed with Oreo truffles. They were busy adjusting to college, juggling classes and being traumatized by dining hall food.

But eventually they found their feet, and started to put more thought and effort into their photography and posts, tried to be more of a presence in social media and the food blogging community.

And so here we are. I've talked about my experiences in food blogging in another post, so I'll just say that Monica and I have learned a lot more from this experience than I thought we would. It seemed so easy: we just needed to bake some stuff and take some photos, slap some words on it, stick it on the Internet, and call it a day. We found out pretty quickly that there was a lot more going on behind just what you see here.

I've seen the site statistics for some other blogs, and I know that Pass the Cocoa hasn't grown nearly as fast as a lot of other blogs. It's tempting to always be comparing ourselves to other blogs, but at the end of the day, we actually do blog because we love making and eating and writing about food.

Which brings me to this cheesecake. This raspberry meringue cheesecake is kind of labor intensive but is more than kind of amazing: a vanilla cheesecake with an Oreo crust, topped with raspberry pastry cream, and frosted with fluffy, lightly toasted meringue. A combination of fruity, tart, chocolate-y, and marshmallow-y.

It's a pretty good way of celebrating turning two, if I do say so myself.


Raspberry Meringue Cheesecake

For the Cheesecake:
20 Oreo cookies
¼ cup butter, melted
16 ounces (2 packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Raspberry Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
⅓ cup raspberry jam
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
For the Meringue Topping
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


For the Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Finely crush Oreos and melted butter in the food processor. Press into a greased 9-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese, with the mixer on medium speed. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in sour cream on low speed.

Pour the batter in springform pan over the Oreo crust. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the center is almost set.

Let the cheesecake cool completely, and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

For the Raspberry Pastry Cream
Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on the stove.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they turn a pale yellow. Whisk in the flour and salt.

While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in about ⅔ of the hot milk into the bowl with the egg yolks. Pour the egg yolks/milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook it over medium-low heat stirring constantly.

The pastry cream is done when it becomes a thick paste and large bubbles begin to pop through the surface. Take the saucepan off the stove and whisk in the raspberry jam.

Allow the pastry cream to cool, then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly over the surface of the cream so that it does not form a hard crust. Refrigerate several hours, preferably overnight.

Spread the pastry cream evenly over the top of the cheesecake.

For the Meringue Topping
Just before serving the cake, make the meringue topping. Turn on the broiler in your oven. In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water), mix together the egg whites and sugar. Gently heat, stirring constantly, until it is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the bowl off the heat and whisk the egg white/sugar mixture until it is fluffy and white, and stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the cheesecake, on top of the raspberry pastry cream.

Place the cheesecake in the oven for 15-30 seconds, until the top of the meringue is golden brown. Keep a close eye on the cheesecake during this process, since it can burn easily.