Redcar Lemon Top Cupcakes

30 Sept 2018

If you've taken one look at that title and thought "what the heck is a Redcar lemon top?" you're not alone. I held a poll on Twitter to find out how far the humble lemon top spans across the UK, and it turns out, it's only native to my little corner of the North East. I honestly thought that they were widely known, so that was quite the learning curve for me. For those of you that don't know what they are, I'll explain in a minute, but first, let me tell you how this blog post came to be.

We all know that I love to bake. I'm constantly looking at bakeware, searching for new recipes and creating combinations in my head that I think could be interesting. As you may be aware, Friday was the day of Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning - an event that calls for bakers across the UK to rally together and produce an abundance of treats to raise money for much needed cancer support. While people can host coffee mornings on any day of the year to raise money, this event was designed to bring everyone together at their own individual coffee mornings, resulting in one huge coffee morning across the nation. My auntie wanted to sell some cakes at her local coffee morning, so knowing that I am always looking for an excuse to bake, she came to me for help.
Of course, I said yes when she asked if I would whip up some cakes for her, but me being me, I didn't want to do anything simple. Fairy cakes are boring and no one wants one of those cakes that are covered in that icing sugar-water mixture with some sprinkles haphazardly thrown on top. I wanted to do something that I'd not tried before that was a bit more exciting. I wracked my brains for well over a week to try and put something together, and it was only when I started discussing lemon flavours with Alex that he suggested trying to recreate a lemon top. The idea was absolutely genius! A lemon top is something so recognisable in this area, so I set about planning how I was going to get the same effect.

That brings me on to what a lemon top actually is. Middlesbrough is very close to the sea and the seaside towns of Saltburn and Redcar. If you head to either of these places, you'll see sea front ice cream shops advertising lemon tops (and sometimes strawberry tops, but we don't talk to her), and what they are is a whippy ice cream in a cone with lemon sorbet on top. It's such a simple thing, but they're so delicious and an iconic symbol of the Teesside area. If you're extra fancy, you can get a 99 flake stuck in them too, which is the type of lemon top that I decided to emulate in these cupcakes.

The idea for these cupcakes couldn't have happened at a more perfect time because the final episode of The Mighty Redcar aired last week, and this was a series that aimed to highlight the young people in our area and show that they are the future. There was no sort of negative agenda that people typically have when talking about Teesside, so it's certainly refreshing for all of us that live here. It's been praised across the country, so it's definitely worth checking out!
Back to cupcakes. As these little guys were going to be sold at a sale at the end of a school day, I wanted them to appeal to both kids and adults. I started with a simple vanilla cupcake because I know that I can do them well and who doesn't like vanilla? This then needed to be topped off with that signature whippy ice cream swirl and something to represent lemon sorbet on top. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how I could get the lemon to sit seamlessly on top of the whippy buttercream, so I had to go with them sitting side-by-side. Then of course, I cut up a Flake and stuck a piece into each cake.

For me, the best part of these cupcakes is the buttercream and I haven't been able to stop raving about it since. I really wanted the whippy side to be as white as possible and to taste as much like ice cream as possible, and by accident, I managed to do that. I started off with a simple butter and icing sugar base, which I split in two - one for the lemon and one for the whippy. In the whippy bowl, I added a splash of vanilla extract and a little bit of Morrison's white chocolate milk, just to help with the creaminess and the flavour. I beat it together, adding a tiny bit more icing sugar, and the results were phenomenal. I hadn't really thought through the plan of making it taste like ice cream and adding the vanilla and white chocolate milk was very much a last minute choice, but it honestly tasted exactly like whippy ice cream.

For the cupcakes, you will need:
190g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Half teaspoon salt
315g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
120ml milk

For the icing, you will need:
300g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Yellow gel food colouring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Splash of white chocolate milk
4 chocolate flakes
Semi-skimmed milk (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 180c (fan 160c) and line a cupcake tin with 12 cases.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the plain flour, baking powder and salt. Set to one side.
  3. In a large bowl, beat 115g of unsalted butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract, and beat the mixture until well combined. Be sure to scrap down the sides and bottom to get everything mixed in!
  4. Gradually add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and beat gently after each addition until the mixture becomes thick. Add in the milk and mix until just combined. Overmixing is not your friend!
  5. Spoon the cake batter into the cases, filling them until they're just over half full and bake for around 18-20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, make your buttercream. Beat the unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl to soften it further. Add the icing sugar in 100g increments, beating after each addition. Once combined, separate the buttercream into two separate mixing bowls.
  7. In one, beat in the lemon juice and yellow gel food colouring. Add as much colouring as you like to achieve your perfect shade of yellow! Set to one side.
  8. In the other, add the vanilla extract and a splash of white chocolate milk. Beat together until smooth. If your mixture has become too loose, add a little more icing sugar, or if it is too firm, add a splash of semi-skimmed milk.
  9. Roll out a piece of cling film/saran wrap on your countertop, then spoon the two flavours on to it in straight likes. Make sure that they're directly next to each other, so you get nice, clean lines when piping. Fold your cling film over to form an icing sausage (I find a folding action works better than rolling the icing), then seal the horizontal edges together and twist the edges to trap the icing inside. Using a pair of scissors, cut one end of the cling film, close to the icing, then slot the icing sausage inside a piping bag with a large star nozzle in. (If you need visuals, take a look at this video.)
  10. Pipe swirls on top of your cupcakes, then cut your chocolate flakes into three pieces, and stick a piece into the buttercream on each cake.
I absolutely love the overall effect and without blowing my own trumpet too hard, I think they look very much like lemon tops! If you need to see a photo of one, click here and pass judgement. They also tasted great as well - the vanilla cake combined with the whippy and lemon buttercreams just screamed summers on Redcar beach. My auntie was also very impressed and was proud to show them off at her coffee morning.

I hope everyone else had a great coffee morning on Friday and that lots of money was raised for Macmillan! I've loved being able to see all the photos of cakes on my social media - it's made me seriously want to get back into writing baking blog posts again. Halloween is coming and we all know that that is my favourite time to bake, so let's wait and see what happens...

Whould you like to comment?

  1. Absolutely love this Northern twist on cupcakes! Can't believe I've never tried a Lemon Top before!

    1. Oh my gosh, Chloe, you need to come and try one! x

  2. Hey Olivia :-) It’s lovely to see you on the blogosphere again and you are back into baking. I think these might be your best bake yet, congrats! I’m not surprised your auntie was thrilled. Adding white chocolate to the buttercream was clever and you definitely have the Redcar lemon top look to the cupcakes. Thanks for sharing! :-) xx

    Helen | Helen’s Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

    1. Haha thank you, Helen! It certainly has been popular on here, more than I ever could have imagined! xx