There’s something extremely comforting about baking. It’s a hobby that gives a sense of achievement. After all, you created something, and you get the instant reward of something delicious to eat. Additionally, the rhythm of baking is extremely relaxing. Your hands do all the work while your mind just follows the directions. Many people turn to baking in times of stress and end up with pastries, pies, and a more relaxed mind. And in these crazy times, these Lemon Meringue Cupcakes are the perfect comfort treat to try.
Baking for Your Mental Health
This recipe mixes the sweet vanilla of cake with the tangy lemony flavor of a lemon meringue pie. If you love lemon desserts, this is a must-have. The cake is light and spongy, the curd is rich and decadent, and the toasted meringue is the perfect, soft frosting.
It’s okay to indulge in some yummy treats occasionally; it’s the overall diet and lifestyle that counts. During these strange days when the world is helter-skelter, baking therapy could be a great way to reduce stress. And Lemon Meringue Cupcakes are a great recipe to start with.
“Baking therapy” isn’t an official mainstream treatment, but it can be extremely helpful. In fact, one recent study found that people who used cognitive behavioral therapy alongside culinary therapy helped them grieve loved ones and prevent the complications that often come with such hardship. 
“I believe that focusing on a specific task or skill, forcing someone to ‘get out of their own head’… can really be helpful to quiet one’s inner dialogue where the anxiety stems from,” says Julie Ohana, creator of CulinaryArtTherapy.com. “Breaking those thought patterns is very helpful in being able to get control in anxiety attacks short term, and also teach longer-term coping skills.” 
But you won’t reap these benefits rushing to cook a five-course meal for the holidays. Start with one simple recipe and work through it calmly and mindfully. Then enjoy the results of your labor, in this case, delicious cupcakes that taste like a tangy pie with a softly frosted cake.
Lemon Meringue Cupcakes
Author: Cook Heavenly Recipes
For the lemon filling:
- 3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. lemon zest, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the meringue:
- 3 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
To make the lemon filling:
1) In a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, flour, sugar, and salt over low heat. Then, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, water, melted butter, and whisk well.
Bring the stove to medium heat and cook until the lemon filling is smooth and thick, about 7 minutes. Keep whisking constantly. Once the filling is smooth and thick, remove the saucepan from heat and set aside.
2) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To make the cupcakes:
3) In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then, add the eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, and salt. Mix in flour until combined.
4) Divide the batter evenly into a lined muffin pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the center of each cupcake is firm to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. (Keep the oven on.)
To make the meringue:
5) Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff. Add the sugar and beat until the meringue forms nice peaks. (Be careful not to overbeat.)
6) Using a sharp knife, scoop out the center of each cupcake (about 1″ in diameter), keeping a layer of cupcake at the bottom. Fill the cupcake centers with the lemon filling. (You can toss the cupcake centers, turn them into cake pops, or eat them as a snack.)
7) Place a dollop of meringue onto each cupcake and spread around the top. Gently tap the middle of each meringue with the back of a spoon to form peaks. Return the cupcakes to the oven and bake them for about 5 minutes or until the meringue peaks are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Refrigerate the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes for at least an hour before serving.
- “Culinary Grief Therapy: Cooking for One Series.” Journal of Palliative Medicine. Heather L. Nickrand and Cara M. Brock. February 1, 2017.
- “Adolescent Cooking Abilities and Behaviors: Associations With Nutrition and Emotional Well-Being.” PubMed. Jennifer Utter, Simon Denny, Mathijs Lucassen, Ben Dyson. January 2016.
- “How I Found Therapy in a Bag of Flour.” Healthline. Jamie Elmer. June 20, 2018