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Strawberry cupcakes flush with pride

May 4, 2011

Strawberry cupcakes are easily misunderstood. Bright pink cakes topped with swirls of bubblegum-pink frosting can seem too absurdly pink for serious, self-respecting people. They’re like gaudy prom dresses, decorative lawn flamingos, and Barbie’s feather boa. We blush when we order them at the gourmet cupcake shop down the street. But, secretly, we love them.

Strawberry cupcakes don’t have to be shameful indulgences, though. Ditch the food coloring and artificial extract, and you’re left with the simple goodness of fresh berries. At the peak of strawberry season, cupcakes made with fresh berries are irresistibly pretty; they blush with the naturalness of spring.

The key is using real fruit. Forget the gummy pink gunk. Macerate fresh or frozen strawberries in sugar and then whirl them in a blender with their own juice. This elixir becomes your magic ingredient. Fold it into a plain buttermilk batter and the whole batch turns shades of pink and lavender. Pockets of berry remind you that you’re just one step away from biting into whole fruit. Whip the mixture into simple cream cheese frosting and all of a sudden you’re eating berries and cream.

With a cupcake this divine, it’s worth spending a little time on decoration. Rather than slathering the frosting on top haphazardly, swirl it in concentric circles, or smooth it to show off the berry flecks. Cut a cross-section of strawberry and perch it on top. You’ll have a tantalizing advertisement for what lies inside.

Even if you bake them in ruffly pink cupcake liners like I did, the effect will still too much like a berry patch for anyone to be thinking about lawn flamingos.

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Strawberry cupcakes (adapted from Homesick Texan)

Makes 18

12 oz. fresh strawberries, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

1 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

12 tablespoons butter, melted (1 ½ sticks)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix berries with the 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside at least 1 hour. Blend with a few pulses in a blender or food processor. Reserve ¼ – 1/3 cup of this mixture for the frosting.

Sift the sugar and flour together. In another bowl, mix the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the blended strawberries (having reserved some for frosting).

Spoon into lined muffin tins (about ¾ full). Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack before frosting.

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Strawberry cream cheese frosting

8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat works well)

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

About 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar

Reserved blended strawberries (see above)

Whip the cream cheese and butter in a standing mixer. Add vanilla. Mix in the powdered sugar, adjusting more if needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in the berry mixture. Chill before using.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. marilyn bourbon permalink
    May 5, 2011 8:47 am

    the process sounds enchanting. strawberry cupcakes seem a wonderful indulgence worth every
    calorie.

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