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Friday, July 13, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

So, it's been almost a month since my last post...I'm sorry!  Things have been hectic--I hope you've all had a much more relaxing month.  Ever since getting accepted into the nursing program, I've been overwhelmed with "to-do" lists.  My first nursing course already started back in June, so I've had plenty of homework and tests to study for, and I had my mid-term on Wednesday.  I've also been busy getting other things done to prepare for clinicals--titers and immunizations, uniforms, supplies, CPR certification, background check, registration fees...and then let's not forget wedding preparations!  We have our wedding venue booked, engagement photos taken, and a tentative guest list, menu, etc.  Now we just need to find a few more vendors and then figure out the little details.

Amongst all this commotion in my life, I also had a recent cupcake order for a baby shower.  The request was for a dozen strawberry cupcakes to sample that were pink and girly.  So, I made a dozen cupcakes with different styles to choose from and I think they turned out great!  Not only did they look pretty and feminine, but they also tasted amazing.  I've made several types of strawberry cupcakes in the past, but I think this recipe is my favorite. 

I actually took the cake recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Sweetapolita, and used a strawberry frosting from another one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats.  In the past, I've tried strawberry cake recipes using just strawberries but I've noticed that it tends to result in a weak strawberry flavor with a gummy cake texture--definitely not fluffy and cakey enough to get my approval.  I've also tried cake recipes with just strawberry flavoring or powder, but it usually ends up with an artificial taste.  This particular recipe uses a combination of both fresh strawberries and strawberry-flavored Jell-O powder.  Together, I think the ingredients add up to a stellar strawberry cupcake!  On top of this great strawberry cake recipe, the frosting is also pretty phenomenal.  This strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream resembles the sweet, creamy taste of strawberry ice cream.  It's to die for!

As for the decorations, I used Wilton candy melts and simply free-handed various designs onto waxed paper.  Once dry, the designs could be carefully peeled off and applied to the cupcake tops.  However, this method is a little time consuming.  If you decide to make these and don't feel the need to impress (with looks, that is.  The taste will definitely impress!) you can simply decorate with a strawberry half or slice.  It still makes a pretty decoration and also reflects the flavor of the cupcake.   

Strawberry Cupcakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  about 28 cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita and Annie's Eats

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 (3 oz) package strawberry flavored gelatin, such as Jell-O
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup of milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry puree, made from fresh or frozen strawberries (if frozen, let come to room temp before using)

For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and pureed
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the cake:
Puree strawberries in food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla.  Set aside.

Sift and whisk dry ingredietns together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy--about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Add the milk mixture and dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and hand mix just enough after each addition to incorporate (do not overmix).

Divide the batter between cupcake liners.  Bake for about 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven to let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting:
Place the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Puree until completely smooth.  Set aside.

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 Tbsp at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, don't be alarmed--continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (it may even take longer, but don't worry.  It WILL come together; just keep beating!).  Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 

To frost, fill a piping bag with frosting.  Use your preferred decorating tip to pipe frosting onto cupcakes.  Garnish as desired.