For me, this recipe began years and years ago when I lived in Washington, DC. That was the time of the cupcake craze, and everyone used to go to Georgetown Cupcakes and stand in a line that went around the block, waiting for one of their famous cupcakes. Never a fan of lines, I always went down the street to the more tucked-away Baked & Wired, and simply strolled right into the store for one of the best cupcakes in town. Normally, I would default to something more decadent, or stick with the glorious vanilla-on-vanilla, but for some reason, that first time, I was drawn to the strawberry cupcake. And it was the right decision. Fruit-flavored cupcakes of the store bought variety often have a slightly chemical edge to them- you know they are full of artificial flavors and colors - but not these. They rely completely on fresh, perfectly in season strawberries, with juices that run so red and sweet that the frosting becomes naturally pink.
Since moving away from DC, I've been looking to replicate those cupcakes at home. And now that it is strawberry season, and the grocery stores and market stalls are fragrant with strawberries, I decided it was finally time to "find" my recipe.
This one is pretty close. The base is a typical yellow cake with fresh strawberries sliced into it. The final frosting that I decided to go for is a meringue buttercream, which is lighter and more subtle than a typical buttercream. I think it's fitting for this cupcake, because I wanted it to be fruity and fresh, rather than heavy and rich.
Anyway, I took them to a friend's birthday yesterday, and they were a hit! If you're in the U.S. I recommend maybe trying these out for your Memorial Day weekend... whatever your plans.
This recipe makes approximately 18 cupcakes - so a batch and a half. The only really important thing to know is to use really fresh, sweet strawberries. So I wouldn't attempt to make these cupcakes out of season- it's a spring/early summer recipe. Also, watch your bake time. Often, the second batch will be ready closer to the 25 minute mark, whereas the first might take the full 30 minutes. It depends on your oven of course!
1¼ cups (200 g) white flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (110 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (240 g) whole milk
1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
For the Strawberry Meringue Buttercream:
6-8 strawberries, coarsely chopped
2 egg whites
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (165 g) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Whisk together both flours, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, beating until each is fully incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to medium/low and add the flour in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until well combined. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries by hand.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
5. To make the Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, puree the strawberries in a food process or blender until very smooth; set aside.
6. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (to make your own double boiler). Whisk constantly by hand or with a handheld electric mixer (the latter is easier) until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.
7. Remove from the heat, and continue to mix until stiff peaks form. It should take about 10 minutes.
8. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition, mix for about 2 minutes. Add the strawberry puree and beat until combined - it may look grainy at first, but just keep mixing and it will return to it's smooth consistency.
9. Decorate the Cupcakes! Spread or pipe the buttercream onto each cupcake. Make them extra pretty by adding a leaf of basil and a strawberry to the top of each cupcake.