Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes, two ways.

I'm a silver lining kind of person. I really enjoy finding the good in the not-so-good. I find it comforting to see good things in messy situations, and I find it reassuring to know that I haven't lost my optimism. When my grandmother passed away on Christmas morning, I thought to myself, at least she's going on her favorite day of the year. A day she loved because she loved giving, and she loved her family. And even with her passing, it was a happy day. We all gathered and rejoiced in her life, and in her passing. After suffering from the evil that is Alzheimer's for nearly 5 years, we knew it was a blessing that she finally moved on.

My dada passed away on Monday night, just four short months after his wife, and I've been struggling with the sadness and loss of yet another grandparent. But I think he did what so many old people do; he died of a broken heart. My silver lining is knowing that he is back with my grandmother, his wife of 67 and a half years.

You know what else is a silver lining for me in all that I do? These little punks.

K had a big dance recital on Sunday, and in honor of the occasion, I baked cupcakes! These are strawberry cupcakes (from a box) with vanilla buttercream icing and "Barbie" sprinkles. Or at least that's what the box said. I was hoping for sprinkles in the shape of an actual Barbie, but no, they are just pink and purple.

Barbie Cupcakes:
1 box of strawberry cake mix
Follow directions on box. Bake in lined cupcake pans. Makes 1 dozen regular cupcakes and 1 dozen mini cupcakes (my favorite!!).
Buttercream Icing:
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 box powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
2-4 tsp. milk

I've decided that buttercream icing is all about personal taste. Every recipe I've looked at uses the same basic ingredients, but there's always a different method in mixing it all together. I've found that I like my icing to be more buttery than sweet, and thicker rather than thin. So here's what I did on Sunday. I took 2 sticks of butter, dumped in a little less that a full box of powdered sugar, and, while sitting on the floor next to the dog bowl for lack of an available outlet, I mixed it together with a hand mixer. After it was creamy I added 1 tsp of vanilla and about 2 tsp. of milk. Then I mixed it until completely mixed. I liked what I tasted, so I stopped there. If you like sweeter icing, just add more powdered sugar and use the milk to thin it out as needed. There's no right or wrong way with buttercream. Just make sure it's yummy to you.

Anyway, because yesterday was my mom's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!) I made another batch of strawberry cupcakes. This time, from scratch, baby. And with strawberry buttercream on top. Oh man, oh man, these girls were delish. And because I had a hell of a time finding a recipe that didn't call for a box of white cake mix and a box of strawberry jello, I'll go ahead and share this recipe with you so you don't have to go through the struggle and strife I went through.

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes and Frosting, provided by Martha. Of course.
Makes 1 dozen
2/3 c whole fresh strawberries
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 c. whole milk, room temp. (I used low-fat at fridge temp, and it was fine)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin with liners
Put strawberries in food processor or blender, and process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree. Add more strawberries if needed, and save any extra puree for frosting.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (I think a hand mixer would be fine too), cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended. (At this point, it's a little lumpy and weird looking, but it turns out that's okay.)
With mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add the milk/strawberry mixture and mix until blended, then add the remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Mix until blended.
Divide batter into prepared muffin tins, and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22-25 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Strawberry Frosting:
1/2 c. strawberries
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Puree strawberries in food processor or blender. OR use leftover puree from cupcakes. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand held), beat together the butter and salt on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree and mix until just blended. Do not over mix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

A few notes, I doubled the recipe for the cupcakes, because 1 dozen is definitely not enough for me. Next time I think I'll add more strawberry puree to the batter, just to get more of a strawberry flavor. This cake is pretty thick too, so I think that would help make it a bit more spongy. I didn't, however, double the icing recipe and I had just enough for everything I made. I'm pretty sure I didn't follow icing directions precisely, I probably over mixed, but mine was thick and creamy and just delicious. Here's my finished product!

One dozen cupcakes.....

And one mini three-tiered cake!

Notice the slight lean my mini cake's got going on? That's because I have no idea how to make a three-tiered cake, or how to ice a cake at all. It's all about experimentation for me. I tried to distract from the lean with sprinkles and I think it may have worked! Most importantly, my mom loved it. And I think yours will too, so go make one for the mom in your life! It is Mother's Day week after all. Enjoy!

1. 26 years with an awesome Dada.
2. My mama on her bday. Happy Birthday Mom!
3. 4 inch cake pans. Go buy some today!
4. The Neil Young station on It really helps to listen to some good tunes during any and all of your cooking/baking sessions. Trust me, I know these things.
5. Karoline and Annie's Baking Extravaganza! Coming soon to a network near you.

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