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the sweetest things

Everything about a cupcake reminds me of childhood. Who doesn’t look back at those years spent jumping through sprinklers and laying the grass with a glass of a lemonade on a hot summer day and wish to go back? Every day, every moment has the potential to be the best day ever. Cupcakes are just like that to me.

So many different flavors, so many possibilities, all squeezed in to these individually wrapped liners. Fun and fancy-free, definitely not confined by rules, colorful, full of creativity. What’s not to like, right?

But friends, I could tell you tales of cupcakes gone wrong. Horribly wrong. The kind of wrong where there is no room for redemption. Quite frankly, many bakeries attempt the illusive cupcake, claiming that their cupcake’s are the best. But after sampling the raved about cupcakes, I walked away sadly disappointed. I paid 3-4 bucks for this?!

Needless to say, these experiences have left me a teensy bit fearful of cupcakes.I mean, if famed bakeries can’t execute them correctly (Magnolia, Babycakes, I’m talking to you), do I even stand a chance?! The answer is yes. This recipe, this frosting, it will make you a cupcake fan. In fact, I guarantee you that if you go in to your kitchen and bake these cupcakes, you will will probably save yourself a couple of bucks on a wasted cupcake because you will never need to buy ones from the store/bakery ever again.

With an impending birthday for my dear friend Stephanie, I bravely decided to give Martha’s recipe for strawberry cupcakes a try. I was going to use this recipe for vanilla cupcakes from Amy Sedaris but after reading multiple reviews of near misses, I passed it by. Naysayers, be damned, I have faith in the Martha. She may not always come though but every now and then she gets it right. Thankfully, I didn’t have to write a nasty letter to Ms. Stewart complaining about her lack of trusting recipes because these cupcakes were perfect.

What made me choose this recipe as opposed to all the other billion recipes? The technique. Reminiscent of Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, the egg whites are beaten with sugar and then added to the butter-flour mixture, producing a light yet tight crumb. Its probably my favorite way to make cakes. Plus the cake flour is not as dense as all purpose flour.

All my cupcakes turned out uniform in shape with a nice dome. I left out the fresh strawberries and instead used Trader Joe’s Organic Strawberries as a filling inside these little cupcakes. The filling added a pleasant sweet bite to an already scrumptuous cake.

And the frosting. oh. the. frosting. If I admitted that I had licked the bowl clean, would that be gross? Because I totally did. I added the strawberry preserves to the frosting as well, and I am glad I did or else the frosting would’ve been kind of blah. Plus, pink cupcakes are entirely appropriate for a birthday, don’t you think?

Deciding to go over-the-top, I made some bittersweet chocolate ganache and poured it on top of some of the cupcakes. I think that these would’ve been a more grownup version of the pink cupcakes. From the silky smooth bittersweet chocolate to the sweet fruity filling, this combination should come with a parental advisory. Not suited for minors because mommy and daddy want the greedily eat the entire batch.

After a late night out dancing and celebrating my friends birthday, we all stumbled home, slightly tipsy and these pretty little cakes fondly greeted us. We hungrily devoured them,feeling famished and the cupcakes sent us on a nice sugar ride. But it didn’t matter because moments later we all literally passed out. But I didn’t forget how good they were, and I woke up, craving another one. What can I say, cupcakes can pass as a breakfast item. Especially on a birthday when anything seems possible.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
from two Martha Stewart recipes (I changed the way Martha filled her cupcakes. I didn’t want to overfill mine.)

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
8 large egg whites
Trader Joe’s Organic Strawberry Preserves

Strawberry Buttercream frosting listed below
24 small fresh strawberries, washed (hulls intact), for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture.
Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 2 tablespoons of cupcake batter. Add a tablespoon of the strawberry preserves then fill the tops of the cupcake with the rest of the batter, until cups are half filled. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up.
Frost cupcakes with buttercream, swirling to cover. Cupcakes may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Garnish with strawberries just before serving.

To make the Strawberry Buttercream frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat 8 tablespoons (1 stick) room-temperature unsalted butter until light and fluffy. On medium speed, beat in 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as necessary. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Beat in 3 to 4 teaspoons seedless strawberry jam. Increase speed to high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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June 8, 2008 - 9:26 am

Dorothy - they look gorgeous!

June 8, 2008 - 12:27 pm

Allison - What beautiful cupcakes! As a child, anything and everything strawberry was my favorite. So, here’s to sprinklers, and lemonade, and strawberry-flavored cupcakes.

June 9, 2008 - 7:23 am

bobbleheadedbob - Whaaaaaaaaat??? Strawberry-covered chocolate????

::circuitry overload::

June 9, 2008 - 2:34 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - oh yum–i feel like i can taste that pink frosting!! they are beautiful cupcakes!

June 10, 2008 - 11:16 am

eurydice - these look unreal….

i’m swooning for cupcakes!

June 12, 2008 - 8:19 pm

Teri Lyn Fisher - Yummmmmm. These look so dang good. Can you fed ex me one? Thanks.

June 13, 2008 - 10:00 am

Natty - I’m starting to think “we have the best cupcakes” is the new “authentic New York pizza” or “world’s best coffee” or “prized secret-recipe barbecue sauce”. I think people think cupcakes are easy and they can be, but you gotta be smart about it. The cake needs to be really, really good and the frosting needs to be really, really good and they need to be balanced and matched with each other. It looks like you got yours just right!

I just had an amazing old-fashioned boiled-icing cupcake I had while in SF from Miette– absolutely worth it. However, it’s getting hard to find a good cupcake in the sea of yucky ones out there.

June 13, 2008 - 4:33 pm

Megan - These look so great – and I have a pool party to attend tomorrow and these would be perfect to take. I hope you don’t mind that I am copying the recipe – I’ll send you a pic / link when I make them! With proper credit, of course!!!

June 14, 2008 - 7:36 am

Amanda - Natty- I’ve heard honest good things about Miette’s so that will be my next cupcake stop when I take the drive to SF.

February 24, 2010 - 4:10 pm

Cupcakes + Champagne « Slow Like Honey - [...] the world was devouring caviar and chocolate (not at the same time, I hope), we decided to feast on Martha Stewart’s White cupcakes and raspberry frosting. I tend to favor yellow cakes as they are paired perfectly with chocolate [...]

May 16, 2010 - 10:50 am

Hannah - My complaint about cupcakes in my town of Madison, WI: either the cake is too thick, frosting tastes too heavily of powdered sugar, or they taste like the refrigerator they were left in for lord knows how long, or (worse yet) all three.

These ones look amazing though, and I’m feeling anxious to give buttercream frosting another shot. Wish I had more money!

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