One of the "foodie-goals" that I set for myself this year was to venture more into the world of cakes and cupcakes. While cupcakes are definitely something that I enjoy eating (come on, the frosting to cake ratio is much higher than many cakes), they aren't something that I commonly make. There probably are a couple reasons for this. One being that there are only 2 people in our house to eat them, but the second and probably larger reason is that I have no experience in decorating cakes or cupcakes.
With my aforementioned abundance of strawberries, I decided that now was as good of time as any to give cupcakes a shot. After looking through several recipes, there seemed to be a fair amount of praise for a Martha Stewart recipe seen on blogs both here and here, among others, so I decided to give it a shot. The process of making the cupcakes went really smooth. As Tracey mentioned in her blog post, the cupcakes bake up with a flat top. Mine were also really fragile when I first removed them from the muffin pan due to the chunks of cooked strawberries in the cupcakes. At least we got to sample the one below that fell apart :)
Both Tracey and Annie mentioned that Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be a little temperamental to make. Basically, my impression from them is that you put everything together and beat the heck out of it with your stand mixer until it looks like a frosting. I have actually made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream once before for a SMS cake, and the frosting has always came together okay for me. Maybe I'm liberal with the mixing times? My only problem with the frosting process is that I didn't have enough. I halved both the cupcake and frosting recipes, and after piping it on a few cupcakes, I realized that I was only going to have enough for about 2/3's of my cupcakes (I told you I really liked frosting). Rather than go through the process of making more, I mixed up a different strawberry cream cheese frosting from Annie's site to see which we liked better.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Strawberry Cream Cheese
The process aside, the cupcakes were really good but if I were to make them again, I would change a couple of things. The cake stayed really moist and had a nice crumb, but the chunks of strawberries made the cupcakes fall apart really easily. In the future, I think I would to try a recipe that includes pureed strawberries to fix this problem. As for which frosting we preferred, it is a toss up. We liked the cream cheese version for the taste, but the Swiss Meringue Buttercream definitely made prettier cupcakes! I even let the cream cheese version sit in the refrigerator overnight, and I still couldn't pipe anything with it. I am going to go against the mainstream here because I don't think Swiss Meringue Buttercreams are really my thing. Whenever I've tried them, I feel like I'm eating straight butter (which is prominent in the ingredient list). I just think it is too "greasy" seeming and not sweet enough for my tastes. I am still looking for a great tasting frosting that will pipe well enough to make pretty cupcakes, so if anyone has a great recipe, please let me know. Enjoy!
Strawberry Cupcakes with Two Frosting Choices
From Martha Stewart's Cupcakes and Annie's Eats (also seen on Tracey's Culinary Adventures and Annie's Eats)
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white (to halve this use 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, 1/2 egg yolk)
1 cup milk
2-1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries
Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz.) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula.
Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 28 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, place the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Puree until completely smooth. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until stiff peaks for and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch). Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes or more until it comes together. Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Garnish with fresh berry slices if desired.
To make the strawberry cream cheese frosting, puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a mesh sieve to remove seeds if desired and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and strawberry puree. Adjust the amount of puree to achieve your desired consistency. Frost cupcakes when completely cool.
Note: Half the Swiss Meringue Butter cream recipe frosted about 12 cupcakes for me. Half the cream cheese recipe would have been plenty.
Yield: full recipe makes 34 cupcakes