Thursday, March 8, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

This is my very first time blogging, so I apologize if things don't flow as smoothly as other seasoned bloggers. Some of my posts may be backdated, as I've been taking pictures for several months now, but had not built up the courage to start blogging. So without much further ado, I'm going to jump right in to what I think blogging should sound like!

The inspiration for these cupcakes was a baby shower my co-workers were hosting for another co-worker. His wife just had a second beautiful baby girl on Valentine's day, what a blessing! But let me tell you, these cupcakes did not go nearly as smoothly as the baby shower cookies I made (which I will be posting shortly). It wasn't the cupcakes that were the problem, it was the 'bane of my existence' buttercream icing. I've made this icing once twice before, from 2 different recipes. The first was an utter failure, but might have had something to do with a lack of a stand-mixer (one of the greatest inventions on earth). The second time however, the icing turned out beautifully with not so much as a hitch. Beginners luck? I won't go into the nitty gritty details of these last attempts, but let's just say many, many eggs, cups of sugar and butter went down the drain. It was bad. When the last try finally worked out, I may have done a happy dance... that lasted for the next 10 minutes. 

Swiss Meringue/Italian Buttercream is my ultimate favorite. It is a rich, fluffy and silky smooth type of icing that is worth the time. You can add any flavor to it you like, and so far I've done a basic vanilla, caramel, and this strawberry. Since I've started making it, I have a hard time even imagining going back to standard buttercream icings that use powdered sugar. In fact, I'm pretty sure my nose crinkles in disdain. However, SWB is not for the beginner baker, and sometimes you just don't have the amount of time it takes to prepare it. 

Strawberry Cupcakes 

Yield: 34 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2¼ cups sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
1 cup milk
2½ cups finely chopped fresh strawberries
*Note: 34 is a lot of cupcakes. I halved the amount and used 2 full eggsIt equaled out to roughly 14 cupcakes. 

For the frosting:
1½ cups fresh strawberries (8 oz.), rinsed and pureed
*2-3 tsp sugar
1½ cups sugar, divided (3/4 each)
2 oz. water (4 tbsp)
4 large egg whites, at cool room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp lemon juice
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
*Note: This frosting makes enough for 20-24 cupcakes.
For garnish:
Additional fresh strawberries

To make cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. 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 ¾-full. Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-28 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. *Be aware of your oven temperature and what pans you use. I find that my oven heats a little hotter, and using dark muffin pans speeds up the process. I typically will set my oven for a little under the recommended temperature, and also set my timer for a few minutes under the allotted time. This way I can keep an eye on things and make sure nothing burns or overcooks!

To make the frosting, place the pureed strawberries with 2-3 tsp sugar (depending on the sweetness of the strawberries, you may not need any sugar) in a small pot and heat over med-low heat. Keep on low heat for 20-25 minutes until the strawberry puree has reduced and thickened, and the flavor is stronger. Remove and let cool completely.

Over medium heat, bring water and ¾ of the sugar to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pot. Remove cover and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees, F.

Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. On medium speed, whip egg whites, salt and lemon juice until foamy. Add the reserved sugar and beat to medium-stiff peaks. Try to time this so the sugar and the whites are ready at the same time. 

When the sugar has reached 248 degrees, F and the whites are at medium-stiff peaks, with the mixer on medium-high, carefully pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl. This will prevent the syrup from hitting the whisk and getting spun around the sides of the bowl instead of into your frosting. It will also cool the syrup just a bit so you don’t risk curdling your whites. Whip until cool, about 5-10 minutes.

Feel the mixing bowl, it should feel somewhat cool. If it doesn't, cool the mixture down by either putting the bowl in the refrigerator for a few minutes before continuing to whip or by rubbing the outside of the bowl with a bag of frozen peas, fruit, whatever you have on hand, while continuing to whip the mixture. What do I do? I grab a bag of frozen fruits I use for smoothies and stick it underneath to speed up the process. Once the bowl is cool, add the butter, 2 tbsp at a time. Whip until each piece is completely incorporated before adding another piece. The icing might start to look a little curdled, or conversely, feel like soft marshmallow fluff, but it should come together nicely by the time you have added all the butter. 

This takes patience and faith. It will appear like nothing is happening and you have wasted your ingredients (been there!). The transformation will be obvious when it happens, but the time it can take varies between almost immediately after the last piece of butter or several minutes. It will go from that marshmallow-y soft fluff into a firm, whipped icing that will hold it's shape. 

Fill a large (I use a 16 inch) pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip with the frosting. I used a Wilton 1B tip (my favorite so far). Decorate cupcakes as desired, and garnish with fresh berries or berry slices. 

The icing can theoretically be made using a hand mixer, but will require more time and a lot of arm strength. My first attempt was with a hand mixer and it never came together. 

Source: Cupcakes: Annie's Eats, Frosting adapted from: Reluctant Gourmet

Pin It

No comments:

Post a Comment