Strawberry cupcakes are easily misunderstood. Bright-pink cakes topped with swirls of bubblegum-pink frosting can seem too absurd for serious, self-respecting people – akin to gaudy prom dresses or decorative lawn flamingos. We blush when we order them at the gourmet cupcake shop down the street. But, secretly, we love them. And what better way to celebrate Mom?
Strawberry cupcakes don’t have to be shameful indulgences. Ditch the food coloring and artificial extract, and you’re left with the simple goodness of fresh berries. At the peak of the season, cupcakes made with fresh berries are irresistibly pretty and blush with the naturalness of spring.
The key is in using real fruit. Macerate strawberries in sugar and then whirl them in a blender with their own juice. This elixir becomes your magic ingredient. Fold it into a plain buttermilk batter and the whole batch turns shades of pink and lavender. Pockets of berry remind you that you’re just one step away from biting into whole fruit. Whip the mixture into simple cream cheese frosting and all of a sudden you’re eating berries and cream.
It’s worth spending a little time on decoration. Rather than slathering the frosting on top, swirl it in concentric circles, or smooth it to show off the berry flecks. Put a cross section of strawberry on top. You’ll have a tantalizing advertisement for what lies inside.
Embrace the natural goodness of strawberry cupcakes this spring. Even if you bake them in ruffly pink cupcake liners, the effect is still too much like a berry patch for anyone to be thinking about lawn flamingos.
(Adapted from Lisa Fain’s “The Homesick Texan Cookbook” (Hyperion, 2011)
• 12 ounces fresh strawberries, roughly chopped (approximately 3 cups)
• 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 cups flour
• 12 tablespoons butter, melted (1 1/2 sticks)
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix berries with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside at least 1 hour. Blend with a few pulses in blender or food processor. Reserve 1/4 to 1/3 cup of mixture for frosting.
Sift sugar and flour together. In another bowl, mix melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add blended strawberries (reserving some for frosting).
Spoon into lined muffin tins (approximately 3/4 full).
Bake in preheated oven at 400 F for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely on rack before frosting.
Makes 18 cupcakes.
Strawberry cream-cheese frosting
• 8 ounces cream cheese (reduced-fat works well)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Approximately 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• Reserved blended strawberries (see above)
Whip cream cheese and butter in standing mixer. Add vanilla. Mix in powdered sugar, adjusting more if needed to reach desired consistency. Stir in berry mixture. Chill before using.