I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve never been a lover of strawberries. In fact, I struggle to love most fruit, tomatoes being the very large exception. I know, I’m weird that way. Vegetables? I could eat ten servings a day and never ever get bored. Salads? Oh yes. Roasted vegetables? Give me more. The vegetable plate at Cracker Barrel? One of the highlights of my childhood.
What I’m actually trying to say is, fruit must be perfect for me to really enjoy it. It’s got to be as local as possible, in season and perfectly ripe. I eat it because I know it’s good for me. I obviously have no problem baking it into a dessert, but I admit my expectations are high and I’m easily disappointed.
Luckily, it’s strawberry season and I’m pleased to say I’ve not been let down yet. The arrival of these ruby beauties marks the beginning of the British summer. My mind is immediately drawn to strawberries and cream, Pimm’s, pavlova, Wimbeldon and Royal Ascot. They’re only in season until August, so I’ve got to make the most of it.
I’ve packed nearly a pound of perfectly ripe strawberries into these 12 fresh strawberry cupcakes, so it’s safe to say they are thoroughly infused! A perfect treat to celebrate summer and easily transported to barbecues and picnics. Anyone need a 4th of July dessert?
I’ll let you in on another secret – I’m a bit of a mad scientist baker. I couldn’t care less about science at all in high school, but somehow cake got me interested in my adult years. I can’t stand it when cake looks better than it tastes. For me, the enjoyment of a baked good is 85% in the taste and 15% in the appearance. Do I want it to look pretty? Of course. We all eat with our eyes first. Do I want it to taste so delicious your eyes light up in surprise and you keep going back for more and more? That’s always the objective.
I can confirm that when I brought these into my office for taste testing, two of my colleagues had two each and one of them doesn’t even like desserts. I’m not kidding when I say these are packed full of fresh strawberry flavor with a soft, silky crumb and a creamy frosting that melts in your mouth. Here are my secrets:
- A fresh strawberry puree and fresh strawberries are mixed into the cake batter.
- The puree is mixed with a few tablespoons of strawberry jam to boost the strawberry flavor.
- The cake contains both butter and oil, butter for flavor and oil for added moisture. Oil is more efficient at coating the flour proteins than butter. If the proteins are well coated, it’s more difficult for gluten to form. This prevents a dry texture.
- An extra egg yolk adds even more moisture.
- Whipped cream is folded into the batter right before it goes in the oven. I am so happy I learned this trick. The airiness and flavor of the whipped cream lends a silky softness that can’t be replicated with other ingredients.
- The same strawberry puree that goes into the cake is mixed into the frosting.
- Whipping cream is added to the frosting. This lightens the texture and makes it taste more like fresh strawberry ice cream.
A few tips when making this recipe:
- Prep your strawberries first. My recipe calls for 350 grams, which is just over 3/4 of a pound. You need to set aside about 6 strawberries for decorating at the end. 200 grams are blended into a puree for the cake batter and icing. The remaining 75 grams or so should give you a heaping half cup of chopped strawberries to mix into the finished cake batter.
- The next thing to do is transfer the fresh strawberry puree to a saucepan and add two tablespoons of strawberry jam. Heat the mixture over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam has melted into the puree. Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature before using.
- I also whip the cream at the beginning so it’s ready to be mixed into the batter at the end. This small amount is easily beaten by hand. It only takes a minute or two.
- Fold in the whipped cream and chopped strawberries by hand at the end. A mixer will deflate the cream and crush the berries.
- Use an ice cream scoop to fill the liners with the cake batter. Your cupcakes will be the same size every time. I used a medium-sized 2 inch scoop for this recipe.
This recipe makes exactly 12 cupcakes and can also be made into an 8 inch two layer cake. I’m torn here. They’re both so pretty!
You’ve got to try these. Go forth and make strawberry cupcakes!
- For the cake:
- 350 grams (approx ¾ pound) fresh strawberries, to make puree for cake & frosting
- 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
- ¼ cup (60 ml) whipping cream
- 1¾ cups (210 grams) plain, all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda (bi-carb)
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (215 grams) granulated sugar:
- 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil:
- 2 large whole eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- For the Frosting:
- 1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 to 3½ cups (approx. 400 grams) Icing sugar
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract:
- 2 tablespoons whipping cream
- ½ cup (120 ml) strawberry puree
- For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C or 160 C for a fan oven).
- Line a 12-hole cupcake tin or muffin tin with paper liners.
- Prep your strawberries. Set aside 6 or 7 medium-sized strawberries for decoration at the end. Remove the green stems and finely chop the remaining strawberries. Set aside a heaping ½ cup of the chopped strawberries. These will be mixed directly into the cake batter later.
- Make a strawberry puree with the rest of the chopped strawberries. Use a blender, food processor or hand blender to puree the strawberries to liquid. Combine the pureed strawberries, the strawberry jam and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam has melted and the mixture is smooth. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. You will have about a cup of finished strawberry puree. You will need ⅓ of a cup for the cake batter and ½ cup for the frosting. Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
- Whip the cream. I usually do this by hand since it's such a small amount. You want to whip it to the soft peak stage. Transfer to the fridge until you're ready to use it.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk for about 30 seconds until thoroughly combined.
- Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to beat the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes.
- Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until very light, about 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the bowl and beat in oil, followed by the eggs and then the vanilla.
- Scrape down the bowl again, set the mixer to a low speed and gradually add half the flour mixture, then ⅓ cup (80 ml) of the strawberry puree, followed by the remaining half of the flour.
- Fold in the whipped cream gently by hand, followed by the chopped strawberries.
- Fill the cupcake liners with a medium-sized ice cream scoop (approx 2 inches wide). The cupcake liners should be about ⅔ full, which will leave enough room for the cupcakes to rise.
- Bake cupcakes for 15 to 19 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. I start checking at 15 minutes, then return the cupcakes to the oven to bake for another two minutes at a time until they are done.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the Frosting:
- Use a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to beat the butter on medium speed 2 to 3 minutes until creamy and smooth.
- Add the icing sugar, a pinch of salt (I use fine sea salt), the vanilla, the whipping cream and the ½ cup of strawberry puree.
- Start mixing on low speed to combine the ingredients, then gradually increase to high speed. The mixture may look slightly curdled. Don't worry, just keep beating on high speed until you have a smooth, creamy frosting. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.
- If the mixture is too thin, add more icing sugar. If it seems too thick, add a bit more cream.
- Frost the cupcakes using any method you like. I used a piping bag with a large open tip to create big swirls.
- Decorate with sliced strawberries.
- Cupcakes may be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.