Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

I scored 1740 essays last week.

No, that's not a typo-- I spent the week in Louisville scoring AP essays for the class I teach and I scored almost two thousand essays in about 50 hours.  It's a lot, but it's really not as bad as it sounds-- although it's hard to convince people that I really don't mind doing it.  The worst part about it is that I'm away from home for 8 days, which is hard.  Being away this year was a blessing and a curse-- the last few weeks of school drove me out of my mind so it was good to get some distance, but I missed my family and my people.  I missed them A LOT.  That's not to say I don't have some pretty awesome people at the AP reading, but it's still hard to be away. 

I also missed my kitchen and being able to bake.  As I get older, I start to realize more and more things about myself-- one of which is that I am getting worse at sitting still and relaxing.  I am well aware of the fact that I'm type A and I'm pretty tightly wound-- but it seems like baking is just one more way to keep me up and doing things.  When did I become this person?  I honestly have no idea.  I will say that I infinitely prefer this hobby to something like, say, stamp collecting.  Or building model airplanes. At least everyone likes the outcome of my hobby.  At any rate, my book club seemed to really enjoy these cupcakes and loved the strawberry filling in the middle.  I personally love the icing-- it's the same consistency and flavor as melted strawberry ice cream.  Yummy. 

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Makes approximately 28

Yellow Cupcakes
(From Smitten Kitchen)

4 cups plus 2 Tbps cake flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk*

*I made my own buttermilk for this-- 1 Tbsp vinegar for 1 cup of milk and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cupcake pans with liners.  Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping bowl after each addition.  Pour in the buttermilk and beat at low speed until incorporated-- it will look curdled, but that's OK.  Add flour mixture in three additions, beating after each addition until just incorporated.

Fill each liner approximately 2/3 full.  Bake for 16-20 minutes in preheated oven.  When removed from oven, let cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Once cool, core in preparation for filling (tutorial in the link).

Strawberry Filling
(From Wilton)
Makes about 2 cups of filling

1 16-oz package of frozen sliced strawberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice

Thaw and drain strawberries, reserving liquid.  (I do this by letting the strawberries thaw in a strainer over a large liquid measuring cup.)  Add enough water to the strawberry liquid to equal 1 1/4 cup.  In a medium saucepan, combine liquid, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice; mix well.  Heat over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and boils.  Cool completely, then stir in sliced strawberries.  Fill the cored cupcakes.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing
(Inspired by Lemons and Anchovies)

1 stick unsalted butter
1 8-oz block of cream cheese
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
approximately 8 large strawberries, hulled and pureed
4-6 cups powdered sugar

In a food processor, puree the strawberries.  Be careful not to overdo it-- you want some smallish chunks, not just strawberry liquid.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Mix in four cups of powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Add the strawberries and mix on low speed until just incorporated.  At this point, you may need to add another cup of the powdered sugar in order to thicken the icing and achieve the desired consistency.  Also, it may be helpful to put this icing in the refrigerator/freezer to firm a bit before you ice the cupcakes.

Once your icing has the consistency you wish, ice the cupcakes.  I would recommend doing this with an open tip, rather than a closed-- otherwise, bits of the strawberries will get stuck in the tip, which is annoying.  Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator.

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