Earlier in the month, I was asked to make something special for a family member's best friend's 30th birthday party. She asked me to make separate gift packages for each party attendee and gave me free reign as to what to put together. She supplied me with a few credentials - said birthday girl loves strawberry shortcake, shoes, and fabulosity, and the plan was that the girls were going to go out for a night on the town and head back to a hotel in Midtown Manhattan where the gift bags would be waiting for them.
Well, since everything I do is FABULOUS, there was no problem covering the fabulosity part.
I joke! I joke!
But in all seriousness, it was fun to have carte blanche. I decided to do sugar cookies decorated like different types of shoes and the Bailey's truffles, but I was unsure of how to include strawberry shortcake.
I obviously couldn't do a traditional strawberry shortcake, as the packages weren't actually going to be received until hours after I dropped off the packages (4 am, to be exact) and the biscuit would be stale and soggy by that time. So I decided to make strawberry shortcake cupcakes.
I toyed with the idea of doing a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting, but I couldn't find a good strawberry cake recipe that was well reviewed (if anyone has one, it would be much appreciated). I instead went with a vanilla cake with strawberry jam frosting.
I used a recipe from Billy's Bakery, a famed cupcake bakery in NYC, but the recipe was a little strange. The dry ingredients are mixed in with the butter until the butter is just coated. The wet ingredients are then added, but not overmixed. So I ended up with a batter filled with little lumps of butter. So I broke a cardinal baker's rule and turned the speed up until high and beat. For, like, 2 minutes.
I know. I know. I need to be banned to baker's detention. But I didnt' want lumps of butter in my cupcakes!
Luckily, the cupcakes still came out light and fluffy, with a supremely tender crumb. I wanted to add a little more pizzaz to the cupcakes. I hollowed out the middle of the cupcake and filled it with diced fresh strawberries.
That little adjustment took these cupcakes from good to great! The soft vanilla cake was the perfect vessel for perfectly sweet, ripe strawberries and a deliciously creamy strawberry frosting.
Luckily, the birthday girl was very happy with the surprise treats that awaited her at the end the night. And I was happy with a new springtime cupcake creation.
But seriously, on another note, what is up with March? Where was the whole "In like a lion, out like a lamb?" thing? Why did we have temps in the 70s in the middle of the month, but temps in the 40s and low 50s (getting as low as the 30s!) towards the end???
Out like a lamb, my ... butt.
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
Cupcakes (cupcake recipe adapted from Billy's Bakery via Martha Stewart)
1 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, cut into a small dice
Frosting12 tsbp unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 tbsps milk
For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a small, serrated knife (I actually like to use the hollow end of a piping tip) to cut the centers out of the cupcakes (about 1/2" in diameter). Be careful not to go all of the way through the cupcakes. You want to cut the hole about 2/3 of the way down the cupcakes. Fill the cupcakes with diced strawberries. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
Frost the tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
For the frosting:
In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the softened butter at medium speed until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt and beat the mixture at low speed just until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the milk and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix the frosting and the jam, to taste.