Thursday, April 11, 2013

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I'm finally back. Hopefully you weren't too worried. Although, I bet you were just a little. No? Well, that's okay. I forgive you. I thought I had dodged all the germs and sicky ickies around the office, but boy was I wrong. What I thought was just allergies turned into the chills, a fever and the worst tonsillitis I've had since I was a little girl. Once that got better, it turned into an awful cold and then almost an ear infection. My ears hurt so bad I could have sworn it was one. The doctors at urgent care were probably tired of me coming in (I swear I see them more than my primary doctor), but thank goodness for them. They gave me the right mix of medicines to make me feel much better and luckily, I am back to normal. Let me just say, if you don't feel good and it's not getting better, go see the doctor before it's too late. Don't pull a me and think it will go away. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Never hurts to see the doctor to make sure. Better safe than sorry!

You didn't come here to talk about sickies now, did you? You came here for cupcakes! One of my dear colleagues, Charles, had decided to leave the company after over 12 years of dedication to the business. We all are going to miss him and what better way to send him off to his new adventures than with a big BBQ and homemade cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes though. Lemony fruity cupcakes. Charles loves lemon and I mean LOVES lemon. He won't eat chocolate treats, but boy will he eat something lemony. He's a strange one. Not really, but since he tried to run me down with his cart at Safeway years ago, I can say that. Nevertheless, I knew I had to make something extra special and step it up in the cupcake department for Charles. Especially since he's always telling me I need to go on Cupcake Wars. Maybe someday you'll see me on there. Just maybe. If I do, I maybe asking you to be my assistant. Charles already told me he won't do it because he'll eat everything I make. Oops.

I've done lemon cupcakes before, but I couldn't just do a regular 'ol lemon cupcake. I had to put a twist on it. Something with berries. Something berry lemony and berry good. What better cupcake to make for the lemon and fruity lover than strawberry lemonade cupcakes! I have been eyeing this recipe for awhile, but it's one of those things that needs to be made when it's warm outside and the sun is shining. That's not to say that you couldn't make this in a blizzard, but there is just something about strawberry lemonade that scream warmth. You know what I mean? These cupcakes do require fresh strawberries, so if they aren't in season, you may be out of luck. Although nowadays, you can typically find berries year round. The base of this delicious cupcake is dense, slightly sweet and speckled with lemon zest and fresh chopped strawberries.  Lots of chopped strawberries. The strawberry cream cheese frosting is light, not too sweet and loaded with fresh strawberry puree and lemon juice. It's the perfect combination of berry and lemon. Now, this cupcake would be perfect just like this, but because I wanted to step it up - so, I decided to fill this cupcake with lemon curd. Tangy, puckery lemon curd. To make homemade lemon curd, check out how I make it here. Although, if making curd is not your thing (it's not that scary, promise!), I must admit, Trader Joes sells a lemon curd that is pretty much out of this world and the price is pretty darn good too - only $2.99 for a decent size jar! I suggest picking up a jar or two and keeping them in your pantry for those late night lemon curd cravings. You know, for spreading it on english muffins or homemade waffles. I didn't tell you that though.

Now, let me just say, these cupcakes were a huge huge HUGE hit at the office. In fact, I couldn't believe how much of a hit they were. One person said these were my best cupcakes yet. Really? Whoa! One person changed their cupcake order due in a few weeks to include these instead of red velvet and they really love red velvet. One of the lawyers told me that I may need to re-think my future career path and open a bakery. He made me laugh. Charles, aka. Mr. Lemon, said these cupcakes would win me Cupcake Wars. No questions asked, hands down. Whoa. Guess that means they were pretty good and that you should probably get in your kitchen and make these. They are perfect for your next back yard BBQ, a going away party or just because. Let's be honest, you don't really need a reason to make these. Just promise me you will try them next time you get that lemon or berry craving. You won't be sorry. Well, maybe a little, because you probably will not just be able to stop at one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've gone berry crazy

add in the eggs one at a time

there is so substitute for lemon zest

adding in the milk.

I could eat this whole bowl

swirling berries!

in the oven they go

this frosting is loaded with butter and cream cheese. Paula Deen would be proud.

filled with lemon curd

beautiful light pink cream cheese frosting

frosted and topped with a fresh lemon slice!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Annie's Eats)

Makes about 20 cupcakes

For the cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

 For the frosting:
1 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
18 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar

4 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  

Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Stir together with a fork and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add in the milk and mix until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.  Fold in the fresh strawberries with a spatula. Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Mine took just about 25 minutes, but your oven may vary. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, if desired, fill the cupcakes with lemon curd. Core each cupcake with a teaspoon, corning tool or an apple corer to remove the center to hold about two teaspoons (or more) of curd. To make the lemon curd, follow the instructions here or use your favorite store bought curd.

To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds, and set aside.  Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and very fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.  Mix in strawberry puree, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired texture and flavor of frosting (I added about 5 tablespoons of puree).  If the frosting is too loose, feel free to add more powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency.  Frost cupcakes as desired and garnish with fresh strawberries and/or lemon slices (make sure to pat the lemons dry with a paper towel!). Enjoy!

Pucker up!

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