Strawberry Cupcakes

I really wanted to post a recipe for Strawberry Cake last year, but time just seemed to have gotten away from me before I had the chance. This year I was bound and determined to tackle the task even before strawberry season came into full bloom. After all, strawberry cake/cupcakes are kind of a big deal. Nothing beckons to it more than summer-time and barbecues! If you’re going to a summer party chances are there is going to be some sort of strawberry cake, berry topped cake, or lemon something or other. It’s just the way things roll in the summer.

There are lots and lots for strawberry cake out there, most of which center around the use of boxed cake mix and strawberry-flavored Jell-O. I wanted to find a recipe for strawberry cake that maintained great strawberry taste and texture without any of the processed, boxed products. Totally from scratch baby! The problem is there are not nearly as many recipes out there for a from scratch strawberry cake… and even less that are rated well. So I decided to take it upon myself to come up with my own. One that I would be proud to share with you and claim to be delicious, moist, and full of beautiful strawberry flavor!  Well, I am happy to say that I did : )

I usually depend on Cooks Illustrated to provide me with a recipe for these type of debacles, but their solution left me only partially satisfied. They had a really great idea to use frozen strawberries, heat them to release their juices, strain them while pressing out excess liquid, and to reduce all the strawberry juice to a concentrated 1/4 cups worth. They use a white cake recipe to let the strawberry flavor shine through which I also agreed with.  However! Their actual cake recipe was not what I had in mind. It called for cake flavor AND used the reverse creaming method. Both of these things I am not a fan of. I feel like they produce too tight of a crumb. It’s not as fluffy and soft as I like my cake. So I turned to my absolutely favorite White Cake recipe and changed it up to work with the concentrated strawberry juice.

The liquid called with in my white cake recipe is 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, so I had to do some maneuvering to get the quantities to work out. If I had used the 1/4 cup strawberry juice in replace of some of the buttermilk, I would have had to call for 1 cup and some ambiguous amounts worth of buttermilk. It didn’t quite add up. So instead I used one cup worth or regular whole milk plus 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, along with the 1/4 cup of strawberry juice. This made almost exactly 1 1/3 cups of liquid. Perfect! I used the vinegar and milk to work as a substitute for the buttermilk, which allowed me to keep the tender effect of the buttermilk without having to ask for an odd quantity of one ingredient. So obviously the substitution works both ways, you can use 1 cup plus 1 Tb buttermilk in place of both the vinegar and milk. In the end the cupcakes were a smash! They came out exactly how I wanted them too. I ended up taking them to a party and they all disappeared with many compliments aimed my way.

And let’s not forget the frosting…. and wow, what a frosting it is! Cream cheese strawberry frosting– yes, please! I did end up taking this recipe right from Cooks Illustrated’s Strawberry Cake. It just sounded so amazing, I had to. Plus, it calls for the remaining bits of strawberry that you extract the liquid from so it also prevents waste! However, as you may notice from my pictures, it is a very loose frosting. Definitely not something you are going to be able to pipe with. It’s because of all the moisture from the strawberry bits, so as great and exciting as they are to use, they are also annoying because they mess with the consistency. The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. I tried everything to thicken it up without having to add more sugar because when you do that you don’t just thicken it, you sweeten it. I can’t stand overly sweet frosting. So, I added flour and cornstarch. A few tablespoons of the cornstarch and when that didn’t work then a few more of flour. Neither really helped much. Not as much as I wanted at least. I relent. In the end the only thing you can really do about it is add more confectioners’ sugar. I put 3 to 4 cups in the recipe so you could use your own judgement based on what you were looking for out of the frosting- taste or texture? Just tune it to your own desire. Trust me, no matter what you won’t be disappointed it it!

*This cake makes a great layer cake too- just divide the batter amongst two prepared 9-inch cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.*

  • 1 (10 ounce) bag frozen strawberries
  • For the Cupcakes:
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • ¼ cup strawberry reduction (from frozen strawberries)
  • 1 Tb white vinegar
  • For the Frosting:
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces and softened
  • remaining strawberry solids (from frozen strawberries)
  • pinch salt
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F and line a regular 12 cup muffin tin with paper cups.
  2. Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5 minutes.
  3. Place in fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least ¾ cup); reserve strawberry solids in refrigerator.
  4. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to ¼ cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Whisk milk and vinegar into juice until combined; set aside.
  5. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
  6. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to evenly combine. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk mixture (beginning and ending with the flour), beating well after each addition.
  7. Fill cups ⅔ full and bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. For the Frosting: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and 3 cups confectioners’ sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
  9. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  10. Add reserved strawberry solids and salt and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Add additional 1 cup confectioners’ sugar to thicken frosting as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.
This cake makes a great layer cake too- just divide the batter amongst two prepared 9-inch cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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