I dislike fruit. I don’t hate it, but I’m just not the kind of person who is going to get excited about a fresh peach. I like my apples, bananas and grapefruit (oh, how I adore grapefruit!) but that’s about it. However, if you bake these fruits, I will eat them. I will also probably ask for seconds. Blueberry muffins? Sign me up. Blackberry pie? Yes please! But a hand full of berries or, [gasp!] heaven forbid, a smoothie and I’d rather stick a fork in my eye.
It’s weird though, I love the flavors, it’s just I don’t like how they are packaged by nature. I wouldn’t eat fuzzy cheese or piece of fuzzy chicken, so why in God’s name would I eat fuzzy fruit? And the peeling, and washing, and seeds sticking in your teeth. It’s a total nightmare. And I get the whole sex-appeal that goes into fresh, juicy fruit; but I really can’t make a sexy face when it takes all my energy not to grimace and pretend I’m not eating something that in any other category on the food pyramid would be a clear indication of food gone bad.
So, after the August family reunion and that delicious limoncello lemon cake, I had a bunch of leftover lemon buttercream that I had no idea what to do with. And then, while I was at Six Flags with my friend Adrienne, I smelled what I thought was Orange Julius (however I never sighted one) and immediately I thought, strawberry cupcakes! I know, oranges totally make you think of strawberries too. We’re like soul sisters, or something.
Lucky for me, I had marked not one but two strawberry cupcake recipes that I had been meaning to try for awhile. Except neither were really for strawberry cupcakes so much as strawberry “themed” cupcakes and I really wanted a strong strawberry flavor. So I tweaked them like any good baker on a mission would do.
This batter is great because it’s just thick and fluffy enough that the strawberries won’t sink to the bottom during baking, but not so thick that the cakes are more like muffins. It’s a delicate balance I tell you.
*Just a note: Make sure you really mix in that red food coloring (before you add the strawberries) so you don’t get any streaks of white in your finished product.
Boozy Strawberry Cupcakes with Limoncello Buttercream
Adapted from Baking Bites
For the cupcakes:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup cream (or milk)
¼ – ½ cup Whipped vodka (or just plain vodka)
red food coloring
3 ½ cups fresh chopped strawberries, separated
Pre-heat oven to 350° F and put cupcake liners in tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Once creamed add the egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
While the butter and sugar are creaming whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Place 1 ½ cups of chopped strawberries in the blender and puree until smooth. This should make about 1 cup of puree. Pour into a measuring cup and add enough vodka to make it 1 ¼ cups (an extra splash won’t hurt though). Add the ½ cup cream or milk to the puree mixture.
Working in three installments, add the flour mixture, alternating with the puree mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. The batter will not be even remotely runny, but don’t panic, that is a good thing. If it looks too dry add more milk/cream. Add a few drops of red food coloring just to tint it a light pink. The color doesn’t change much after it’s baked what you see is what you get. Fold in the chopped strawberries.
Fill each cupcake mold about 2/3rds full and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack
For the frosting (there is an alternate recipe below that doesn’t use meringue):
1/3 cup meringue powder
¾ cup sugar
½ cup boiling water
1 pound powdered sugar
1 ½ cups butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ tsp lemon extract or zest (optional)
yellow food coloring
Mix the sugar and the boiling water until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand-held mixer, beat the meringue powder and sugar syrup until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
Add the pound of powdered sugar 1-2 cups at a time, whisking on low to avoid a sugar explosion. Add the limoncello and mix to incorporate.
Once the sugar is all mixed in, add the butter in cubes a little at a time and whisk on med-high to ensure full incorporation. Do not panic! Your frosting will at first look like it has curdled. But if you keep beating, it will come together smoothly again.
At this stage test the flavor of your icing, if you want a stronger lemon flavor add the extract (or zest if you prefer). Also, if you want a light yellow color, like I did, now would be a good time to add your food coloring. Also, if it isn’t stiff enough for piping, you can add more powdered sugar as well.
WARNING: This makes a butt-ton of icing, which is why I had so much leftover from the cake I had before. Luckily, buttercream stores really well. It will keep in the fridge for about a week or in the freezer in a freezer safe ziplock for up to two months. So you can think of other awesome things it will go one.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp limoncello
1 tbsp – ¼ cup milk
½ tsp lemon flavoring (or zest) or 1 tbsp lemon juice
Beat the butter until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time and beat until smooth. Add the limoncello and beat until smooth. Add the milk 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. Taste the icing for your lemon preference, add lemon flavoring if desired. If too stiff add more milk, if too runny add more powdered sugar.