Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes
Have you noticed all the fresh strawberries flooding the grocery stores over the past few weeks? I’ve been buying so many cartons that I’m pretty sure I have fully supported at least one farm with my purchases alone. Before the strawberry season comes to an end *tear,* you need to make these cupcakes. Yes, you do.
Pete and I recently had a couple friends over for dinner for the very first time, and of course, I wanted to impress them with a knockout dessert. I sat down and scrolled through the dessert section of my recipe index (see? I use this blog just as much as you do), but I realized what I most wanted to make I had never posted here before….white vanilla cupcakes with a real fresh strawberry buttercream.
When it was time to bring out the dessert, I served each person TWO full sized cupcakes…because I knew that only serving one would be insulting. They’re that good. You can’t eat just one. Even when you’re counting calories, or watching what you eat (that would be me).
The secret to this delicious buttercream is actually two secrets. The first is to macerate the strawberries. You do this by cutting up the strawberries and letting them sit with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little bit of sugar. This softens the strawberries slightly, and intensifies their flavor as they absorb some of the bright lemon and sweet sugar.
Then you puree the strawberries and lemon juice, transferring them afterward to a strainer to let the excess liquid drain a bit. Then you can spoon the intensified strawberry goodness into your buttercream.
Which brings me to secret #2, which is making a real buttercream. I’m not talking about butter mixed with confectioner’s sugar. That’s not real buttercream.
To make real buttercream, you start with egg yolks and whip them until they’re very pale. Then you take a super hot sugar syrup and whisk it into the pale egg yolks with a mixer, until it gets super light and runny, like this.
Then you beat in the butter a little bit at a time until the buttercream is light and fluffy, and you add in the strawberry puree.
Pipe it onto some vanilla cupcakes (I make these white velvet cupcakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum and they’re incredible. I don’t bother making any other kind of white cupcake because I don’t think it can get better than this).
Top with some halved strawberries to make them look extra pretty. Enjoy!
Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Cupcakes
Yield: Makes enough frosting for 1 dozen cupcakes
1 dozen vanilla cupcakes (I always make these white velvet cupcakes, they're my favorite)
1.5 cups chopped fresh strawberries
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 egg yolks
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 cups unsalted butter, diced (3 sticks)
Combine the chopped fresh strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice, and give it a good stir. Let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. This is called macerating, and we are softening the strawberries and intensifying their flavor.
Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender, taking care to leave some small chunks of strawberry. Pour the mixture in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, letting some of the excess liquid drain. Set the drained pureed strawberries aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks on high speed for 8 minutes until they are very pale. In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and let the sugar syrup simmer toward the soft ball stage, which is 238 degrees on an instant read thermometer. When both the egg yolks and the sugar syrup are ready, pour the sugar syrup into the mixing bowl (the mixer should still be on high speed), aiming as best as you can to pour between the wire whisk and the side of the bowl. Now, touch the bottom of the bowl. It's pretty hot, right? Beat the egg yolk sugar mixture until the bowl feels neither hot nor cold (about 5 minutes). The egg yolk sugar mixture will be very runny at this point.
Turn the mixer down to medium and add two tbsp of the strawberry puree. Add the butter, a couple cubes at a time to the bowl, over the course of 10 minutes. Wait until each installment of butter is absorbed until you add the next batch. Do a final taste and see if you would like to add any more strawberry puree. Pipe or spread your buttercream on your cupcakes, and enjoy!