People have been predicting the death of the cupcake for years now, but it’s clear that this treat is not disappearing anytime soon. And there are many reasons for this: first, cupcakes are the perfect size; second, they’re portable; and third, they’re easy to make and decorate. Oh, yeah, and they’re also pretty darned delicious. Here’s a cupcake recipe that checks all those boxes, and is an ideal way to celebrate spring – ultra-light vanilla cupcakes with a strawberry preserve filling and a big swirl of strawberry buttercream on top. The buttercream requires some credit and explanation – I stumbled across a wonderful blog called Sugarologie, created by Adriana, a scientist and home baker, and discovered a recipe for her American Dreamy Buttercream, which is much less sweet than standard American buttercream, as it’s made with light corn syrup (not to be confused with high-fructose corn syrup). I tried it and loooooooved it, so I am presenting it here, with some strawberry preserves whipped in. Adriana is pretty much a genius in my book, so check out her blog, because there are lots of great recipes to discover there, and chances are, you’ll become a fan, too!
Makes 12 cupcakes
Light Vanilla Cupcakes:
- 1 1/3 cups (151 grams) cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 11 tablespoons (156 grams) unsalted butter, slightly softened
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 3 large (150 grams) eggs
- 24 tablespoons (340 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
- 2/3 cup (208 grams) light corn syrup
- 1 ¼ cups (141 grams) confectioners’ sugar, preferably organic
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (40 grams) excellent quality strawberry preserves or jam, homemade or store-bought*
- A drop of two of red food coloring (or use some red beet powder)
- 2/3 cup (218 grams) good quality strawberry preserves or jam
- 6 small strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
- Small piece of white chocolate, frozen for 15 minutes
*Note: if your strawberry preserves are extra-chunky, chop the large pieces up a bit with a chef’s knife before adding to the buttercream.
Make the Cupcakes:
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners, or spray the insides with non-stick baking spray.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and baking powder. Add the salt and gently whisk to combine; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed until light, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add one of the eggs. When it’s almost mixed in, add 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients, then add the other two eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining dry ingredients one-third at a time, mixing just until blended. Divide the batter among the prepared cupcake cups.
- Bake the cupcakes for 28 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cupcakes are just turning a light golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool the cupcakes completely.
Make the Buttercream:
- Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed for about a minute, until aerated and creamy. Gradually add the corn syrup and mix on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until well blended. Increase the speed to high and mix for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the confectioners’ sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, mix on high speed for about a minute, until smooth. Add the salt, vanilla, strawberry preserves and food coloring (if using) to the buttercream and mix at high speed for about 15 to 30 seconds, just until it is just blended in. Switch to the paddle attachment and mix at low speed for about a minute, to eliminate any air pockets.
Frost, Fill and Garnish the Cupcakes:
- Transfer the buttercream to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco #8).
- Using a cupcake corer or a paring knife, cut a 3/4-inch deep, 1/2-inch-wide core from the center of the top of each cupcake and remove (save the tops of the cut-out cores). Spoon the strawberry preserves or jam into a disposable pastry bag or sealable plastic bag. Cut about ¼-inch off the tip or corner of the bag and pipe about 2 teaspoons of the jam into the center of each cupcake. Using a paring knife, trim off the bottom of the removed cupcake cores so that you just have the lids, then cover the holes with the lids.
- Pipe a generous swirl of the buttercream on top of each cupcake. Garnish each one with two strawberry halves. Grate a little frozen white chocolate on top. Serve right away, or refrigerate. If refrigerated, let the cupcakes stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.