I have a “bad” habit of spotting adorable cupcake kits, swooning over the design and colours of the liners and toppers, and then impulsively buying them. I buy them thinking to myself “These would be so perfect for [insert event/Holiday]”, even though I have nothing planned yet for said event/Holiday.
Basically, this habit of collecting themed cupcake sets forces me to, well, bake cupcakes. But that’s not exactly bad, is it?
So even though nothing is planned for Valentine’s Day (no office potlucks or social events, just Netflix, take-out and cuddles), I of course baked cupcakes…for the sole purpose of using this super cute Valentine’s Day cupcake set.
The sparkly gold hearts are what caught my eye because I immediately envisioned luxurious chocolate and gold combinations.
I also liked the flirtatious XOXO and KISS ME messages, nostalgically reminding me of the Sweethearts candy treats.
At first I wanted to make all-chocolate cupcakes, maybe even cheat a little and just use Nutella as the frosting (I’ve done that before, ZERO REGRETS).
This time though, the red and pink hearts of my toppers inspired me to add some colour to the frosting, and naturally I thought of strawberries.
So here’s my dilemma with most buttercream recipes I’ve tried. Either the icing sugar and flavour ratio are not balanced, or they simply call for a lot of icing sugar. I personally have found it makes the frosting way too sweet. I know, buttercream frosting is supposed to be sweet, but it should also be flavourful and decadent.
The last thing I want is to spend time prepping flavours, but then have them totally overpowered by sugar. Bottom line, I really wanted the strawberry flavour to steal the show for these cupcakes.
After browsing through a bunch of recipes, I found this recipe that I (rightfully) declared a winner. The steps to achieve the strawberry frosting took a little more effort than most frosting recipes you might see but believe me, friends and readers, it was so, so worth it.
The winning ingredients: strawberry purée and equal parts freeze dried strawberries. These two types of strawberries accentuated together truly upped the strawberry flavour game.
Let’s start with the purée. Not gonna lie, I thought this step seemed a little tedious (remember, I’m an impatient perfectionist) but halfway through the process I understood its importance.
Basically, you need to purée 1 cup of fresh strawberries in a food processor, strain it until it becomes 3/4 cups, and then reduce it to 1/4 cup of smooth, bright red strawberry jelly.
Could I have used strawberry jam for this (thanks, boyfriend)? Maybe, but obviously this labour of love is better.
The next step was crushing the freeze dried strawberries into a fine powder. Surprisingly, it was a mission finding freeze dried strawberries (none of the grocery stores or health/bulk food stores near me had them, but I victoriously got my hands on them at MEC, in their Camping department of all places). But again, I am here to tell you that the blood, sweat and tears for these cupcakes are worth it.
Now that my dramatic narrating is over, mixing these strawberry concoctions together with the standard buttercream frosting ingredients created such a beautiful, creamy, smooth, heavenly pink bowl of whipped strawberry goodness.
I didn’t even need to use food colouring like the recipe called for. The strawberries naturally created a pop of bright pink, which looked so gorgeous against the dark brown of the chocolate and the golden foil of the liner.
Strawberry paired with chocolate is such an iconic flavour combo, especially for an occasion like Valentine’s Day.
I’m so incredibly pleased with the way these cupcakes turned out. The real fruity flavour combined with the decadent chocolate are matched harmoniously in this cupcake.
So here you have it! Delectable, fruity, chocolatey treats to indulge with loved ones, or just to yourself. Not gonna lie, these was hard to share.
Bon appetit! XO
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup freeze dried strawberries
1 cup fresh strawberries
3/4 cup unsalted butter, nearly at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
- Place freeze dried strawberries in food processor and pulse into fine powder. Set aside.
- Place fresh strawberries into food processor and blend into purée.
- Pour strawberry purée into a fine mesh sieve and strain, pressing down to strain out 3/4 cup of smoother purée.
- Pour smoother purée into a small saucepan set over medium-low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced by 1/4 cup, approx. 10 – 14 minutes (if it’s not reduced to correct amount it will make the frosting runny).
- Pour reduced puree into a small bowl, then refrigerate until completely cooled (approx. 2 hours).
- In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, whip butter until pale and fluffy.
- Mix in powdered sugar, reduced strawberry purée, freeze dried strawberry powder, lemon juice, and vanilla and continue to mix until frosting is pale and fluffy.
- You can refrigerate the frosting overnight, but be sure the frosting is close to room temperature when you’re ready to ice your cupcakes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, mix together sugar and butter until combined (it won’t come together entirely but mix until lumps of butter are creamed).
- Mix in egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Mix in melted chocolate, and then mix in sour cream.
- At low-speed, add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined, then add remaining half and mix until combined.
- Add about 1/5 of the boiling water at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. Once water has all been blended mix batter on medium-low speed for 1 minute.
- Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven until set and toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 17 – 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and transfer each cupcake to a wire rack and let it cool completely, approx. 30 minutes.
- Once completely cool, frost with strawberry buttercream frosting.
- Store in airtight container (store in refrigerator if overnight).
- Serve cupcakes at room temperature.