Strawberry Cupcakes

It seems like every morning I wake up, look out the window, and fall in love with California all over again. Where else do you get sunny, seventy degree days in the middle of January and a summer and fall free of hurricanes or tornadoes? Yes, we miss out on the seasons a little bit, but there was definitely no doubt that it was winter a few weeks ago, when it was 50 and pouring for an entire week straight.

My first winter here, I remember being shocked to see fresh, local strawberries in the farmers market in early February. In Oregon, the strawberry season was painfully short so the idea of being able to get strawberries that had not spent weeks in transit completely blew my mind.

If you happen to be in a place where there’s snow on the ground and no strawberry plants for thousands of miles, these cupcakes are here to put a smile on your face and bring you a little bit of summer…all you need to do is pick up some frozen strawberries at the grocery store. (And in all honesty, I think these may actually be better made with frozen strawberries!)

Some of the comments on the recipe indicated that the strawberry flavor wasn’t strong enough in the icing, so I took the advice of one commenter and boiled the puree to reduce it and concentrate the flavor. It not only gave the frosting a beautiful pink color, it definitely made the strawberry flavor nice and strong. I only made 6 cupcakes because I was baking a few other desserts the same day, but the recipe is easy to double.

Recipe:
(adapted from Martha Stewart, originally from Candace Nelson at Sprinkles Cupcakes)

Cupcakes:
3 tablespoons strawberry puree (just puree fresh or thawed frozen strawberries in a food processor)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

Frosting:
1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup thawed frozen (or fresh) strawberries, pureed and simmered until reduced by half
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put paper liners in 6 cupcake tins.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of wax paper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree.
Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the sugar. Beat for a few minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix on low until combined.
Add half the flour mixture and mix briefly on low. Scrape down the bowl and add the milk mixture, mixing just until combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture. Mix on low, then divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting:
Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the strawberry puree a teaspoon or two at a time until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.

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