[Edit: I’m posting this as a Meatless Monday recipe, so have included links to the hosts’ websites at the bottom of this post along with the recipe. You can read the newest blog post here; bonus – you’ll read about how I’m writing a book!!]
Good morning, all! This post should have gone up yesterday, but somebody forgot to upload the photos from the camera to the laptop before leaving for the day yesterday…whoops. Sorry for the delay, but I think you’ll be ok with it once you see the finished product some more.
First off – I want to thank you for the comments and nice notes from Monday’s post! It looks like another ~$180 was raised beyond what they had garnered before the post, and so thank you to those who donated! **Christina** – You are the lucky recipient of some banana bread!! Congrats, and thank you again!
I am not really one to take much stock in recipe posts or other articles that claim to be “the best ever” at something, but I really think that this recipe deserves that label for two reasons:
- I’ve made this recipe at least four times over the past couple years, always for a party of some sort, and it has never, ever let me down. The cakes always come out looking beautiful and tasting absolutely delicious. It’s a rockstar recipe.
- At the most recent party I served these at (Ben’s niece’s first birthday to be exact!) many of the adults in the group went back for seconds, hunted me down to ask about the icing and batter once they learned that I’d made them and kept asking, “Are you sure these are dairy-free? They’re so good!” and “These are the best thing ever.” So, here we are today with the Best Ever Strawberry Cupcakes.
I can’t take credit for the full recipe as I found it on another blogger’s site, Baker Bettie. I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again — I like to bake, but it’s not my biggest strength. I’m much better at recipe development for non-baked goods. I like to experiment and not measure all that frequently, and you sooooo can’t do that with baking. Baking is a science, and a precise one at that, and so I tend to leave it to other blogging or cookbook writing experts to come up with a recipe, and then I try them out. I stumbled on this one a couple years ago, think I first gave it a shot for Ben’s birthday (which is this weekend!) and absolutely loved it. I’ve never looked for a different strawberry cake recipe since.
I think the secret sauce in this recipe is that there are puréed strawberries in the batter and the icing; that’s what gives it a knock-out strawberry taste without all of the really bright unnaturally pink food-dye coloring. The puree really is a secret weapon; I think that many people don’t really believe the cupcakes are going to taste like strawberries (again, due to lack of bright pink color once they’re baked) but then when they bite it, it hits them and it’s awesome. The purée also helps the cakes stay moist, and that is a very good thing– have you ever had a really good dried out cake? Nope, didn’t think so.
I made these dairy-free to accommodate those with allergies at the party, but you can easily make these with regular dairy products if you’d like to. The dairy-free products that I used included Earth Balance’s Vegan Butter Sticks (I’m a big fan of these for dairy-free baking) and Toffuti Better Than Cream Cheese. Goodness knows that I love my dairy, but I’m telling ya, the finished cupcakes using these products are in-cred-i-ble. No one missed real butter or cream cheese at the party and many people were shocked that the cakes didn’t have dairy in them. If all animal products are out for you, you could even take this recipe a step further and make these vegan by using flax eggs instead of real eggs here.
The one thing that I did stray from in Baker Bettie’s recipe is the icing. She makes a strawberry buttercream for her cake; I made up my own version of a strawberry/cream cheese/buttercream icing. I really love a little tang from the cream cheese and it pairs really well with the cake — highly recommend it! But, I bet the regular buttercream is delicious, too.
Lastly – there are some tools that I used here that I think really make the baking experience and process go a lot smoother (note: these are affiliate links). First, there is the ever-classic KitchenAid stand mixer. This thing is going to last a lifetime which makes the price tag easier to swallow. I use it a lot and it’s a workhorse. For making the puree, I used my trusty Cyclone Blender. I’ve had this for a few years now and it still works well; makes great purees and smoothies when I need it to. Also, I love this little 8″ whisk. I’ve learned that I don’t like whisks with super long handles…I think they’re too big for my hand. This one is perfect for me and it does a ton; makes vinaigrettes, whisks batters, or whips cream. The handle is protected with a base cover which prevents any wet or dry ingredients from getting inside the handle – a nice touch. And lastly, this cookie dough scoop from Pampered Chef is one of my most favorite things of all time. I actually have a large and a medium scoop (use the smaller one for cookies), but the large is perfect for getting batter into cupcake liners here. My mom has had this cookie dough scoop for going on 10 or 12 years now and it still works like a charm.
These would be perfect for spring picnics (though the icing can melt a little) or for Memorial Day coming up. I know that they will be making another appearance later this summer at other birthday parties and honestly can’t wait to bring out the Best Ever Strawberry Cupcakes again. Enjoy!
- 12 ounces of fresh or frozen strawberries (defrosted if frozen)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons water
- 3 eggs, or 3 flax eggs if making vegan
- ½ cup almond milk, or milk of preference
- ¾ cups strawberry puree (fresh is easiest to puree, but you could defrost frozen berries and use them, too)
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ⅔ cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, softened but still cool and cut into pieces
- 1 cup Earth Balance butter sticks, at room temperature
- 12 ounces vegan cream cheese, such as Tofutti
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon almond milk (or other milk)
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup strawberry puree
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with paper or silicon liners. (*See note below if making layer cakes.)
- Make the strawberry puree by blending the strawberries with a little water; start with 2 tablespoons and add more in increments of 1 tablespoon if needed. Set aside when done.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, 3/4 cup strawberry puree, vanilla and almond extracts. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, or in the base of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt by mixing them on low for about 30 seconds. Then, with the mixer still on low, begin to add the butter in small sections or one piece at a time. You want the mixture to become sandy, not doughy, so only mix on low and do not over-mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when done.
- Pour in about half of the wet mixture that you set aside and mix on low speed until incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy (about 1 minute). Scrape down the sides again.
- Put the mixer back onto low speed and add the remaining half of the wet mixture and allow to combine.
- Scrape the bowl, if necessary, then increase speed to medium-high and beat for about 20 seconds. The batter will just barely look a little curdled.
- Using a cookie dough scoop (or a 1/4 to 1/3 measuring cup) divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners. Depending on the size of your cupcake pan, this recipe may make 18 to 24. I get about 20 cupcakes out of it.
- Bake for 22 to 26 minutes; a toothpick or chopstick should come out clean when you poke it into the center.
- Remove pans and let sit on the counter for a couple of minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.
- In the base of a large stand mixer (set it with the whisk attachment), whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 to 8 minutes until it looks light and creamy. When it does, add the cream cheese and whip for another 2 minutes until well combined.
- Add the sugar (I start at 2 cups and increase up to 3 if I feel in the mood for something sweeter) and almond milk to the bowl and mix on low until it's combined.
- Pour in the almond and vanilla extracts and then increase speed to medium. Whip the icing for 4 to 5 more minutes; it should look really creamy and light when done. It may also look a little curdled; trust me that it's not, the icing is fine. It's just that some non-dairy products slightly alter the appearance of things like icing and don't create as smooth of a finished product.
- Lastly, decrease the speed to low again and add a 1/2 cup of strawberry puree. Mix for 30 seconds to a minute to combine.
- Use icing right away to ice the cupcakes, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to ice. It'll need just a few minutes to warm up at room temperature once you need it.
- When you ice, add a couple tablespoons of icing to each cake, spread evenly and then top with a slice of fresh strawberry before serving.
- If you don't care about making these dairy-free, just swap in regular butter, cream cheese, and your milk of choice into this recipe.
- This icing may give you more than what you need; if so, refrigerate the rest for up to five days in the fridge. It's delicious on muffins, fresh fruit, or by the spoonful.
- This recipe will also make two 8-inch or 9-inch round or square cakes; feel free to make a layer cake like Baker Bettie did rather than cupcakes if you'd like!