I’m not terribly fond of cute things. Babies, puppies and Emperor penguins notwithstanding, I tend to prefer modern, rustic or retro aesthetics over twee and girly. The same goes for the food I make, which is why this is the first time in my year-plus of blogging that I’m posting a cupcake recipe.
Why start now, you may wonder. Why jump on a bandwagon that’s arguably already on its way to the car park of passé trends? I claim coercion: the strawberries made me do it. There’s just something about those plump little fruits, with their fat bottoms and bright blush, that compels me to celebrate their beauty.
To make a strawberry cupcake you have two options, the first of which is to purée some fresh berries into a rose-coloured liquid and add this to the batter. This gives the cakes a lovely pink colour and strawberry scent, but all that extra liquid can impede the rise, necessitating the addition of extra dry ingredients. Subsequently, I’ve yet to find one that actually tastes like strawberries.
The second option is far simpler: stir in some chopped fresh fruit to the batter, and call it a day. Simple enough, but something that (until now) I’ve baulked at doing. My aversion to mushy, cooked-fruit desserts is well-documented here. Though there are exceptions to the rule, it still stands; give me an apple scone or fruit cobbler, and I’m bound to turn my nose up. I’d always assumed that a fruity cupcake would be no different.
How wrong I was. Perhaps my tastes are evolving, or perhaps my love of strawberries is strong enough to withstand such textual objections. I have suspicions that the mascarpone frosting may have something to do with it; when each bite is full of such luscious creaminess, who cares about a fruity chunk or two?
Besides, did you see what I did with the mint leaves? Say it with me now: Ewwww.
Strawberry Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
makes 12 large cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 57g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm chunks
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup washed, hulled and roughly chopped strawberries
For the frosting:
- 60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 130g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 80g icing sugar
- 6 of the prettiest strawberries you can find, hulled and halved lengthwise
- 12-24 small mint leaves
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Prepare 12 muffin cups with papers if using. (I have silicone trays and usually, don’t bother with the papers, but might if I was making these again- the fruit makes them delicate.)
- Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a stand mixer or with an electric beater- just to blend and aerate the mixture. Add the butter chunks and beat briefly until they are just coated with flour. (I know it seems bizarre to have chunks of butter at this stage, but it will come together.)
- Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients in three additions, beating after each one. You will notice that the liquid and beating cause the butter to almost immediately soften and blend into the batter. Finally, gently stir in the strawberry pieces.
- Divide the mixture between the muffin cups and bake for 17-20 minutes. This cupcake shouldn’t colour much but will feel firm when lightly touched on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Cream the butter on its own until quite soft, then add the mascarpone and beat together until just blended. Sift in the icing sugar and quickly combine until it comes together smoothly- you don’t want to overwork this frosting, or the mascarpone may separate. Scrape into a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
- When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost with the chilled frosting, using any method you like (both rustic and piped methods work with this frosting). Top each cupcake with a strawberry half and a few mint leaves.