Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

I'm continuing my newfound appreciation of cake with some cupcakes!

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After making this Mint Chocolate Chip Checkered Cake a few weeks ago, it lead me to think about making a Neapolitan Checkered Cake which lead me to wonder how to make a strawberry flavored cake. Sometimes the paths that lead me to things of inspiration are very, very random. 

To celebrate strawberry season even more, I did some research and stumbled upon Sally's recipe which seemed to encompass all of the baking ideals I hold dear. This means no artificial flavored anything. All of the strawberry flavor comes purely from the fruit itself. The cake batter contains a strawberry puree and the frosting incorporates freeze dried strawberries. 

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I also really, really enjoyed the crumb of this cake. It has a white cake base which requires the egg whites to be whipped into the creamed butter and sugar. Because of my avoidance of making cakes over the past few years, this process was quite new to me. I appreciate how this method makes the cake light and fluffy and not dense or dry at all (the two things I absolutely hate about cake). 

Although Sally's original recipe makes a two layer cake, I was feeling up to making cupcakes which I haven't made in months. I'll admit, my precise cupcake measuring needs some work. Send help please, Kristen? But I cursed myself when I realized I hadn't sprayed the paper linings with vegetable spray but I think I prefer that this makes handling the cupcakes after baking a lot less greasier. They also didn't stick as much as I had expected. But maybe that was just this batter? Whatever the reason, I am grateful that the cupcakes came out cleanly from the liners.

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I love the combination of strawberries and chocolate so I chose to pipe a surprise in the middle of these cupcakes. It was fun to wait in anticipation as my coworkers/friends I shared these with found the chocolate buttercream in the middle. This part (along with the chocolate covered strawberry decoration) is completely optional but it is my favorite part of this recipe. Plus, piping in the chocolate buttercream until the top of the cupcake is about to explode is pretty dang satisfying.

Have I convinced you yet to make these yet? If so, It's totally possible to prep the cupcakes, and both frostings a day in advance and assemble the next day. I always feel like making cakes is twice the work of making pies, but in this case, I would totally do it again.  

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I told my boss that two of these cupcakes is basically one slice of cake. So I'm also giving you permission to eat more than one in one sitting. ;)


Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Yields: 24-30 cupcakes

Notes

You can make the strawberry puree a day in advance of making the cake. It needs to cool down completely before adding it to the batter.

Baked cupcakes and both frostings can also be made in advance of assembly.

Ingredients

Reduced Strawberry Puree

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed and cored

Cake

  • 2½ cups (250g) sifted cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (75g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120ml) milk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup reduced strawberry puree (see below)
  • optional: 1 small drop of pink or red food coloring

Chocolate Buttercream

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries
  • one 8-ounce block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (optional)

  • 24-30 whole strawberries, washed and patted dry
  • 1 cup melted chocolate

Steps

Reduced Strawberry Puree

Puree strawberries which should result in a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over low-medium heat for 25-30 minutes until you're left with half or the puree coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. You can make this the day before. Just cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. 

Cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. 

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until just until combined. Do not overmix. Whisk in ½ cup of reduced strawberry puree, making sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick. If desired, stir in the drop of red/pink food coloring.

Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the cupcakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cupcakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream

In the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. If frosting is too thick or thin, add a bit more milk or powdered sugar. Place chocolate buttercream in a piping bag with a large ¼-inch tip or in a plastic bag with the tip snipped off. Set aside.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around ½ cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners' sugar, strawberry powder, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy. Add 1 more tablespoon of milk to slightly thin out, if desired. Taste, then add a pinch of salt if needed.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (optional)

Line a plate with wax paper and set aside. Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. To melt in the microwave, nuke for 10 seconds and then stir. Continue this process until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. To dip strawberries, it helps to dip them in a bowl or cup that is deep rather than one that is shallow. If you are having a hard time getting the chocolate to coat evenly, the chocolate may be too cool. Nuke in the microwave for another 10 seconds to get it warm and glossy again. Set to dry completely on wax paper.

Assembly

Place the end of the chocolate buttercream-filled piping bag as far as it will go in the center of each cupcake (about halfway through). Squeeze until you feel the frosting trying to explode through the top. Stop at that point. Continue with the rest of the frosting. Each cupcake will get about a teaspoon of chocolate buttercream.

Place 1 tablespoon of strawberry cream cheese frosting on top of the chocolate buttercream-filled cupcakes. Using a knife or offset spatula, spread the frosting to the edge and create a little swirl if desired. Set aside and continue with the rest of the chocolate buttercream-filled cupcakes. Top with chocolate covered strawberries if desired. 

Cupcakes topped with chocolate covered strawberries will last 2 days max. Cupcakes decorated without chocolate covered strawberries will last 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. To freeze, place cupcakes without chocolate covered strawberries on a sheet pan and freeze until solid. Carefully transfer to a Ziploc bag.