Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

 

The only trace of my nephew’s and nieces’ visit is a swimming pool still littered with pool toys, flippers, goggles and floating loungers.  The last few days were a whirlwind of activity as we tried to squeeze in as much fun as possible until their departure this past Sunday.  We were tired at the end of each day…wait, correction.  I was tired at the end of each day (and also the beginning of the next).  Kids have boundless energy–the best I could do was follow along.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  Moms, you have my admiration and respect for doing what you do every day!

 

For the kids, each day started and ended the same way–by swimming in the pool.  I was no match for its allure but I understand. I was–still am–the same way. I love being in the water.  So when the girls forgot about our plans to bake together Sunday morning, I passed on a more involved cake recipe and decided to go the easy route: cupcakes.

I’ve mentioned here before that I would always choose to bake a cake over cupcakes but there is something to be said about the convenience of the latter.  Plus, they have kid appeal, a feature I was after since my youngest nieces, aged 5 and 3, would also be joining us later in the day.  Not having much time to research recipes, I decided to use my fresh strawberries to make the famous Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes.  I don’t normally select recipes lightly and I hoped that I wouldn’t regret my rush decision.

You might wonder about my reservation to use a recipe from a cupcake bakery with an almost cult-like following.  The truth is, I was not impressed by my first (and only) taste of Sprinkles cupcakes.  When the bakery set up shop at the Stanford Shopping Center a few years ago, I was struck by the lines that went out the door, day in and day out.  When the excitement finally waned a few months later, I stepped over the threshold, my high expectations in tow and anxious to taste cupcake perfection.

But it didn’t happen.  Permission to be honest?  While the cupcakes were certainly a nice treat, the Wow! factor I was expecting based on their reputation was missing.  My experience using their recipe at home was similar.  I liked the cupcake but I was not wowed.  The batter was bursting with flavor, full of the essence of fresh strawberries.  My disappointment was in the texture of the finished product–I was hoping for light and airy little cakes but mine were a bit dense.  This is not a bad thing–again, my judgment was based on my high expectations.  I added some chopped strawberries to the batter and I think this helped to make them better–the strawberry chunks were a nice surprise as I bit into my little cake.  The frosting? I skipped the Sprinkles recipe in favor of my favorite cream cheese version from Joy of Baking.  I simply added some strawberry purée to the mix.  I admit, this was a nice touch.

So tell me.  Am I being overly critical?  Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of Cupcake Wars on Food Network and fancy myself a qualified judge when really, I am not.  These may be good cupcakes but I still need help understanding their mass appeal.  Using a completely subjective cupcake grading system for the ultra picky (me), I give these a B, but don’t let me discourage you from trying them.  They were a hit with the kids (and as it turns out, with my office mates, too!).

Update 5/1/2012:  This has become, by far, my most popular post since publishing it in June 2011.  Sharon, a reader, has kindly shared that the reason these cupcakes are dense is that the recipe should have 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in it.  I have updated the recipe to reflect this. And as for my frosting, with that little bit of puree, it will come out a bit runny. I don’t mind this at all but others have worked around this by adding more confectioner’s sugar than I listed below.  Hmm, maybe I should give it another try!

 

 

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

* Cupcake recipe from Sprinkles Bakery, Frosting from Joy of Baking, makes 12 – 16

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen whole strawberries (thawed if frozen) (plus 3 or 4 chopped to add to batter, optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (Updated 5/2/2012: recommended by reader to add this to solve texture issue)
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk , room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg , room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites , room temperature
For the Frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • (scant) two cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh strawberry purée
  1. To prepare the cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with baking cups (or use silicone molds like I did).
  2. Purée strawberries in a small food processor; you should have about 1/3 cup of puree. Add a few more strawberries if necessary, or save any extra puree for the frosting.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla and strawberry puree.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.  Stir in the chopped fresh strawberries if you decide to use them.
  6. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.
  7. To prepare the frosting:  Using a hand mixer, beat the top three ingredients together until well combined.  Gradually add the powdered sugar as you continue beating the mixture.  Lastly, stir in the strawberry purée.
  8. When the cupcakes have cooled to room temperature, add the frosting.
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Comments

  1. How fun! Kids’ energies never cease to amze me. Great sweets!

  2. It is hard to master a cupcake or cake in my opinion! I always have this perfect version in my head, and then it isn’t quite the same. They look yummy though! I am sure the kids had a great time visiting you!

  3. Pretty pictures Jean! I just love the color red, I would much rather watch episodes of cup cake wars than the iron chef and I think you are fully qualified to be a judge;-) I think today is a good day to bake, I wish I had a few baskets of strawberries on hand- might brighten my day a bit;-)

  4. Yay for honesty. I honestly have trouble believing that any cupcake is good enough to stand up to that hype anyhow. GREG

  5. Beautiful looking cupcakes! Well I won’t be the best person to answer your question because I’m more on your side…they do look pretty but I feel there are tons of more refined sweets…Maybe I might offend someone if I say cupcakes are not refined. I know icing is the key. I’ve tried many famous cupcakes around here but I don’t get as excited as tasting fresh bread from famous bakeries or any other sweets like macarons, let’s say. We need to hear from cupcake experts. =)

  6. I love seeing all of the berry recipes. What a cute dessert for the 4th of July!

  7. I have never seen cupcake wars. Maybe the show hasn’t hit Australia yet. So I’ll just go with your cupcakes that I think are beautiful. Strawberries at the height of the season have pride of place in my summer desserts.

  8. Super cute cupcakes! I love the napkins you used in the photos as well. I’m with you on your opinion of sprinkles. I think maybe it was just super popular at the begining of the cupcake craze cause they did have super inventive flavors that standard bakeries werent doing?

  9. i think you’ll be a great judge at the Cupcake wars. Even if you were not WOWed, the cupcakes look great. Love the strawberry on top, and what’s important is that it was a hit for the kids.
    Thanks for sharing Jean

  10. No you’re not being too critical. They are good but not exceptional cupcakes. I think that they get more hype than they deserve. I wouldn’t turn one down, but I wouldn’t stand in a huge line for one either.

  11. ooooo… strawberries AND cupcakes. *Drools* These look delicious. Very definitely buzzed :-)

  12. I’ve made the Sprinkles strawberry cupcakes a million times, because I’m utterly compelled by the dense, sticky, fresh-strawberry results. But I agree–they are not what I expected, and they are certainly not the best cupcakes ever. I crave them in the same way I often crave sub-par supermarket chocolate chip cookies, the really soft flour-y tasting ones. They hold a certain charm for me. But there MUST be a better strawberry cupcake recipe out there somewhere. Oh, and their frosting recipe SUCKS. I will definitely be using yours next time I make these–any frosting with cream cheese automatically wins my affections.

  13. It’s always a little disappointing when the thing you’re making doesnt turn out exactly as you had hoped. But I’ll tell you what, they’re still gorgeous little cupcakes!

  14. I think by now you know my opinion about cupcakes. It is hard to completely fail and make something not edible but it is even harder to make them so good as to wow me. And in particular, every time I’ve tried cupcakes from famous places I have been a little bit disappointed. I don’t know if it is our high expectations or the fact that, like you, I also prefer cakes over cupcakes. So I appreciate your honesty ’cause I alway feel the same with cupcakes. Having said that…yours look wonderful though and I’m glad you opted for a trusted cream cheese frosting recipe!

  15. I have to admit I hadn’t visited your blog in a while..Wow, it looks amazing!!! You know why? Yes, the photos are great, the styling couldn’t be prettier…but you COOK, as simple and as important as that !!! Isn’t that what a food blog is about?
    Congrats!

  16. Jean, nicely put.

    Hard to believe that someone like me doesn’t like sweets, but the rare occasions I’ve had cupcakes left me disappointed. You won’t see me waiting in line at Sprinkles, but I’ll never turn down one of your cupcakes!

  17. tasteofbeirut says:

    I have tried the Sprinkles cupcakes once, out of curiosity (seeing the long lines, I figured I should); well, the fact is: I don’t remember what they tasted like! which is weird for me, because I remember food more than anything; like the bread I had at Tartine Bakery in San Fransisco.
    Well I like these cupcakes because of the addition of berry purée; will try them soon, I am sure.

  18. It’s so hard to keep up with kids…they have TOO much energy! :)

    The cupcakes look gorgeous…too bad they didn’t live up to your expectations… but if the others loved them, then you’re just being too hard on yourself. Or watching too many episodes of Cupcake Wars. :)

  19. Oh, you’re totally not alone–I don’t get the Sprinkles fad. There’s one in Newport Beach and it’s always crowded crowded crowded. I simply do not understand the appeal. Strawberry cupcakes sound good, though. I’ll have to make some the next time I get some strawberries. I’m glad you had a great time with your family! Hope you’re having a great holiday weekend :-)

  20. While I am a mom to two kids, my kids are older and I like it! I see so many of these moms who not only deal with the wee ones all day, they produce beautiful food and even blog about it! And they have time to blog more regularly than I do! Yes… kudos to the super moms!!
    I’m not really a cake fan, and only occasionally find one that wows me. Usually it’s a texture thing with me too, sometimes they textures just blow you away, then others are just more of the same. Your photos are lovely!

  21. What a nice auntie you are! The cupcakes are gorgeous…but I know I want my desserts to always taste as good as they look. I’m certain you’ll find the perfect recipe…and I’m looking forward to hearing about it :)

  22. These look great and I will be trying this receipe this week. I just have 2 questions about the frosting…is it stiff enough to pipe onto the cupcakes, and will it melt easily if served at an outside party? Thank you!

    • Hi, Tricia. The two tablespoons of strawberry pureée soften the frosting a bit. I’m not experienced with piping, in fact, I used a plastic storage bag with one end snipped off. It might help to chill the frosting a bit but I do recommend keeping the cupcakes indoors for your party. The frosting tasted great, though. I hope you like it. :-)

  23. The cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous little cupcakes! I can’t wait to make these for my family. I hope mine turn out as good as yours. Great post!!

  24. Hi Jean! Love the strawberry cupcakes! So pretty! We are in synch (sort-of) because I have been thinking about making Sprinkle’s strawberry cupcakes (it is my favorite flavor there) but haven’t actually gotten around to doing so. :) Sounds like you had a busy, yet fun-filled time w/ your nieces and nephew. Isn’t it ridiculous how much energy kids have?!? Every day I wake up tired and go to sleep each night equally tired – only to start the cycle again. :) Hope you are well!

  25. I didn’t make the cupcakes from your recipe, but I did use your frosting recipe. It came out fantastic (though I did use more confectioner’s sugar than the recipe called for). Thanks for sharing!

  26. Thank you for your recipe. I made them yesterday for my daughter’s second birthday, and thanksgiving. Everyone enjoyed them. The frosting is excellent, but I will agree with you that they are a bit denser than a cupcake should be. I did add the chopped strawberries to the batter and I think that helped. They are very good though. Thank you!

    • Kathryn,
      Thanks so much for your feedback on the cupcakes. I’m relieved that I’m not the only one who found them a bit dense but I’m glad that they worked out for your daughter’s party (and Thanksgiving). The frosting is a keeper, though, I think. Thanks again!

  27. I just finished making a trial run of these cupcakes for my daughters birthday this weekend, I forgot to sift the flour and they ended up sticking horribly to the wrappers and the icing sugar turned out super runny. Super dissapointed. I was just wondering
    if I should try them again, my daughter really wants strawberry. Cupcakes. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Tristan, I’m sorry to hear about your experience with this recipe. Since it’s not my recipe, I’m not sure what to suggest. I happened to use silicone baking cups so I didn’t have a problem with sticking. Their dense texture was my issue with them. As for the frosting, I would try a bit less puree, maybe. I’ll see if I can find another recipe to direct you to.

  28. I just tried the Sprinkles recipe as well and found out that the recipe posted online is missing an ingredient (1/2 tsp baking soda), which is why the cupcakes are coming out dense. I didn’t like the frosting though, way too sweet, so I’m really looking forward to trying your recipe! Thanks!

    • lemonsandanchovies says:

      Oh, is that what’s missing in the recipe? Maybe I should try it again. If you do try the frosting, please let me know what you think. Thanks so much for taking the time to give me feedback, Sharon. :)

  29. Anna Thi says:

    I just made a cake using your frosting recipe. The frosting is ok, I taste a lot of sweetness, but it doesn’t give the intense strawberry flavor that I’d like.

  30. I love the sound of this strawberry cream cheese frosting!

    I agree with your opinion of Sprinkles. If I’m going to eat a cupcake that’s not homemade, I like Kara’s Cupcakes.

  31. Nice recipe except for one thing. The frosting ends up way too runny. I have made it twice now and both times it’s been way too loose. The strawberry puree really thins it out too much. I added additional powdered sugar which helped a bit but it’s still not really thick enough to pipe. I’m going to leave it in the fridge overnight and see if that tightens it up a bit but I’d appreciate some advice on how to avoid this in the future.

    Thanks.

    • lemonsandanchovies says:

      Hi, Cole. Thanks so much for your feedback. I think adding more sugar like you did was the best thing to do. I’m afraid I’m not a frosting expert at all. I’ll have to ask around and get back to you on this. :)

  32. I wish I could leave a great review. I just can’t seem to make myself like the soupy frosting recipe. I even added extra powdered sugar. It just made it more sweet. It’s still so thin it runs right off the cupcakes. :(

    • mary sue says:

      I love this recipe., The trick is to use the cream cheese while it is cold, and beat it for a while.

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