Yes, yes. I'm a bit late to be posting such festive Fourth of July cupcakes. Actually. Even if it was around Fourth of July still.. I wouldn't be making cupcakes to represent those colours. That's just not me. Unless it's Halloween. Mmmm. I would so make some chocolate cupcakes with orange frosting. I love Halloween. But I digress.
You see, the reason I am posting such obnoxiously flamboyant American cupcakes is that the theme for this month's Cupcake Hero is Red, White, and Blue. Fun.
It took me quite a while to figure out what to do. After countless ideas going between my friend Michael and I of all the sweet and savory ideas we could come up with, I finally settled on these. Strawberry and Malibu Lemon Cupcakes.
I found a lemon cake recipe, attempted to colour it blue. And it worked. Well. When it was still batter. Now... everyone has been saying, "You just had to have some green, huh?" Sigh. Oh, well.
Since the blue in the cupcakes pretty much failed, I threw on some blue star sprinkles to make up for it. Which I didn't want to do. But I did it in the name of Cupcake Hero. I really do hate sprinkles.
The frosting was a recipe for a coconut buttercream I found on my hunt for a lemon buttercream. I decided to try it out instead. But I chose not to get the imitation coconut extract which is all you can find in stores. Instead, I used a couple tablespoons of Malibu. If you want, you could just use extract. Not that much. But. To make it "kid-friendly." But truthfully. There really isn't that much that I don't see why a child couldn't consume it. Because think about it. If I had used -all- the buttercream on twenty-four cupcakes, that would be about a quarter teaspoon of alcohol to each cupcake. Now really? That's not much at all. And yes, it only made twenty-two cupcakes. But I still had about a cup and a half of buttercream left. So each cupcake probably had less than a quarter teaspoon.
And finally.. my red. I used a strawberry puree. Really not that hard. Frozen strawberries, thawed, blended, little bit of sugar and lemon juice. My only problem was that I usually just get the one-pound store-brand bag. But of course they were out. So I had to spend twice the amount on a ten-ounce bag of organic frozen strawberries. I don't have a problem with organic. I just have a problem with the price. You can try preaching to me about how the benefits make up for the cost. But I don't really want to hear it. You know you would so rather spend a dollar fifty on a pound of strawberries than three bucks on ten ounces. It's simple logic.
But anyway. With all the squeezing lemons and making strawberry puree.. I started craving strawberry lemonade. So I did the quick and easy thing. I took a can of Minute Maid Light Lemonade, swirled a bit of strawberry puree in and presto. Strawberry lemonade. And yes. It was good. And no I don't feel guilty about using canned lemonade because psht. Five calories and I don't have to squeeze lemons? Thanks. But you can make your own if you'd like. After making lemonade from lemons almost every other week at school the whole second semester.. I'm done. And even so. Does that not look good? Well. It looks good to me at least.
So. Onto the cupcakes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any, so I just used sour milk: 1 tablespoon lemon juice and enough milk to make one cup.)
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
blue dye if you really want
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line two cupcake pans with 22 muffin cups. If you can get 24 cupcakes from the batter, congratulations. I couldn't. :)
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat until well-blended on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.
Fill each cupcake cup about two-thirds full and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Malibu Buttercream (adapted from Epicurious)
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened (I just quartered each stick lengthwise and cut that into tablespoon pieces and seperated about half of them into individual squares and put it back in the fridge to firm up a bit whilst the sugar syrup was cooking.)
2 tablespoons Malibu Caribbean Rum (the original Coconut flavour.)
Beat the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat just before stiff peaks form.
Meanwhile, stir together the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and washing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. (I actually didn't do that. And I probably never will because I tend not to slosh it around that much. But you can if you'd like.)
When syrup reaches a boil, put your candy thermometer into it and continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches about 238-242 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately remove from heat, turn your mixer back on (if you had it off like me) and slowly pour the hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, beating constantly at high speed and making sure to not pur directly on the side of the bowl. Beat meringue until the bowl is cool to the touch. It took me about 20 minutes. When you have about five minutes left, take your butter out of the fridge. Oh. And my butter was still a little cold after five minutes and my meringue was just a tad warm. They canceled each other out.
At this point you want to change out your whisk for your paddle attachment and scrapes down the sides of the bowl. On medium speed, gradually add butter about two pieces at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (I just threw about two pieces in, waited about ten seconds, and threw about two more in.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished. If that doesn't work, try chilling it a bit in case your meringue was too hot.) Finally, add the Malibu and mix thoroughly.
10 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed.
2 teaspoons sugar, more or less (to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, more or less (to taste)
Place the strawberries and their juice into your blender. Pulse a few times until pureed. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice until it's the taste you want.
Finally, take a cooled cupcake, pipe or spread on a bit of the frosting, spoon over some strawberry puree, sprinkle on a few sprinkles (or not) and consume. They're amazing.