Strawberry Cupcakes

I love a good cupcake.  I guess, from the cupcake shows and the cupcake stores, I am not alone.  Eating a cupcake brings you back to your childhood, in a way. Do you lick off the frosting first?  Do you peel the whole thing or just peel back a part of the paper?  Do you nibble it slowly or pop the whole thing in your mouth (remember, I have teenagers)? It is instant portion control, too.

I don't mind a cake mix.  I think it is a good starting point for many cakes. I can't stand canned frosting, however.  There is just something wrong with it.  These cupcakes don't use a mix, however.  They are nothing like the strawberry cake mix cakes.  They are a little dense - almost like a little poundcake with a strawberry punch.  So good.  The recipe makes 2 dozen (remember that I doubled the recipe in the pictures.)  One of my kiddos frosted them for me :)

There are a couple of tricks to making really good poundcake.  One is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature.  I don't know why that helps, but it really does. The other is to not overcook.  Start checking your cupcakes before the buzzer buzzes.  Okay, one more - always use sugar that says "pure cane".  If it doesn't say it, it isn't.  Cane sugar bakes better.  Period.

Strawberry Cupcakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup) brought to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (3 ounce) box strawberry-flavored gelatin
1 cup mashed, hulled and stemmed fresh strawberries
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
cupcake liners

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put the cupcake liners in the muffin pan.

Put butter and sugar in a bowl.  Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high.  Keep mixing until it looks light and fluffy.  This is called "creaming".  While you are creaming the butter and sugar, stop the mixer two or three times to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

While the butter/sugar mixture is creaming, sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the gelatin to mix well.  Set aside.

In another bowl, mix the mashed strawberries, milk and vanilla together.  Set aside.

Crack open the eggs into another bowl. (I always do this because it is easier to get out any eggshell that may accidentally drop in)

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add one egg to butter and sugar.  Mix.  Add another egg.  Mix.  Add the last and mix.

When eggs are completely mixed into the butter, add 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Mix and scrape down sides.  Add 1/2 of the milk mixture.  Mix and scrape down sides.  Repeat this, ending with the flour mixture.  Mix until smooth.

Scoop an even amount of batter into each muffin cup.  Bake until a tooth pick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 ounce) box cream cheese, room temperature (use the good stuff)
4 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 Tablespoons strawberry jam, slightly melted in the microwave
1 (1 pound) box plus 1/4 cup confectioners sugar (or more if needed to thicken frosting)
Red food coloring (optional)

Put the cream cheese, butter and jam in the bowl of a mixer.  Mix on low speed intil combined.  Add the confectioners sugar and mix until completely combined.  Increase speed to high and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  You might have to put the frosting in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to stiffen it up before frosting the cooled cupcakes.

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