The very brief bout of warmer temperatures last week made my longing for spring and summer even worse than it already was. While I was grocery shopping, I took advantage of the sales on berries left over from Valentine’s Day, but didn’t have any purpose in mind for the strawberries I bought. Then the idea came to me – a summer-inspired strawberry lemonade cupcake. Delicious! I used a lemon cupcake base, folded in chunks of fresh strawberries, and topped them with a strawberry cream cheese frosting. The result was a refreshing blend of both flavors, and very cute with a strawberry lemon garnish. Personally, I would have preferred the lemon flavor to be even more pronounced, so I think poking the cupcakes and drizzling with a lemonade syrup before frosting would achieve this nicely. However, Ben disagrees with me and thinks more lemon would be too much. (I’m right.) So, I’ll leave it up to you and make the syrup optional. Give them a try, and hopefully they’ll give you a taste of summertime despite the cold weather!
Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
Yield: about 21 cupcakes
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
For the lemonade syrup:
1 cup lemonade concentrate, thawed
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the frosting:
1 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
18 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Stir together with a fork and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add in the milk and mix until smooth. Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Fold in the fresh strawberries with a spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the lemonade concentrate and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lemonade syrup. Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in. (Place wax paper underneath your cooling rack so you don’t make a mess!)
To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds, and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired texture and flavor of frosting (I added about 7 tablespoons of puree). Frost cupcakes as desired and garnish with fresh strawberries and lemon slices.