Nothing screams summer in Britain like strawberries. I know it's not yet summer, but with the lovely warm sunny spell we recently had, it was easy to imagine it had arrived early. And so I simply couldn't resist these gorgeous berries from my local supermarket. I do try and buy fruit and veg in season, and local if I can. Marked 'early season', they were at least British, and not too far from Cardiff (as the crow flies), being grown in Somerset. I must admit though, they had me at 'hellooo ... I'm a beautiful, luscious, red strawberry and I taste divine'. No more, no less.
Now I know that some would say it's a crime to eat these any other way than au naturel. But I have always wanted to make fresh strawberry cupcakes. While I've tried some perfectly adequate supermarket ones recently, I thought home made would be miles better. With that firmly in mind, they found their way into my trolley.
I adapted Mary Berry's cupcake recipe from 100 Cakes and Bakes (which I last used for the Weekly Bake Off) here, using 3 tbpsns of fresh strawberry purée instead of the milk. I also guesstimated my own buttercream as I found Mary Berry's recipe stingy for the number of cupcakes. I also wanted to use more of the puréed fruit to flavour and colour the buttercream.
Ingredients (makes 10 cupcakes)
100g softened unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
3 tbspn milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
3 tbspn strawberry purée
150g softened unsalted butter
300g sifted icing sugar (but use more or less to get the consistency you like)
200 - 300ml of fresh strawberry purée
Preheat the oven to 160 fan / 180 conventional / gas 4. Line your muffin pan with cupcake liners.
To make the strawberry purée, blitz the strawberries in a food blender with a little icing sugar (to taste really - I used about a tablespoon). Then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside. I used two, 250g punnets of strawberries and reserved five of the smaller ones for topping the cupcakes.
For the cupcakes, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mixing gently until smooth. Add in the flour, and mix again. Finally add in 3 tbspns of the strawberry purée, and mix gently until incorporated, being careful not to overbeat the mix.
Scoop into the prepared cups, dividing equally between them. I use an old-fashioned ice-cream scoop (2 1/2 inch diameter) for mine and found this amount of mix gives 10 cupcakes.
Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until risen and and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and after leaving to cool for approx 5 - 10 minutes, turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream frosting, I first reduced the 200 - 300ml of strawberry purée by simmering over a low heat in a small pan. This left me with about half the original volume - around 100 - 150ml. Leave this to cool completely, so that it does not melt the butter.
I normally use my stand mixer to make frosting, so this is what I do. Cream the butter slightly to break it up, then add in little by little the icing sugar. Once you think it's nearly ready, add in the strawberry purée and mix well [it may look a little curdled at first, but carry on mixing and it will come back together, trust me]. Then, add in a little more icing sugar until you get the consistency you want. Leave to beat for a few minutes to ensure that it's really smooth and creamy, and that the strawberry purée is mixed throughout the frosting. Decorate how you want.
I used my Wilton 1M tip to pipe rose swirls (you start at the centre and move to the outside edge of the cupcake), and then used some strawberry slices to decorate some of them.
The cupcakes were a little denser than normal, but still really moist. The lovely fresh strawberry aroma and flavour came through in spades. I was really pleased with them, and they were definitely better than shop bought.
The irony, of course, as I sit and type this, is that the weather in Cardiff has now taken a turn for the worst. Summer seems so very far away again. But at least not in my cake tin ...