I have done a lot of cupcake baking in the last year. I baked 300 of these for The Athlete's graduation party, made my first marshmallow fluff frosting, and used lavender and liquor to great effect. Today I'm glad to say that, as a result of all my cupcake trials and errors, I have a little piece of wisdom to impart -- a piece I haven't seen mentioned on any of the other blogs I regularly read. (It's simple, so I hope you aren't getting your hopes up for some earth-shattering cupcake tidbit.)
Cupcake bakers like me love to bake in those little white soufflé cups (sometimes called "nut and party cups") because they eliminate the need for muffin tins and they make our cupcakes look extra special. Yes, they are fantastic, indeed -- unless your cupcake, upon cooling, shrinks away from the sides of the cup, leaving you with a less-than-eye-catching final product. Those ugly, shrinky cupcakes are a very bad thing, but perhaps a thing of the past because I have finally figured out the common denominator in all my contracted cupcake experiences: egg whites. All of the egg-white-only recipes I have tried in the cups have pulled away from the sides, but the recipes using whole eggs yielded cupcakes that were a picture of pleated perfection. A simple deduction, for sure, but one that will save me both time and money spent in remaking recipes. Three cheers for learning!
Oh, I suppose you want to hear about these strawberry cupcakes? Well aside from being a little on the shrinky side (a sin hidden with the swirl of buttercream), they were lovely -- very fresh and light. Swiss buttercream is a little fussier than the standard American version I usually opt for, but it is by no means difficult and it's an excellent choice when you need a light, not-too-sweet frosting. Also, I really wanted a true strawberry flavor to shine in these cupcakes, so I used high-quality preserves and would recommend that you do the same. (The original recipe calls for straining the preserves used in the frosting, but I don't think that is necessary.)
Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Cupcakes: Luscious Bakeshop Favorites From Your Home Kitchen
Makes 12 cupcakes
3 tablespoons strawberry preserves
1/3 cup fresh strawberries, small dice, plus 12 whole strawberries for garnish
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
To Make the Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together the preserves and diced strawberries. Set aside.
In another small bowl, whisk together the flour baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour, beating until just incorporated. Fold in the strawberry mixture.
Fill your cupcake containers of choice 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before filling, frosting, or garnishing as desired.
Frosted cupcakes may be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
To Make the Frosting:
Combine the egg whites and sugar in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes.
Return the bowl to the mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg white mixture on high until it is cooled to room temperature and holds stiff peaks, about 6 minutes. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Fold in the strawberry preserves and use right away.