I come from a family of romantics. That’s actually a lie, but it was also the best lead I could think of. My mother is about as sentimental as a log about most things–my dad is the one who frets about what to make us for our annual “Sweetheart Dinner” which is basically the cutest name for anything, ever.
What I could say that is not a lie: I come from a family that loves strawberries and cream. Since strawberry season started in Plant City about a month ago we have gone through god only knows how many pounds of strawberries. Think about it like this: yesterday we had three pounds of strawberries in our house. Today we have less than one.
Perhaps I am partly this way because of all the romance novels I read (it’s a lot), but I am a huge fan of the delicate intimate statement of love rather than the sweeping, Aeneid-sized declaration. Something about the internet makes people want to post their feelings to the world, or, even worse, tweet them. Using twitter to start revolutions? That’s legit. Using it to talk about how much you love your girlfriend? No. Stop being self-indulgent.
Which is silly to say, since having a blog is all about being self-indulgent. But that’s only if you look at it in a boring way. I like to tell myself that I am doing this to help you. After all—without this, you wouldn’t have this recipe. (Which was supposed to be the next recipe for Cooking With Willamae, until the producer and I both basically senioritised out).
Instead, I made these as the dessert for our (day before) Valentine’s Day dinner, and for once, I put some thought into how they look. Which is adorable.
Strawberry Cream Cake Cupcakes
From Cooks Illustrated, adapted by me
1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces) (cake flour. Bah! I opted instead to simply sift my all-purpose flour twice)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature (I would reccommend separating them before they soften)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, dried, and stemmed
2-3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch table salt
8 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream
FOR THE CAKES:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 14 muffin holes with cupcake liners.
Beat flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in mixing bowl. Beat in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla; beat until smooth.
In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes.
With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds.
Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.
Pour batter into prepared pans (I used I think 1/4 cup?) fill the pans about 3/4 full and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 15-18
Cool in pan 10 minutes, then empty the cupcakes onto a wire rack. Cool them until they’re cool all the way.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING:
Pick out your prettiest berries and slice them (I did hearts!) You will want some number more than 14. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 1 to 3 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). (I found the sauce part to be unnecessary, though I did it.)
In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). (Or just blend them a little bit. not to a puree, but so that it’s chunky and weird looking.)
In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes.
Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups). (my guess is that you can make less and it will be totally fine.)
NOTE: The reason why I made cupcakes and not cake is because berries are soggy. So if you make all of your cupcakes at once and do not eat them immediately it is your fault. Just so you know! Because while this is a very dense cake it doesn’t take much in the way of berry juices to make it soggy. Soggy cake is gross cake. So fill your cupcakes only when you are ready to eat them!
On filling your cupcakes: My method which is pretty standard is to stick the knife in (insert it at a 45 degree angle) a little ways (1/4 inch?) from the side of the cake. Then you cut around in a circle and wind up with a cone. You trim off most of the bottom of this, leaving only the top. In the hole put in as much strawberry filling as you can fit. Add some more whipped cream if feeling daring. Put on the lid. Then cover the top in as much whipped cream as you can handle and decorate it adorably with strawberries! Serve immediately to the ones you love. It would be wasted on anyone else.