Spring is definitely in the air here on Chincoteague Island, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The marshes are starting to return back to their vibrant green color, we have a family of bunnies that live in a thicket right next to the house, and we’ve been treated to a handful of almost 70 degree days.
But, in places like sunny Florida – it’s springlike temperatures pretty much all year. I had the opportunity to work with a couple of different wonderful Florida based companies this week in my kitchen, and it was the perfect way to kick-start spring around here! First off, Natalie’s Juice Company. Their sales rep, Brandy, was at the Ocean City Food Show that we attended weekend before last. She is so sweet, and sent me home with a wonderful sampling of their juices to take home. They are wonderfully fresh and flavorful. The least pasteurization that’s allowed, so it really is like drinking juice directly from the fruit. They’re wonderful!
In additional to that wonderfulness, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association generously overnighted me a huge box of glorious, juicy, ripe, red strawberries. The possibilities are endless, right? Look for another great strawberry recipe next week. I can’t thank you enough, Sue!
So naturally, I couldn’t help doing something together with the two of them! These strawberry lemonade cupcakes immediately came to mind. I took my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, and added in a bit of lemon zest and good lemonade. Then I roasted the strawberries to release some of the moisture, and intensify the flavor (a trick I learned from my buddy, Annie). Added 3/4 of them to the cupcake batter, then pureed the remaining amount to add to the buttercream frosting, along with a little more lemon zest and lemonade.
All I can say is “wowza!”. They are absolutely perfect. Light, tender, and moist – bursting with the fresh flavor of strawberries and lemons. I garnished with a slice of strawberry and lemon, which I thought was so simple and pretty. So, if you’re feeling like a taste of spring…definitely make these soon!
Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
zest from 1 lemon
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup good lemonade (Natalie’s is the best…IMHO)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
sliced strawberries and lemon wedges, for garnish
For the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
zest from 1 lemon
4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 cup remaining roasted strawberries, pureed
1/4 cup lemonade
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss strawberries with 1 Tbsp sugar and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until strawberries are soft and have released most of their juice. Remove from the oven, and scrap into a small bowl to cool. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Add in the sugar and lemon zest, and beat for 2 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk, lemonade, vanilla and lemon extracts in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Roughly chop 3/4 of the roasted strawberries and fold into the batter.
Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter and lemon zest over medium speed for 1 minute. Reduce speed to low, and carefully add in the confectioners sugar. Add the vanilla extract, lemonade, and roasted strawberry puree. Increase speed to medium, and beat until smooth and frosting is combined.
Frost cupcakes as desired (I used Wilton 2D) and garnish with a slice of strawberry and lemon right before serving (the acid in the lemon tends to break down the frosting after an hour or so, so watch yo’self!).
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Natalie’s and the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. I was provided with complimentary products to review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.