Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Roasted Strawberry Buttercream / by Chelsea Zwieg

I am someone, especially when it comes to baking, who does not like to make the same recipe twice. There are about 9,000 recipes that I want to try out on a daily basis, so to spend time making something that I've already done seems like an injustice to the stacks of food magazines, cookbooks and ideas that are floating around me. But really, an even greater injustice would be to withhold these cupcakes from you. Because they are the greatest. THE greatest. So, like the true public servant that I am, I went for it again. Life is all about sacrifices, ya know?  

I made these for the first time a few years ago and instantly declared them the best cupcake I had ever had. My mom agreed and we have not stopped talking about them since. The absolute magic of these, which blows them out of cutesy/over done/how is this still a trend cupcake land and into legendary dessert land, is in the roasted strawberry buttercream. 

This is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream which is, in my opinion, the king of all frosting. What we usually call buttercream in the U.S is actually American buttercream. Butter, powdered sugar and a little bit of cream. Trust me, I have nothing against this kind of frosting, but it typically has about twice as much sugar as butter and cannot be described as anything but sweet. Swiss Buttercream, on the other hand, actually retains some vestige of butter flavor and tastes as the name would imply: perfectly sweet, fluffy, creamy butter. It is stiffened with egg whites which makes it perfect for piping and decorating and, because it does not have enough powdered sugar to cover a ski hill, it is great for showcasing more delicate flavors, like roasted strawberries. Roasting the strawberries brings out their natural sweetness and reduces them to an almost jam-like softness that will make your kitchen smell like the most dreamy strawberry patch in the world.

Mixing the berries into the buttercream creates a beautiful, light pink frosting with flecks of berries that just screams spring. (SPRING!) The cupcake itself is a wonderfully moist, caramely brown sugar cake that goes perfectly with the berries. You might just not want to make any other cupcake again. I understand. Some things are just too good to be a one time deal. 

Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Roasted Strawberry Buttercream 

Cake adapted from Bon Appetit / Frosting adapted from Yossy Arefi

Makes 12 cupcakes

Note: Don't have cake flour? That's ok, you can make your own! Measure out the flour for this recipe, remove 2 tbsp. and add in 2 tbsp. cornstarch. Bam. Cake flour. 

| Ingredients | 

For the cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup milk

For the frosting: 

1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled and diced

3 egg whites

3/4 cup + 1 tsp. sugar

1 cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 tsp. vanilla


| Instructions | 

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange strawberries in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar and roast 15-20 minutes, until berries are soft and beginning to caramelize. Set aside to cool. 

Lower oven temp to 350. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beating to combine. With the mixer on low, pour in milk, mixing until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. 

Divide batter between the prepared muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. 

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Puree the cooled strawberries in a blender. If you want a smooth frosting, puree well and strain before using. If you want a frosting with strawberry bits (my preference) do not puree until smooth, just enough to break up any large chunks. 

Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Combine egg whites and 3/4 cup sugar in a metal bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). Set the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. If you rub a little bit between your fingers, you should not feel any grains of sugar. Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment and and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. 

Switch the mixer to the paddle attachment and add the vanilla and salt. With the mixer running on low, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat until smooth. If your buttercream breaks (it will look curdled/grainy/like the last thing you would want to put on a cupcake) turn the speed of the mixer up to high and beat until it comes back together. Slowly stream in the strawberry puree. I used about 3 tbsp for a light pink color. You can definitely add more for a more vibrant pink, but add it slowly to make sure you are not adding too much. Beat until frosting is smooth. 

Top cupcakes with buttercream and fresh strawberries. Eat one immediately.