Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

I don’t really need it to be Valentine’s Day to enjoy chocolate-covered strawberries. But then again, does anyone really need an excuse to eat something awesome covered in something more awesome? Answer: No.

These cupcakes, though they’d be perfect for Valentine’s Day, are good ANY time. They’re seriously amazing. The cake is light and fluffy and the frosting is…well…it’s Swiss meringue. I think you  may remember from a previous post that Swiss meringue has changed my life. It’s so airy and smooth and it really is what I imagine eating Heaven would be like. It’s for sure more trouble than a regular buttercream and definitely tempermental! You have to beat the egg white/sugar mixture for just the right amount of time or the buttercream won’t come together, which I learned while making these. OK, I knew it already, but the first two times I made a Swiss meringue I guess I got lucky because I had no issues. This time, though, I thought I was going to have to throw the whole batch away.

Here’s the story: I was making these to bring to a dinner at my friend’s house. I was already running late and had to quickly make the frosting (yeah…you can’t “quickly” make a Swiss meringue. Just FYI). I kind of rushed it a bit and added the butter before it was time. Or maybe it was too hot in my house and the butter was too soft. Regardless, it just wasn’t coming together and I was freaking out. So I decided that before throwing all of my hard work away, I’d try tossing it in the fridge for a few minutes first.

Worked. Like. A. Charm. Took the cooled frosting out, whipped it a little longer, and there it was! Perfect Swiss meringue buttercream. Yesss.

So take it from me: Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. Follow the directions to a “T”. And if all else fails, toss it in the fridge for a bit.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
(recipe from Pink Parsley)
makes about 30 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup hot coffee

Frosting Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions:
To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; line two cupcake tins with liners and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk (by hand) the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients on low speed, and slowly add in the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully add the coffee and mix on the lowest setting until combined.
Fill each liner about 2/3 full and bake for 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven; let cool in pans for a few minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Puree the strawberries in a food processor until smooth; set aside.
Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until the sugar has completely dissolved (the mixture will feel completely smooth when you rub it between your fingers- you should feel no sugar granules at all).
Place the bowl in the stand mixer and fit with the whisk attachment.  Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form. Continue to mix until the mixture is light, fluffy, glossy, and completely cool (do not rush this step- test by touching the bottom of the mixing bowl), about 10 minutes.
With the mixer on medium low speed, add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, increase the speed to medium, and mix until the buttercream comes together and thickens (this may take several minutes, but it will eventually come together. If not, this is the point at which I put mine in the fridge). Switch to the paddle attachment and beat at medium-low speed to remove air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the strawberry puree and mix to combine.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

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