As tiny humans are apt to do, little G decided to watch Frozen for the 847th time the other day. Perhaps because we finally have some gorgeous summer weather here in Minnesota, he needed a reminder of ice covered fjords. He’s five. He hasn’t figured out that if he just waits 12 weeks, Elsa-esque weather will return.
So while he was singing “Let It Go” at the top of his lungs, I was humming “In Summer”.
Because, Minnesota Summer. No, really. There is a reason we all put up with sub-zero temperatures for an inordinate amount of time in this state. Summer here is straight-up glorious.
As a native Minnesotan, I want to soak up every minute of our briefly visiting season. While my 12 week reference isn’t totally accurate, it’s also not terribly far off. The neighborhood pool. Visits to the lake. Grilling. Fresh fruit. Patio and Driveway Happy Hours. What’s not to love about any and all of the above?
So, of course, I decided to try to shove as much fresh, bright summer joy into as many desserts as I can. Like these. Few things feel as quintessentially summer as Strawberry Shortcake. Angel food cake, whipped cream and sweet, delicious strawberries. Heck, I may start making these in the dead of winter, just for nostalgia’s sake.
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. The ever-popular prequel to any baked recipe!
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together. You can use an actual sieve for this, which I have done in the past. Here is used my regular whisk. The key is to make sure that you have incorporated all of your dry ingredients together and broken up any clumps. The baking powder is what helps to truly activate the airiness in these cupcakes, so you want to ensure it is completely distributed.
Bring the water to a boil, either in the microwave (which is my go-to) or in a small saucepan. Pour the water over your dry ingredients and use a hand mixer to blend them together. Start on low, so as not have an eruption in your kitchen, and start to increase your speed as the water gets absorbed. The batter will be very sticky at this point. Don’t worry – that is what you want to see! Set this batter bowl aside to cool.
Separate your eggs and beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla and almond extract together in stand mixer. It will take approximately 4-5 minutes to get this mixture to reach stiff peak stage. You want the egg whites to be able to “stand” on their own, both in the bowl and on your whisk attachment.
You may need to let both bowls sit for just a few minutes more, if your batter still feels warm. Once it has cooled, gently fold the egg white mixture into the batter. I like to add the egg whites in smaller batches to make folding everything together a little easier. In this case, I did 4 additions before I was done.
This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. You can either prep 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners (if you have two) or wait for your first batch to emerge from the oven, and then reline the same pan. I happen to have a convection oven, so am able to bake both trays at one time. However, you should absolutely work with whatever is easiest in your kitchen!
Fill each of your cups about 3/4 full, and bake for 18-20 minutes. Again, this is entirely dependent on your oven. The cupcakes will be light and spongy when done. You may see some golden brown on the top, but you don’t want too much, or the cake will be tough. The classic toothpick test should tell you if they are cooked through.
Set your cupcakes on a counter or cooling rack and turn your attention to this lovely frosting. It is one of my faves, because it is just a smidgen thicker than your standard whipped cream. We tend to overdue whipped cream in my house. (So. Good.) Strawberry Shortcake in cupcake form helps us all with portion control.
First, sift together the flour and powdered sugar. It doesn’t need to mixed heavily, just a light toss to bring it together.
Next, in the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the cheese and flour/sugar mixture. Blend in the vanilla, until fully combined. I typically use my paddle attachment for this portion and then switch to my whisk once the vanilla is in.
With the whisk attachment, beat together the cream cheese and whipping cream until light and fluffy. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes for the whipping cream to gain volume and start to solidify. When it truly looks like whipped cream, you can add the preserves. *Note: For this recipe, I use strawberry preserves, but this frosting is incredibly versatile. You can reuse this same base, and mix in any other type of fruit preserve for other desserts. Or melted chocolate – also, never a terrible idea.
Pipe or spread the frosting onto the tops of your cooled cupcakes. To top each cupcake with strawberries, you can dice them up and sprinkle over. Or the “crown” I have pictured here involves simply cutting each strawberry in half twice from the tip. I don’t cut all the way through. Stop just as you reach the base, and then lightly spread it apart. Place them gently on top of each cupcake, base down.
What’s up with the crown, you ask? This batch happened to be for a friend’s birthday. She, too, is a Mom of Boys. We “Queen Bees” have to stick together!
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 scant tsp cream of tartar
- 6 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 6 tbsp softened cream cheese (3/4 cup)
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup seedless strawberry preserves
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder
- Bring water to boil and blend into dry ingredients with hand mixer
- Set aside to cool
- Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla and almond extract together in stand mixer until they reach stiff peaks
- Gently fold egg whites into batter until incorporated
- Prep two muffin tins with cupcake liners
- Fill each liner 3/4 full
- Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean
- Allow to cool before frosting
- Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer
- Sift together flour and powdered sugar
- Cream the cheese, flour, and sugar together
- Blend in the vanilla until fully combined
- Add whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes)
- Mix in preserves to distribute throughout the frosting
- Pipe or spread onto tops of cooled cupcakes
- Top each cupcake with a strawberry to serve