So, the three exclamation marks in the title. A little random, don't you think? But I figured they'd be a little more interesting (and attention grabbing) than the typical "with a twist!". What a twist.
For these are not plain strawberry shortcake cupcakes. I've been spending quite a bit of time lately devising and exploring weird and wonderful flavour combinations, and strawberry & vodka entered the fray somewhere. Helloooo, alcohol! Vodka is one of my favourite types of alcohol (heh, heh) and I love how it can be disguised as water when brought into class. (I kid - I'm a good student!) But yeah, strawberries and vodka. I don't even know how I come up with such things, but a quick search on the internet told me that I wasn't the first one. Which isn't a bad thing I guess! At least it's not totally obscure and untested and there is a higher probability of it turning out alright.
Just to be safe however, only one part of these cupcakes are spiked! These cupcakes were made for a friend's birthday party, and upon being asked to bake the cake I began coming up with various cake ideas and designs centered around strawberries. And the designing; the plating!
I love surprise birthday parties and celebrations. The excitement and suspense in the build-up is one thing that always gets me. Getting everyone together, putting together the plans of distraction, organising party details, cake... All culminating in a genuine look of surprise from the birthday boy/girl. It is the best thing ever. I am the worst at doing the distracting, though! I always laugh, or giggle a little too much.
My very first surprise party was on my 16th birthday - I came home from school as per any other day, went up to my room and my best friends were hiding in my cupboards and in the little nooks and crannies of my room! I got quite a shock when they jumped out from their hiding places to surprise me, but it was a great birthday. I was really touched (and I'm even getting the feels now, thinking about it) for I was the only one in my group of six in a different school, and having just left a few months before I was missing my best friends quite terribly. But I'm thankful that life (and technology!) has kept us together even after all this time.
We've seen each other grow up through brace-faces and embarrassing stalker moments (or what we term "closely observing"), to legality and beyond (hopefully!) And what better way to embrace legality than by infusing alcohol into anything and everything! Just like these cupcakes.
I ran into a bit of problem this morning with the whipped cream, though. I over-whipped it, and it curdled. Thank goodness there was a 3 for $8.70 promotion at ntuc, and I had an extra pack of whipped cream, so I managed to squeeze out just enough cream to frost the cupcakes. It was quite the frazzle, however!
At least everything else went well; and I got to relax at a great restaurant after the rush-baking! But that shall be saved for another post; hehe. I'm just thankful that I managed to finish the cakes before the party tonight! Although the actual surprise was quite a mess; for the birthday boy got back before half our guests arrived! I suppose it's the thought that counts?
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
For the cake: Adapted from the book (500 cupcakes)
note: I multiplied the original recipe by 1.5x so as to make enough for everyone at the party.
- 340g butter, softened
- 40g brown sugar
- 90g white (granulated) sugar
- 375g self-raising flour, sifted
- 1.5 tbps vanilla extract
- 6 eggs (i used them at room temperature)
- 50ml buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celcius, fill the cupcakes with cupcake holders
- Cream the butter and sugars, about 2-3 minutes - until light and creamy.
- Add the vanilla extract, then the eggs, two at a time - there are a lot of eggs involved!
- Add most of the self raising flour (approx. 3/4), followed by the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour. Do not overmix!
- Spoon into the cups and bake for about 18 minutes. I was feeling extra precise that day, so I weighed each of the cupcakes to ensure that they had approximately the same amount of batter in all of them. But then... I ran out of batter. So the first batch had 50g per cupcake and the second, 45. Use the toothpick test to check the doneness of the cupcakes.
For the compote:
- 250g strawberries
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters (personally, I would recommend you cut them into quarters are they would be easier to fill the cupcakes with in general - or cubes, even. The smaller the better.)
- Using a saucepan, continuously stir the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch until the sugar is dissolved.
- Cover the pan and cook for approx. 3 minutes, or at least until the mixture becomes dark red and syrupy. Stir occasionally, but this is optional.
- Remove from heat.
For the whipped cream: Adapted from here
- 200ml whipped cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Whip the cream at high speed until stiff peaks form. This may take about 2-3 minutes but this really depends on your mixture! The original recipe called for a 4-5 minute whipping time, but it resulted in a curdled cream so the best advice I can give is for you to just eyeball your mixture and stop when the stiff peaks form; or when it looks just about right! Also, 200ml made just enough whipped cream to frost the 24 cupcakes I had, so you might want to make more if you're feeling cupcakely generous.
For the vodka strawberries: Adapted from here
- 250g strawberries
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 200ml vodka, or just enough to cover the strawberries
- Poke multiple holes in the strawberries using a fork to create more holes for the vodka to soak into the strawberries with.
- Put the strawberries in a jar, and fill the jar with vodka until the strawberries are just about covered by the vodka. I would also recommend you eyeball this part rather than measuring it as jar sizes differ, but use the measurement as a guide.
For the assembly:
- Core a hole in the strawberries using a knife (I used a butter knife), and fill it with the strawberry compote.
- Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cupcake.
- Top with a vodka strawberry.
Try not to get drunk on these.