The countdown began…time’s up chefs! I looked at my half-baked cupcakes, naked with no strawberries nor the white chocolate buttercream icing I had still melting together on the stove. I hung my head down in shame knowing that I had taken on a challenge that I couldn’t quite pull off.
And then I realized that I wasn’t on the cooking competition show Chopped. Yet, my pulse still quickened a little as I reached inside the bag to grab the three pieces of paper that would determine my fate for my very own kitchen adventure. What would I do if I grabbed something I didn’t like or what if I got marshmallows and chicken? With the papers in hand, I passed the bag along and luck unfolded right before my very own eyes.
Lemon, strawberries, and chocolate. The smell of a bakery began filling my mind, tangy lemon bars, chocolate dipped strawberries, a light meringue probably topping a lemon pie. As these common bakery treats paraded through my mind, it came to me – a moist lemon cupcake with a hint of fresh strawberry filling and a creamy white chocolate buttercream icing.
With this idea in my head, I raced to my dorm and packed my car, as I was heading home for the three-day weekend.
I arrived home with bags of ingredients that I would need in order to recreate the cupcakes that had been baked up in my mind. Luckily I would have more time than the contestants on Chopped, because there was no way I would have been able to get everything done.
I diced strawberries into tiny little morsels to create the sweet strawberry filling. While that was cooling, the KitchenAid and I made up from our last bout and we combined the creamed ingredients with the dry with absolutely no mess. With the cupcakes in the oven, I found myself with a moment that is unheard of on the popular cooking competition show – rest.
Once the cupcakes were popped out of the oven and almost cooled off, I began mixing together the icing on top of the stove. Once all the initial ingredients had melted, I began adding the powdered sugar, which turned the frosting into a clumpy mess, until the milk came in to save the day.
Both the strawberry filling and white buttercream icing came out a little too liquidly, but nonetheless, in true Chopped fashion, I improvised, grabbing a slotted spoon I began to fill the cupcakes. Reaching for another spoon, this time not slotted, I spooned the frosting onto the cupcake and let it spread across the surface and hang over the edges, taking on the appearance of snow hanging from a rooftop.
After letting the cupcakes cool inside the refrigerator, I couldn’t help myself any longer and served them up for my family and I. They were, and I’m going to have to say it, delicious. The already moist cupcakes shook hands with the strawberry filling and took on a whole new flavor reminding me of strawberry shortcake with a hint of lemon. And the buttercream icing gave the cupcake a different texture, as the icing had settled and hardened on top giving you something to sink your teeth into.
And like the old saying goes when life throws you lemons (and let’s not forget strawberries and chocolate) make cupcakes. Well, maybe that’s not exactly how it goes, but I think you get the point. Sometimes life takes a little improvisation and who knows maybe whatever life throws at you will turn out great.
• 1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons lemon zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 2 cups diced strawberries (about 10 medium strawberries finely diced)
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
• 1 and 1/2 cups (9 ounces) white chocolate chip
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 3 tablespoons milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 4 and 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1. Make the strawberry filling first. Place the strawberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4 full minutes until the strawberry juices have been released. Add the sugar and cornstarch and continue to stir for another 2 minutes. The mixture will be much thicker. Remove from heat and allow to cool as you prepare the cupcakes.
2. Make the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Insert liners into a medium cupcake pan.
3. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time to creamed mixture, beating 1 minute after each addition.
4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Mix until completely integrated. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix the batter for 30 seconds.
6. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters flu. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in the pan.
7. Fill the Cupcakes. Using a sharp knife, cut a circle/hole into the center of the cupcake to create a little pocket about 1/2 inch deep. Place 1 teaspoon of strawberry filling inside and top with the piece of cupcake you removed to seal.
8. Make the White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Heat the white chocolate chips, butter, and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until all is melted. Remove from heat.
9. Stir in the vanilla. Add the confectioner’s sugar slowly, stirring constantly, until combined. Add more milk or sugar to achieve desire spreading consistency.
10. Spoon the frosting onto the middle of the cupcake and spread with a knife. Be careful not to lift up the piece of cupcake covering the strawberry filling.
*Strawberry Filling Recipe credit goes to Sally’s Baking Addiction.
**Lemon Cupcakes and White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe credit goes to Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella.