Sweet Little Things

In my Throwback Thursday post a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I used to be the neighborhood “Cake Lady.”  I did all sorts of custom cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings.  I also did cupcakes, and actually planned on opening my own cupcake shop, however when I ran the numbers I knew that it wasn’t going to be a viable option, unless I wanted to work everyday with no employees.  So I nixed that idea and moved on.

When it came to cupcakes, I had all sort of delicious flavors:  Chocolate Lover’s filled with a rich ganache, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, Luscious Lemon filled with lemon curd and topped with a lemon cream cheese icing, Caramel Apple, Chocolate Covered Cherry, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and so on.  But it seemed that folks always gravitated to the three tried and true favorites:  White Wedding Cake, Red Velvet, and Strawberry.

My daughters sweet friends loved my cupcakes, so when Sydney asked if I would make some for her BFF’s birthday, I had to say yes (even though I tell everyone else no!).  My strawberry cake recipe is a “semi-homemade” one:  it starts with a box cake mix, but think of it as just one of the ingredients because you skip the directions on the box entirely and use sour cream to give it that moist homemade texture and the strawberry gelatin in the cake batter recipe helps to give it a good flavor.  While I love to create delicious, homemade foods, sometimes semi-homemade is the way to go.  The buttercream icing on top is my favorite.  I know most folks lop off the icing and focus on the cake, but if you taste this icing, you won’t do that.  It’s made with real butter, and uses strawberry jam to give it that real strawberry taste.  Good quality strawberry jam, like Polaner yields the best results, of course.  If I have any of my mom’s homemade jam on hand I use that, otherwise I go for a jam that has all natural ingredients.

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I knew my daughter’s friend was going to take these to share with other friends and family, so I decided to pack them into several smaller containers.  I went to my local Michael’s store to get some cupcake boxes and noticed that they have a much larger (and nicer) selection of cake making supplies than they used to back when I was the Cake Lady.  I chose these small plastic cupcake containers that hold 4, and some cute stickers to put on top.  Plastic isn’t my first choice because it’s not environmentally friendly, however I find the cardboard cupcake boxes just don’t keep the cupcakes as fresh, the cupcakes aren’t as secure for transport, and sometimes they end up with grease marks from the butter cream icing.

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Semi-Homemade Strawberry Cupcakes
For the Cake:

1 Duncan Hines Strawberry Cake Mix
1 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoon strawberry Jell-O granules
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup water
1 teaspoon strawberry extract (I use Watkins)

For the Icing:
2 sticks (1 cup) room temperature butter
½ cup strawberry jam
1 2 lb bag of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Watkins Strawberry Extract

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry cake mix, flour, sugar, and Jell-O.  Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, water, and flavoring.  Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry using an electric mixer on low.  Once mixed, turn the mixer to high and beat for another minute.  Using an ice cream scoop, fill muffin tins with the batter and bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.  Makes 24-30 cupcakes.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the icing by beating the butter and jam with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar.  Once the powdered sugar is fully incorporated, switch to high speed and beat for 3-5 minutes until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.  If the frosting is too dry, add more jam.  Mix in in the strawberry flavoring during the last few seconds of mixing.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.  Keep at room temperature until ready to serve, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week in an air tight container.

I’ve found that you can use this same basic recipe for other flavors like cherry by mixing up the cake mix flavor and the gelatin flavor.  I’ve used this recipe for both cupcakes and layer cakes.  It will yield two 8” round cakes for a nice layer cake, and the icing recipe is enough to ice the layers.

They must have been a hit, because I got a very sweet thank-you text from the birthday girl.

 

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