Lucas’ Galatic Star Wars Birthday Party

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was my Lucas’ 4th birthday the other week. And as his auntie/godmama, I’ve affectionately nicknamed him Lucasaurus.

Don’t let his charming smile, bright wit and adorable face fool ya. He can be a downright rascal—– a veloci-rascal!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But I just adore the kid to pieces.

So last year, when I mentioned to my seester (pictured above with her super photogenic fam) that we should throw him a Star Wars themed birthday party–she was all for it.

And that’s where I was in trouble. Now some of you all may have witnessed my tendencies to go overboard with certain things and that my OCD habits can get me in a tough spot. Well–then you have not met my seesters…..and in particular, my over-the-top party planning sister, T.

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Nearly 5 months before Lucas’ birthday, she started sending me texts about deals she found on party favors, decorating ideas she found on Pinterest, signage she had created, etc. The next thing I knew it, we were headed warp speed into Star Wars mania.

As for me, I just went along for the ride hoping my desserts would get the stamp of approval by the party planning Jedi.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But look at this little guy? How could we not get carried away?!

…Wrapped around his finger, he has us….

So then this happened.

Star Wars Dessert Tablescape

A bountiful Star Wars tablescape with desserts and goodies galore. But as much as I wish I could take the credit for all the galactic-goodness, I was only in charge of the desserts.

Seester did all the decor (that she started putting up 2 weeks before the party), cute signs, overflowing swag bags, and all the adorable touches that would have made the Jedi Council proud.

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Of course a regular Star Wars themed party wouldn’t cut it, so they upped the ante and arranged a Jedi Training Camp in order for all the padawans to prepare for their path to Jedi Knighthood.

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Lightsabers and Jedi Robes were a must, including cadet boxes to store all their goodies.

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To quench our thirst on the beautiful day, we sipped fresh Millennium Margaritas (for Jedi Masters 21+), Yoda Soda and Vader-Ade. Special props to my brother-in-law for hand squeezing the 25+ limes I needed to make the margaritas.

Trust me, we will never scoff again at those who own electric citrus juicers–DOH!

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And to fuel our Force, we summoned the Taco Master all the way from Orange County– I mean Tatooine. :)

Mouthwatering Carne Asada, Carnitas, Fish, Nachos….ideal nourishment to battle the Empire.

Taco Master from Tattoine

Back at our tablescape, Seester put together these cute Star Wars themed candies. Yoda Treats, Han’s Rolo, Edible Ewoks, & Thermal Detonators.

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And poor Han.

All he wanted to do was to come wish Lucas a Happy Birthday but then he got himself frozen in carbonite again.

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Seester got to employ her knife skills by carving a watermelon Death Star. Lord Vader would have been pleased.

Watermelon Death Star

Lucky for us, Chewbacca was kind enough to guard the goodies from any other Sith Lords.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Speaking of Sith Lords, I started off my dessert contributions by molding Stormtrooper and Darth Vader chocolates to place on top of the cupcakes. They later received a bit of edible disco dust for a bit of sheen….they are from outer space after all.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Chocolates

They perched atop rich Chocolate Cupcakes topped with big swirls of Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream and sprinkles. Some of the cuppies were also topped with vanilla whipped cream.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Cupcakes

I paid additional homage to Darth Vader with these Chocolate Shortbread Cookies made with Valrhona cocoa powder.

Chocolate Darth Vader Cookies

How would it be a party without Master Yoda? These were Citrus Scented Sandwich Cookies filled with a Dark Chocolate Ganache.

Delicious, he was.

Yoda Sandwich Cookies

And to keep Darth Vader company, I made an army of Stormtrooper Sugar Cookies that were decorated with Royal Icing.

They were super fun to make and all of the cutters can be purchased from Williams Sonoma.

Storm Trooper Sugar Cookies

There were also pops for all to enjoy…..

Princess Leia Cake Pops & Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

“That’s no moon-it’s a Space Station!”

Not quite Master Obi-Wan but you’re close. They’re Rice Krispy Pops shaped as Death Stars. Not only a superweapon but super-yummy.

Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

And Princess Leia Cake Pops. Lucas really enjoyed these.

Princess Leia Cake Pops

And what’s a birthday party without a birthday cake?

I just had to make a little cake for our Jedi in training although Seester called it a “gentleman’s cake”. This was a 6 inch, 3-layer chocolate cake frosted with Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I decorated the little cake with a fondant Stormtrooper accented with royal icing, fondant lightsabers, fondant Star Wars banner, Darth Vader molded chocolates, fondant stars and a star sparkler.

Star Wars Birthday Cake

At Jedi Training Camp, there was a Space Pod and stations for the padawans to bottle their own galaxies.

Lucas' Birthday

And then it was time to don their robes because…

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Duh, duh, duh, dum, da-dah, dum, da-dah………..

Darth Vader appeared! He was powerful, all-knowing, and—

Lucas' 4th Birthday

He liked parachutes. Yup, parachutes.

Lord Vader thought it was an integral training tool for the young padawans and can be seen here strategizing with the younglings.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Heck–Vader even cleaned up after the parachute exercises!

There may still be good in him.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Then he showed the padawans how to properly yield their sabers and spar.

I’m think that Lucas is saying– “You look a lot bigger on TV but I still pity the foo’ who messes with me!”

Oh yes, that was a Star Wars–Mr. T crossover moment.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Cake Time!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But that sneaky Vader used The Force to make the candles relight after Lucas blew them out.

He’s quite a trickser—when he’s not serving the Emperor and upholding the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Lucas and Vader. They’re BFFs now.

The Lucasaurus always wins over the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was an action packed and exhausting day but the little guy had a blast.

And of course, we prevailed by restoring balance to the Force.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

The Force is strong with this one and I look forward to watching him grow into Jedi greatness.

Until our next Jedi Episode (hopefully for my other nephew, Leonidas’ birthday)— MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Sweet Treats from 2012 and Happy New Year!!

Alice in Wonderland Chocolate Cupcakes

With just a few hours left in 2012, I wanted to wish you and your loved ones Happiness, Joy, Endless Laughter and epic Foodventures! May 2013 be everything you wish it to be and more.

I also wanted to show some sweet treats that I pulled together in 2012 but didn’t get a chance to share with you before.

Alice in Wonderland Chocolate Cupcakes

Alice in Wonderland  themed cupcakes for my niece’s Birthday Tea Party. Chocolate Cupcakes frosted with Vanilla Buttercream with toppers that were molded from fondant and edible markers

Mini White Chocolate-Brownie Chunk Cheesecake

Mini White Chocolate-Brownie Chunk Cheesecakes

Chiffon Cupcakes w/ Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chiffon Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

Chocolate Soccer Cupcakes

Soccer Themed Chocolate Cupcakes for my nephew’s 3rd birthday

Chocolate Soccer Cupcakes

Toppers made with fondant and painted with gel food colors, royal icing and edible markers

Chiffon Cupcakes w/ Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream topped with handmade White Chocolate Shell Candies for a Beach Themed Bridal Shower

Chiffon Cupcakes w/ Lemon Curd & Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 layer Vanilla Bean Wedding Cake filled with Lemon Curd and frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream in a “ribbon” pattern

Vanilla Cake Pops

Vanilla Cake Pops for a Bridal Shower

Chocolate Raspberry Petal Cake

3 layer rich Chocolate Cake filled with Raspberry Coulis and frosted with Chocolate Buttercream in a “petal” pattern for my niece’s birthday party

Chocolate Raspberry Petal Cake

Creating a “petal” pattern with Chocolate Buttercream

And with that, I’m off to the countdown with friends and bubbly. Here’s to a delicious 2012 and Cheers to all of the wonderful things to come in 2013! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Gingerbread-Pear Cupcakes + Nambé Winner!

Gingerbread-Pear Cupcakes

Is it just me or is time FLYING by?!

I feel like I was just wondering what my Halloween costume was going to be and within a blink of an eye, Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we’re barreling towards the Winter Holidays. YIKES!

But with the Winter Holidays comes all the flavors that I adore —- and gingerbread probably tops the lot.

These gingerbread cuppies are wonderfully spiced, deeply flavored with molasses & fresh ginger and are quite moist. I added in some pears for an additional level of flavor and texture and think they paired well with the spiced frosting. However, if you feel like cutting out some sweetness, simply serve the cupcakes inverted as the pears will act as a wonderful “topping”. Either way, your guests will adore you for them.

Gingerbread-Pear Cupcakes

And now for the winner of our Nambe platter! Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Ryan M. who said he would use this platter to feature local cheeses and jams he has made this year. MMMmmm!! Ryan, please check your email for instructions.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And a big THANKS to our friends at Nambe!!!!

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Gingerbread-Pear Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes approximately 24-28 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Batter
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup molasses
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup chopped pears

Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5-6 cups confectioner sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tin with paper cups.

In a bowl, sift together the flour and dried spices. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the boiling water, baking soda, sugar and molasses until combined. Stir in the vegetable oil. Allow the liquids to cool slightly. Mix in the dried ingredients and then the eggs, vanilla extract and fresh ginger. Once the batter has been combined, carefully fold in the pears.

Fill the paper cups three-quarters full and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Whip in molasses, cinnamon, and cloves. Gradually whip in the confectioner sugar, ½ cup at a time. Continue adding sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe large swirls on top of the cooled cupcakes.

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes for St. Paddy’s Day!

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

 

 

This is the time of year when I stock up on bottles of Guinness, Baileys and well…..all things Green.

To make dozens and dozens of Guinness and Baileys Cupcakes, of course!

But this year, I wanted to go a different route and since my niece (alright, more like my sister) was selling Girl Scout Cookies, utilizing the beloved Thin Mint® Cookies was a no brainer!

 

 

Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

These cuppies were a great alternative to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Rich and moist chocolate cake filled with chunks of  Thin Mint® Cookies and topped with a lightly minty buttercream and cookie. DEE-LISH!

But if you aren’t big on Thin Mints® (which may be slightly CRAZY!), try one of these other GREEN LOVING cuppies!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream

Fluffy Lime Cupcakes with Lime Whipped Cream

Fluffy Lime Cupcakes with Lime Whipped Cream

But no matter which sweet treat you choose, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!

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Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 2 Dozen Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1¼ Cups Granulated Sugar
5 Ounces Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Strong Brewed Hot Coffee
2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Large Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Thin Mint® Cookies (or other chocolate mint cookies), roughly chopped

Buttercream:
4 to 5 Cups Confections Sugar, sifted
2 Cups Unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 to 5 Tablespoons Milk
½ Teaspoon Mint Extract

Garnish:
1 Dozen Thin Mint® Cookies, cut in half
Shamrock Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin pans and put one cookie on the bottom.

Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for a few minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a mixing stand, beat egg for a few minutes until it becomes pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the chocolate. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chopped Thin Mint® Cookies. Scoop batter into the lined cups–about 3/4 way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Prepare the frosting: In a large mixer bowl, whip the butter for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until incorporated. Slowly drizzle in the milk and whip until combined. Mix in the mint extract. Add the rest of the powdered sugar until your desired consistency has been achieved.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with ½ a cookie and sprinkles.

ENJOY!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

It’s hard to believe but it’s been over a year since I’ve made a batch of Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Crazy, eh?

But I think at some point, I had just overdosed on them.

Yes, My Friends…….I had too much of a good thing.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

But then the next thing I knew it, the holidays were smacking me upside the head. Everywhere you looked it was hues of blues, silvers….green, red. I just had to bring out my tried and true Red Velvet recipe to ring in the holiday cheer. The beautiful color is just so darn festive.

And let’s face it. It would be near “Grinch-like” if I didn’t.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

To add a little different flair to my Red Velvet Cuppies, I decided to swap out my favorite cream cheese frosting with a super decadent and sweet White Chocolate Buttercream. It was a nice change from the tangy cream cheese but if you don’t like sweet frostings or want to cut back a bit, you may want to stick with the classic.

But c’mon now—it’s the holidays! I won’t tell if you don’t :)

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
Makes approximately 18-20 Regular Sized Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Batter:
1¼ Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1½  Tablespoons High Quality Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs, room temperature
½ Cup Sour Cream
½ Cup Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2-3 Tablespoons Red Food Color, depending on desired intensity of color

White Chocolate Buttercream:
10 Ounces Unsalted Butter, room temperature
6 Ounces White Chocolate, melted and cooled
3-4 Cups Sifted Confectioner Sugar, varies due to preferred frosting consistency
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2-3 Tablespoons Milk, if needed

*Optional: White Chocolate Shavings to top the cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 350°degrees and place paper liners in pans.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy for about 3-4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add milk, sour cream, vanilla, and food color. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients until well blended.

Fill each lined cup 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway between baking time. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean. Cool completely in pans on top of a wire rack.

While cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the vanilla and butter until fluffy.  Add the white chocolate and whip until combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Continue adding sugar to desire consistency. Should the buttercream appear dry, whip in a tad of milk.

When cupcakes are thoroughly cooled, frost or pipe decorate swirls on top. Sprinkle with white chocolate shavings.

Happy Holidays!!

Foodventures at the Wilton Food Blogger Workshop

 

A few weeks ago I was flown out to Chicago to attend the Wilton Food Blogger Workshop <insert high-pitched squeals of joy here>.  It truly was an honor to join 26 amazing food bloggers from across the country for a trip filled with all things Wilton!

Early Saturday morning we were whisked away to the Wilton Headquarters. And although I hadn’t met any of the other bloggers prior to the trip, I instantly knew I was with my kind of peeps the moment we walked through Wilton’s front doors as everyone began feverishly snapping away photos. It’s wonderful to be around people who get me :)

 

Here are a few demo cakes that they had on display

 

We spent the next several hours practicing our piping skills, experimenting with fondant, touring the site, and learning about the hottest Wilton trends.

 

Sandy Folsom, Director of the Wilton School, was our main instructor for the day.

Some of my buttercream rosettes, stars, and basket weave.

 

And of course, what better way to demonstrate our newly acquired skills than a cake-decorating competition! We were broken into teams and given about an hour to decorate a two-tier cake. My fabulous teammates included Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen and Vanessa Druckman of Chef Druck Musings.

 

Some of our competition supplies.

You would think that an hour would be plenty of time to whip out a nicely decorated cake but trust me, it’s much harder than it sounds! So much talent with so little time! But we were quite happy with our final product. :)

 

Our bright and colorful “spring” themed cake.

Cake Decorating Contest : Wilton Blogger Workshop

 

As I had mentioned, we did a quick tour of the facilities that included the prep rooms, photo studios, and testing kitchens.

 

One wall in their prop room…….needless to say, I need to get me a prop room stocked like this :)

 

 

Snapshot of a photo set up. And yes, those are holiday items being photographed in June!

 

We were then zipped away to a quick stop at the Wilton School and the Wilton Enterprises. The talented Colette Peters happened to be teaching a Masters Course when we arrived at the school. I was a bit giddy when we saw her—so much to the point that the pic I snapped of her was so blurry that I’d rather not post it.

 

We did a little sampling of goodies in the test kitchens.

 

And what could top a day filled with cake decorating, photography, eating, and meeting talented food writers? Just one thing really……SHOPPING!!!

This year marked the 25th anniversary for the Wilton Tent Sale—-and was it ah-may-zing! A ginormous white tent was jammed packed with over 3,000 items up to 75% off! Every item a baker could dream of……and even some housewares and scrapbooking supplies, too! I picked up so much loot that I had to ask the hotel for an empty box to check on the plane. I obviously didn’t prepare well enough :)

 

Baking tools, GALORE!

My loot shamefully spread all over my hotel bed

 

Our day ended with a celebration Awards Dinner where we all got to enjoy delicious food, recount on a wonderful trip, and were given awards from the cake decorating competition!

 

Our awards for the evening.

Our competition cakes

 

Our team took home the award for “Best Use of Color”—and we sure did use tons of it!

 

Yours Truly, Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen and Vanessa Druckman of Chef Druck Musings (photo courtesy of Wilton)

 

My cake statuette is currently standing proud in my kitchen

It truly was an AMAZING, fun-filled, and jam-packed trip! In addition to gaining more exposure to Wilton and their long-standing contributions to the baking world, I am honored to have been in such wonderful company with the talented food bloggers in attendance. I look forward to our continued friendships!

And after a good amount of persuasion and encouragement from these talented ladies, I FINALLY took the plunge. Yep, it’s true—we’re now on Twitter!

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to “LIKE” us on Facebook!

I’d like to extend a huge hug of gratitude to Wilton for such a memorable experience. THANK YOU for your extreme generosity and for taking such good care of us!

 

 

Disclosure: Although I received Wilton products and the trip to the Wilton Food Blogger Workshop, all opinions and views are my own.

Strawberry Cupcakes and a Surprise 70th Birthday Party

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

The month of May has always been busy for my family — completely filled with TONS of birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.

This May in particular marked a milestone for our family as our parents turned 70! And although our mom is no longer with us we wanted to be sure to have a big celebration for our dad.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This past weekend, my siblings and I successfully threw a surprise birthday party for our dad filled with tons of family, delish food, and good times. Needless to say, Dad was pretty darn surprised when he opened the door to what he thought was going to be a small birthday dinner at my sister’s place. It took him a few minutes to realize that the house filled with people were there to celebrate his birthday!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

As one of the desserts for the night, I decided to bake Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes. They have been on my “must try” list for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity to give them a roll.

Truth be told, the cupcake itself was just “ok”. But the frosting was TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!! As in OH….MY….GAWD!

It was the first time I had made a true Swiss meringue buttercream and was a bit thrown off at how long it took to make—at least 30 minutes!!! But my patience truly paid off because after one taste, I was in heaven. The texture was so beautifully smooth and silky and it literally tasted like a Strawberry Shake!!! Not the least bit overly sweet and absolutely delicious. All night long I kept on saying, “It tastes like an In-N-Out Strawberry Shake!” Clearly, the cupcake is just a vessel for this amazing buttercream.

If you do decide to give this buttercream a whirl, be sure to take your time with it. Some reviewers say that their buttercream looked curdled or didn’t come together. Luckily I didn’t have this issue but I believe you’ve just got to be patient and definitely use room temperature butter. When all else fails—keep on whipping it!

And on another note, I would be scolded if I didn’t disclose that my sister was the one who added the strawberries on top! :)

As for Dad, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. After so many years of taking care of his family, it was nice to have a shindig just for him. In fact, he told everyone he cannot wait to see what we do for his 71st birthday!!!! :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!


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Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
From Martha Stewart
Makes 34 Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour, (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries, plus small strawberries for garnish

Buttercream:
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1¼  cups sugar
1½ cups unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1½ cups fresh strawberries, pureed

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula. Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about ¾-full.  Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.  Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Switch to a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, add strawberry puree, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Fill a piping bag with a fitted tip. Pipe on the buttercream on top of cooled cupcakes. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices.

 Note: For these cuppies, I used an open-star Wilton 4B Tip to pipe the buttercream. I also chose to use a slightly larger than standard cupcake liner for a fuller look. As a result I increased the baking time by 2-3 minutes.