I’m turning 32 today. Thirty-two. Am I feeling like 32? Probably… yes, I do. For instance, I now embrace a 10:30 bedtime which allows me to get plenty of sleep and renders me fully functional when I wake-up in the morning. I also adore my memory foam pillow, which has become a necessary requirement for a good night’s sleep.
I often write a blog post when it’s my birthday. On this particular one, I find myself on vacation in Washington DC visiting my friend Kristelle. It’s been almost three years (four years for Matthew) since we moved away from DC and this is our first time back visiting. It is pretty difficult to put into words the various things that make me absolutely love DC. It’s a diverse city where people come from various backgrounds, making the District vibrant, dynamic, and ever changing. Each neighborhood has a distinct feel and I miss the ability to walk or use public transportation to get everywhere. In one day of vacation alone, I walked 10 miles in the city.
If you’ve followed Sweet Precision for a while you might remember my Strawberry Birthday Cake tradition. This year I decided to switch things up a little bit and made birthday cupcakes instead! Let’s talk a little bit about these cupcakes. Are you one of those people who feel like buttercream is too rich and heavy? If so, you’ll love the Swiss-style meringue buttercream that I used for this recipe which is light and delicate. Swiss meringue is prepared by cooking egg whites and sugar together in a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. The mixture is then removed from the heat and whipped at high speed until it forms stiff peaks and has cooled. After this, room-temperature butter is slowly added into the mixture. Meringue-based buttercreams are light and creamy in texture, which I love. They also don’t ‘crust-over’ as with simple buttercream.
Strawberry Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
1 (6 oz) box strawberry jello
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup oil
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup water
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
red food coloring, optional
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans and set aside.
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients together, including strawberries. Slowly stir wet ingredients in with the dry being careful not to over mix the batter. Pour batter into cupcake tins and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan and then remove to a baking rack to cool completely before frosting.
For frosting, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes.
Heather’s Helpful Hints
Working with meringue buttercream frosting can be tricky. If your frosting is “broken” the fat and liquid won’t emulsify, and you’ll be left with a bowl of fat globules that look like cottage cheese. If this happens to you, first try mixing the frosting a little longer to see if it comes together on its own. If it doesn’t come together with additional mixing, scoop out a cup of curdled mixture and microwave 5 to 10 seconds, until melted but not hot. Pour the melted buttercream into the mixer while on medium speed and whip until combined. This works every time!