Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

I know it’s been a while since I’ve actually cooked or baked something and I do apologize for my recent food extravagance but it’s been an exciting few weeks of food events and birthday dinners. Fortunately I had some time on my hands this weekend to do some baking and just in time for my friend Allie’s birthday.

Although I’m a huge fan of Crumbs among other fine cupcake establishments, I wanted to bring Allie something from the heart AND something seasonal. Seasonal means limited which translates into special and THAT is what I wanted my birthday sweets to convey. Store bought cupcakes are wonderful but homemade cupcakes, well they’re a rare treat.

Since I happened to have some fresh strawberries and lemons on hand, I scoured the internet for a cake recipe that balanced the sweetness and tartness of both ingredients. And after seeing only a photo of the Strawberry and Lemonade Cupcakes baked by Annie’s Eats, I knew I’d found the perfect spring cupcake!

COOK’s note: I modified Annie’s recipe to cut down on the sweetness and some of the calories. Unfortunately my low-fat frosting didn’t come out so well, so for the time being I recommend using Annie’s frosting. Just be sure to whip the cream cheese and butter before adding the strawberry puree, as the mixture can easily thin out. Add approximately 7 tsp of puree or just enough so that the frosting keeps its firm texture.

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes Recipe

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Source: Cake adapted from Williams Sonoma, frosting from Annie’s Eats

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup 1 % milk
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 18 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For garnish:

  • Fresh strawberries

Tools:

  • Mixing bowls
  • Hand blender or stand mixer
  • Measuring cups and spoons

PREPARATIONS

  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  Stir together with a fork and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  3. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Add in the milk and mix until smooth.
  4. Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.  Fold in the fresh strawberries with a spatula.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds, and set aside.
  7. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and very fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
  8. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve your desired texture and flavor of frosting (I added about 7 tablespoons of puree).
  9. Frost cupcakes as desired and garnish with fresh strawberries.
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A Closer Look at Atlantic Grill

Atlantic Grill has been an Upper East side staple for quite some time. This BR Guest Restaurant is noted for its fantastic seafood, sushi, and raw bar. It was most recently voted one of the 50 most popular restaurants in New York in the 2008 Zagat. Given its rave reviews and status, I figured it would be the perfect place to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

Similar to its other BR Guest counterparts, Atlantic Grill’s decor though crowded and noisy was beautifully lit and very charming. I recall celebrating many joyous occasions at my favorite of the 12 restaurant chains, Blue Water Grill, though the feeling I had upon entering this restaurant was unlike one I’d ever had.

Our party of 5 was seated at a round table with a semi circle booth and two chairs. We commenced our dining experience with a toast of blue moon, chardonay, pinot grigio, and shiraz. Everyone seemed to enjoy what they were drinking. We started the night off with a few appetizers which included the Atlantic’s Chopped Salad, a Shrimp & Lobster Spring Roll, and a Maryland Crabcake which were all the highlight off the night.

For our main courses we tried the Horseradish Crusted Scottish Salmon, the Simply Grilled Tuna with sauteed Spinach, two Pan Seared Salmon Dishes (one with mixed Vegetables and another with butternut squash ravioli and brussel sprouts), and a Crab Crusted Golden Snapper. Before beginning my dish I was already filled with disappointed because I was informed that the special, a Pan Seared Salmon with sweet potato gnocchi and brussel sprouts in a cider reduction had already sold out! But in spite of that, I still was less than thrilled with my dish. The salmon was only gently seared and lacked that golden crispy crust one would expect of a seared fish. I had also requested the salmon to be cooked medium and it appeared to be well done. And though the accompanying sides were delicious, there were very few of them. I also happened to try a bit of my sister’s spinach and did not think even that was sufficient. The texture was quite leafy where as I am used to something a bit smoother and less dry.

But even with my sub-par meal, with the exception of the appetizers, the guest of honor was more than pleased with hers and that was most important. The night was fabulous despite it all and we ended of course with my mom’s favorite Crumb’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes!