So my co-worker, who has watched me bring in various baked goods for other co-workers’ birthdays, had her own birthday request–strawberry shortcake. Now, I generally adore strawberry shortcake, but unfortunately, her birthday was last week, not the most ideal time for sweet strawberries. Plus, I was a little intimidated by the process baking, assembling, and then carrying them on my 25 minute walk to work. So I decided to improvise. First I thought, why not strawberry shortcupcakes? Everyone loves cupcakes (if they have a soul…) and they’re ideal for work parties. Then I thought, what’s the best way to sweeten even the tartest of berries? Add sugar! So I made a small batch of strawberry jam and a batch of Nigella Lawson’s fairy cakes and layered them together. The result was sweet, light and definitely reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake. One word of warning, since I took the lazy woman’s approach and layered the jam rather than piping it into the middle of the cupcake, the jam did fall to the bottom. Not unpleasant, just a little messy when the wrappers were peeled off. This cupcake does not need much icing, in fact I think it would be overkill with the sweet jam and light vanilla cupcake. I mixed a little confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla and just lightly iced the cupcakes, topping each with a dollop of jam. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they were a hit with the co-workers.
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 pt. strawberries, hulled
1 c. sugar
juice from ½ a lemon
Add the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice to a small sauce pan. Heat to a boil and stir frequently until the berries have started to break down. Continue to cook at a rolling simmer and use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the mixture. When the thermometer reads 220 degrees, the jam is ready. Cook completely before adding it to the cupcakes. Store the leftover jam in a small mason jar. It will keep for approx. 2 weeks. To keep it longer, can the jam and store for later use!
Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Fairy Cakes)
½ c. unsalted butter, softened
7 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
¾ c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. In a separate, small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar and combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour mixture after each egg and stir to combine. Add the milk and stir just until combined. The batter will look as if you’ll never get 12 cupcakes out of it, but it will rise impressively. Just be sure to dole it out evenly over the cupcake cups. Layer jam into the batter–batter, a teaspoon of jam, more batter–and bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Wait until the cakes are cooled to ice them.
A couple of tips for the tiny kitchen dweller:
1. If you have a toaster oven, and do not have a muffin tin that will work in it, I like the aluminum foil cupcake holders, they really keep their shape! Just be sure to place them on a flat baking sheet/pan first.
2. If you do not have a piping bag, a ziplock baggie will do the trick. Just fill the bag and cut off the tip of a corner (that's what I'm using in the photo at right).