So even if you don't like Valentine's Day, I'm thinking you probably like cupcakes, right? I admit, I've always liked Valentine's Day but more because I like the color scheme of the holiday and that it centers on chocolate. I'm a girly girl and can't resist all the pink, red, and white that's on display everywhere during late January and February. So chocolate cupcakes with pale pink strawberry meringue buttercream seemed like the perfect Valentine's treat.
For quite some time, I've seen pictures of beautifully iced cupcakes and cakes and they've always used Swiss meringue buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream is where butter is whipped into a cooked mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar. For whatever reason, I've put off making it myself because-- I don't really know why-- having to get out my candy thermometer? I thought it would be too time consuming? I'm not sure what my reasoning was but I just stuck to regular buttercream but finally I thought, no more, I want beautiful cupcakes and not gloppy buttercream! And-- I have turned over a new leaf! I could kick myself for not trying this sooner, because I swooned as soon as I took my first taste. It was strawberry, buttery, silky smooth deliciousness! And not only that, but it was so easy to pipe and decorate with, and held it's shape beautifully on the cupcakes. Somehow through the magic of chemistry, those egg whites and that sugar when heated and then beaten into a meringue turn into something spectacular (and those three sticks of butter don't hurt either). If you've never tried meringue buttercream, take the plunge and try it for yourself. I've been thinking all of the different flavors I can make and think I may have just given myself a new obsession. :)
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans-- about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake. I usually get about 27 cupcakes from this recipe.
Recipe from Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake
Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
I used this fantastic recipe and step-by-step tutorial on how to make Swiss meringue buttercream from Annie's Eats. Annie's instructions are so clear and easy, it made my first attempt at meringue buttercream a snap so I'll just direct you to her blog for the recipe. Here are just a few observations I had that hopefully will help, especially if you've never attempted this type of icing before. I know I was a little bit apprehensive at first, but as you will see, if you follow the steps, it will come together like a dream!
- In Annie's recipe, she uses organic strawberries since they have more flavor. I happened to only have regular strawberries on hand, so in order to coax the maximum flavor out of mine, I coarsely chopped the strawberries, added about 1 tablespoon of sugar and allowed it to sit in a bowl on the counter (macerate) for about 1/2 an hour before I pureed them. I was very happy with the strawberry flavor in the frosting so I think this step really helped if you are not using organic.
- When you are melting the egg whites and sugar together in the first step and waiting for the candy thermometer to to reach 160 degrees, don't be alarmed if this takes awhile. This step took me about 8-10 minutes and I was concerned I was doing something wrong, but my icing turned out perfectly in the end. It just took that long for the egg whites to reach the appropriate temperature. Just keep whisking and checking the thermometer.