All-Natural Strawberry Cupcakes with Freeze-Dried Strawberry Buttercream icing

This Strawberry Cupcake recipe is for all my friends who eat all-natural foods with no artificial ingredients. The cupcakes get their strawberry flavor from cooked and reduced strawberry puree and fresh strawberries. Reducing the puree gives it intense strawberry flavor. The puree only takes 30 minutes to make. The Strawberry icing uses freeze-dried strawberries found at most grocery stores, Target and Wal-Mart. These cupcakes are husband, kid, and office approved! Enjoy!

All-Natural Strawberry Cupcakes with Freeze Dried Strawberry Buttercream Icing

1/3 cup reduced strawberry puree (recipe follows)
2 1/3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon iodized salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature. (you will use 3 stiffly beaten egg whites and 1 yolk in the recipe)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1/8-inch dice) strawberries
Freeze-Dried Strawberry Buttercream icing

Make strawberry puree one day ahead. (Recipe follows.) Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. This recipe makes 15-16 cupcakes. Line 2 cupcake pans with 8 paper liners each. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Beat 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Reserve 1 egg yolk for recipe. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together with a stand or hand mixer on medium speed 2 minutes. Add egg yolk. Add vanilla to milk.  Alternate flour and milk mixtures like this: 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 milk mixture, 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 milk mixture, 1/3 flour mixture. Add strawberry puree. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl.

Fold egg whites and diced strawberries into batter by hand, using a silicone spatula. Place batter into prepared liners using an ice cream scoop. Fill liners 2/3 full. Don’t be tempted to overfill or cupcakes will overflow!

Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely then frost with Freeze-Dried Strawberry Buttercream. Makes 15-16 cupcakes. Tip: For more intense pink color add 1 drop pink food coloring (I know I said all natural, but who doesn’t love pink?) PS: Don’t be tempted to use freeze dried strawberries in the batter. I tried that and the cupcakes turned an ugly brown color.

Strawberry Puree
1 pound fresh strawberries (Reserve enough strawberries from package for 1/2 cup diced strawberries needed in cupcake batter.)
Puree remaining strawberries with a food processor. Pour puree in a small saucepan. Simmer 25-30 minutes. (Puree will bubble around the edges but not in the middle while simmering.) Reduce puree reduce by half stirring occasionally. When reduced; pour in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Store any leftover puree in freezer for your next batch!

Freeze-Dried Strawberry Buttercream Icing
1 (1 ounce) package freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (16 ounce) box powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
Pinch iodized salt

Pour freeze-dried strawberries in a mini food processor. Process until strawberries turn into a powder. You should have 1/2 cup strawberry powder. Set aside.

On medium speed, beat butter with a stand mixer 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add half of powdered sugar and strawberry powder. Mix. Add half of water. Mix. Add remaining powdered sugar, strawberry powder and salt. Mix. Add remaining water. Mix. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Increase speed to high and mix 3 minutes. I used a 1 M open star Wilton cake decorating tip to decorate the cupcakes. Tip: For more intense icing color add 1 drop pink food coloring.

Recipe published in the News & Neighbor on May 13, 2020.

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