My second granddaughter, known around here as Littler Miss, turned three last week and I had the pleasure of hosting a small family birthday party Saturday afternoon to celebrate this happy occasion. For me, the ingredients for a young child’s birthday party are simple:
- the people who love them
- a few decorations such as a birthday banner, some balloons and a tablecloth
- gaily packaged gifts
- simple foods and beverages
- a cake or cupcakes in the birthday child’s favourite flavours and colours
I’m rather a minimalist when it comes to birthday parties. Generally, I don’t go in for elaborate themes and decor, although as children get older they definitely have more specific ideas about what they want. Nor is there a need for a lot of food at an afternoon party. Apart from the cupcakes, the serving table offered homemade seeded lavash bread and hummus, a bowl of crisps, a fruit tray, and a lovely baked brie with a cranberry topping and crackers contributed by a guest. Pretty wholesome, wouldn’t you say?
Littler Miss likes chocolate and she likes strawberries. And as you might tell from the photos, she very much likes pink. So I brought all these elements together in a special cupcake created just for her. There’s strawberry puree in the batter, along with just a touch of cocoa for flavour and colour. And that buttercream is like a kiss of sweet strawberry on top. All natural colour, all natural flavour, all made with love. And, I’m happy to say, utterly enchanting to our three-year-old.
My experience with birthday parties for my children and now my grandchildren is that few kids are all that interested in cake. Some will eat some cake, others eat some frosting, but few ever eat a whole piece. Over the years, I’ve thrown out more cake than I care to think about. Children and adults alike are, however, drawn to the charm of cupcakes, especially when baked in fancy cups and displayed on a cupcake tree. And if they don’t eat the whole cupcake, there’s little waste. This proved a good thing, as Littler Miss licked the frosting off hers and didn’t even bite into the cake.
We all had a lovely time, and the look on the birthday girl’s face told me how much she loved everything about her party: almost as much as I love her 💞
Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes
Strawberry Chocolate Cupcakes
© Urban Cottage Life.com
The chocolate in this cupcake is mild, so the taste of the strawberry puree still comes through in the cake. The melange of strawberry and cocoa resulted in a taupe colour with just a whisper of pink undertone. This recipe makes 15 medium-sized cupcakes, which rise up nicely and are moist. Since the buttercream is so sweet, I used less sugar than usual in the cupcake batter and found the final result still a flavourful treat, even without the frosting. If you prefer a less sweet frosting, I suggest you make a Swiss meringue buttercream, as I did for Littler Miss’s first birthday cake.
To make the strawberry puree, I set some frozen strawberries on a plate to partially thaw and then whizzed them up in a small food processor. Since the seeds are small to begin with, it wasn’t necessary to strain the puree.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 ℉. Set 15 cupcake liners in two cupcake tins. If using stiff paper cups as I did, set them on a baking tray.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup strawberry puree (see note above)
Place the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Pass the cocoa powder through a small sieve and stir into the other dry ingredients. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, then slowly mix in the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl and mix again.
Slowly stir in half the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then half the strawberry puree. Scrape down the bowl well and repeat. To avoid overworking the batter, finish the mixing process by hand with a spatula.
Using a small ice cream scoop (3 tablespoons in size), fill the baking cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.
Set the cupcakes on a rack to cool. Frost with strawberry buttercream, below.
© Urban Cottage Life.com
The final consistency of this buttercream was soft, but it held its shape well due to the meringue powder. This recipe made just enough buttercream to frost 15 medium sized cupcakes rather lavishly, as shown in the photos.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
- about 3 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
- 2 tsp meringue powder
- about 4 tbsp strawberry puree
Using a mixer, whip the butter until very light and fluffy. Slowly work in the icing sugar and meringue powder, then increase the speed until the mixture is well-incorporated. Add in about 3 tablespoons of the strawberry puree and mix well. Scrape down the bowl once or twice to ensure the colour is evenly distributed. Making buttercream is not an exact science. Add more strawberry puree if needed to get a more intense colour or flavour, or to soften the consistency. Conversely, if the buttercream seems too soft, you can add some more icing sugar to stiffen it up a bit.