Strawberry Lemon-Thyme Cupcakes
These cupcakes are a great spring time treat, when you're starting to crave the fresh flavors of berries and citrus after a long winter. This recipe makes 12 cupcakes. Here's what you'll need:
1 16 oz container of strawberries
A bundle of fresh thyme
A 1lb. package of butter (4 sticks)
All purpose flour
For the Compote:
1 16oz container of strawberries, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 TBS of lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
2 TBS of fresh lemon juice
2 TBS granulated Sugar
Clean and chop the strawberries. Zest the lemon. Half the lemon and squeeze. Measure out 2 TBS of lemon juice and 2 TBS of sugar.
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes, or until a syrup that will coat the back of a spoon has developed. Strain compote through a fine sieve, retaining the liquid. Measure out, and set aside, 1/2 cup of the syrup. Allow the compote and the syrup to cool, while you start your frosting.
For the frosting:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 TBS corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of strawberry syrup from compote (recipe above)
3 sticks of butter
Remove butter from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, corn starch, and salt. In a separate container mix milk and strawberry syrup together. Whisk the milk/syrup into the dry ingredients until smooth.
Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat whisking or stirring constantly. The mixture will start to bubble. Continue to stir and cook until it becomes thick and becomes darker in color. About 7-10 minutes
When it is thick enough, you will notice that it begins to stick to the sides of the pan and will pile up in ribbons when poured from the spoon. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Allow the mixture to cool COMPLETELY. This will take a while. In the mean time, you can make the lemon-thyme syrup (recipe below).
Once the cooked frosting mixture is completely cooled to room temperature, use a rubber spatula to put it into the bowl of a stand mixer. It will be quite sticky! Beat for about 30 seconds to aerate and soften the mixture a bit. Cut the three sticks of room temperature butter into small pieces. Add butter, little by little, beating and scraping after each addition. When all the butter is incorporated, turn the mixer on high, and beat for 5 minutes. Transfer frosting to a bowl and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. If the frosting stiffens too much while in the refrigerator, allow to sit at room temperature until soft enough to frost the cupcakes.
For the lemon-thyme simple syrup:
2 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of water
A large sprig of thyme
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes. Strain syrup and let cool. Save lemon zest as a garnish for the top of the cupcakes. This recipe makes more syrup than you'll need for the cupcakes. Store the cooled, leftover syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be used later over pancakes, to sweeten tea, or anything you want to have a light, refreshing flavor.
For the cupcakes:
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients. Sift or mix thoroughly with a whisk. In a small bowl, mix milk, almond extract and vanilla extract together. Set aside.
Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time beating well and scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each egg.
Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed until just combined. Next, add about a third of the wet ingredients also at a low speed until well incorporated. Alternate between dry and wet ingredients until it produces a nice, thick batter. Be careful not to over mix, as this will create a tough cake.
Line a 12 cavity cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden in color and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove cupcakes and place on cooling rack until they are cool enough to handle. Hollow out some of the middle of the cupcake, being careful not to go all the way to the bottom. We used an apple corer and went only part of the way down at first to reserve a "plug" to put back on top once we filled them.
After the "plug" is removed, remove a little more cake from the center to make room for the filling. Using spoons, fill each hole with the strawberry compote that you made earlier.
Replace each cupcake top.
Generously spoon or brush on the lemon-thyme syrup, then frost your cupcakes and garnish with the lemon zest you set aside from making the syrup. Serve right away and refrigerate any leftover cupcakes.