Strawberry champagne cupcakes

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A few weeks ago, Mike and I took the kids down to Virginia Tech for a indoctrination visit. As we walked around campus, our girls with seemingly endless energy suddenly couldn’t put one foot in front of the other because they were tiiiiiiirrrrrrrrred and so desperately needed to be carried.

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Early in the day, before they were deaded.

We had any number of places where Mike and I needed to eat, such as Macados and the restaurant that had taken over the space where Bogens used to be, 622 North. I was really looking forward to dinner at 622 North. It looked different….certainly different from most places in Blacksburg. Mike really enjoyed his chorizo burger, but my garlic chicken was supremely disappointing. I like garlic, and if it says “garlic chicken”, I’d like some vampires to fucking flee when I breathe in their general direction. But because of my non-garlicky meal, there was no fleeing! (Unrelated: if I came over, would you let me in?)
Anyway, it was that disappointing meal that led us to decide to go elsewhere for dessert. Out of curiosity, we visited a boutique cupcake shop downtown. All the cupcakes looked gorgeous in the window with unique flavors: blueberry cobbler; chocolate avocado; strawberry champagne. I eyed the strawberry champagne cupcake and imagined what it would taste like: light; effervescent; strawberry. (I can’t think of anything fancy for strawberry.) It was none of that. The cake was tasteless. The frosting was heavy and gloppy, and there was too much of it. There was a tiny, coagulated glop of strawberry and champagne…we’ll call it a compote in the middle. Rather than do what I wanted to do, (yell LIAR! at the cashier with my mouth stuffed full of cake) I decided to make the cupcake that I wanted.

Taste testing
First, I had to figure out what kind of champagne I wanted to use. I found a recipe that used pink. So I picked up pink champagne and moscato, and I had some brut at home. I felt like the moscato and pink were way too sweet and didn’t give me the fizzy, bubbly taste I was hoping for, (especially since the moscato wasn’t sparkling. Don’t take your children to buy booze. They’ll act up, you’ll panic, and get the wrong thing.) So I chose the regular old brut for my cupcakes.

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Taste testing right before making cupcakes may lead to drunken baking.

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If you don’t have a child with strawberry blonde hair to whisk your dry ingredients, any old child will do.

Strawberry champagne cupcakes
Yield 24

Ingredients

Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries
1/2 cup brut champagne

Frosting
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup brut champagne

Champagne simple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brut champagne

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 1/2 cup of strawberries into a bowl with 1/2 cup of champagne and set aside for approximately 10 minutes.

Combine flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk and set aside. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix on medium high for about three minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and fluffy. Beat in eggs and white one at a time, making sure each egg is blended into batter before adding the next egg. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and then the other half of the flour mixture. Drain champagne from strawberries and fold the strawberries into your batter.
Divide batter into muffin cups with liners, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake 25-28 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until just golden. Allow cupcakes to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes, and then remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For simple syrup, combine sugar and champagne in a small saucepan. Over medium high heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces by half and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-8 minutes.
Once cupcakes have cooled, lightly poke the tops of the cupcakes with a toothpick. Use a silicone pastry brush or a liquid dropper, and add syrup (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) to the tops of the cupcakes, making sure the cake absorbs the liquid. Don’t over saturate the cupcakes or they’ll be soggy.

For frosting, pour champagne over strawberries and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
Combine egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl over a pot with about 1 cup of simmering water. (You don’t need a lot. Don’t fill up the pot or let the water touch the bowl.) Heat mixture, whisking frequently, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F and sugar has dissolved. (Mixture will look white and somewhat frothy.) Transfer mixture to stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat on medium high for approximately 8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 2 Tbsp at a time, fully incorporating each addition before adding more. If frosting begins to look soupy or separated, beat on medium high for a few minutes until it comes together and looks fluffy.
Drain champagne from strawberries. Place strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth. Add purée in small additions, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating after each addition, until you achieve the taste and consistency you like. (I added all my purée.) Your frosting will look a bit soupy after each purée addition. Simply beat frosting until it comes back together and is light and fluffy.

Frost your cupcakes in whichever way makes you happy!

Source – adapted from Annie’s Eats

Do NOT be intimidated by fancy boutique cupcake shops. You CAN do this at home. It’s easier than it seems. And if it makes you feel better, the top cupcake picture was one of the good ones. Most of mine usually come out looking like they have nipples.

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