The castle has been a blur of activity the last couple of weeks. I've been on a quest, an important quest indeed. Wandering about the castle, I came upon something so obvious and glaring I had to do something about it. From all outward appearances it was still a grand place complete with a moat. The shimmer of its former glory was still there, it was just a little worn and faded. So I set about on a long and tiring journey to put the gleam back into its facade.
There was a lot of climbing involved, a bit of heavy lifting (castle furniture isn't light) and even some get down on your knees scrubbing.
The King and Princess who live in the castle think nothing of leaving their armor and ball gowns lying about, but I was afraid the expected noble men and women who were making the long journey here would frown upon such un-tidiness.
Amidst all the activity swirling about the castle, a Birthday was in need of a celebrating. This was a special birthday for a special "Best Friend of the Kingdom". Her only request was strawberries; I cast aside the mops and rags and set about baking some special Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Cupcakes for this special Best Friend.
This Best Friend has been through so much recently and I've tried to stay strong and help her as best as I can. She is surviving breast cancer and chemo may have taken her hair, but it has in no way dimmed her radiant smile. She has inspired me to grow in ways I didn't even know I could, rethink old thoughts and love even more.
She is more beautiful than any rose I've laid my eyes upon.
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
6 ounces cake flour
6 ounces granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1- inch pieces
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
5 ounces milk
3 ounces egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add to a large bowl or bowl of a mixer, cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix to combine the dry ingredients. Add butter, vanilla bean seeds, milk and egg whites, mix on medium speed until the batter is smooth.
Fill 12 paper lined muffin cups and bake for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Note: You will need a kitchen scale to measure some of the ingredients, but I assure you an investment in one is well worth it if you bake with any frequency.
1 pound strawberries, 5 or 6 reserved for garnish
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Combine strawberries, vanilla bean seeds and sugar in a food processor, pulse until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve to remove seeds. Pour 3/4 of the contents into a squeeze bottle and reserve the other 1/4 for the buttercream. Set aside.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1/4 of the strawberry-vanilla coulis
3-4 cups powdered sugar
Place the butter in a bowl of a mixer and mix until the butter gets really soft and smooth, it will look a bit fluffy and paler in color. Add the vanilla bean seeds and strawberry-vanilla coulis, mix and slowly start adding the powdered sugar until you get the frosting to a nice spreading consistency. I left the icing a little on the softer side, if you want it a little thicker just add a little more sugar.
To assemble the cupcakes, take the squeeze bottle filled with strawberry-vanilla coulis and press the tip into the cupcake and squeeze, repeat over the top of the cupcake. Repeat for the rest of the cupcakes.
I frosted the cupcakes with a disposable piping bag with a small amount of the tip cut off and garnished them with just that little bit of extra love that was necessary.
I cut the sides off of the remaining strawberries and used a small heart shaped cutter to make strawberry hearts and threaded them onto toothpicks for an edible garnish.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
I have to say making these cupcakes lifted her spirits and mine too. Getting the castle ready for a new family has tired me in more ways than I knew.
Stay strong my friend and I will stay strong right by your side.