Sunday, January 22, 2012

Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Cupcakes - Fit for Royalty

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.

Let cool.

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.

Strawberry-Vanilla Coulis
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.

Strawberry-Vanilla Buttercream
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.



  1. Prayers for your friend and a special word of thanks to your for your beautiful gift of the cupcakes - that's what it's all about.

  2. I couldn't live without my kitchen scales. I even have a spare. :)

    Your friend sounds like such an inspiration. I'm sorry her road is so rocky right now.

  3. This is such a great post... I am sorry about your friend being sick, but I thank God she has such a good friend standing by her side, holding her hand... I will pray for her. Happy Birthday to her. The cupcakes look absolutely fantastic and I am sure she thinks so too :) My little girl would love these pink cupcakes! Those strawberry hearts and just too cute! Thanks for sharing, Gina!

  4. Thanks ladies, I know she is in the best hands and that everything will be okay.

  5. I enjoyed reading your post and wish the best for your friend. I would feel fortunate to have your support were I in her shoes though I'm happy to hear she is keeping strong. These cupcakes are fit for a king (or queen!).

  6. Gina,
    Your friend is so lucky to have you with her by her side giving her love and support for the fight of her life, and for making these beautiful cupcakes. I'm sure that she appreciates them, more than you know. I love strawberries in anything, and I will have to make these local strawberries in a few months.

    Have a great week!

  7. My thoughts and prayers are with your friend and with you as you help her through this battle.

    Any food that is laced with love is twice as beautiful as it would be otherwise and these are no exception. They're amazing. I'm loving all the vanilla bean goodness in there. And those strawberry hearts are so cute. I need a cutter like that!

  8. What a lovely heartfelt post. Love how you placed your strawberries; you have that talent Gina. Sending good vibes and prayers your way for you and your friend.

  9. What an inspirational post to find first thing Monday morning! Gina you never cease to amaze us; not only with your great recipes but with your open and loving support!

  10. Oh, Gian-such a heartfelt and beautiful post for your friend! She is on her way to recovery, and losing one's hair is part of the process. My younger sister went through this, and she is in her 7th year of breast cancer survivor!

    Your beautiful and delicate; of course, for "fighting breast cancer" and those delicate little strawberry hearts...made with LOVE, I must say, if that's not HOPE...than I don't know what is. You are a TRUE and caring friend, I just know she will be just fine.
    Sending love, and prayers to you and your sweet friend:DDD

  11. This is worthy of such a special day for your friend. Just the loveliest posting, Gina and a gentle reminder to look around and see all of your blessings.

  12. Beautiful heartfelt post Gina, you friend is very fortunate to have you as such a loving friend! And your cupcakes! Just gorgeous, love those little strawberry hearts, wow- so cute!
    Okay, just to change gears a bit, game on for baking day!!! It's Bake Chat Blog chez Patty's Food!

  13. I agree with Patty, but we are also very fortunate to have you in our community. Your are thoughtful, giving, supportive and just a beautiful woman all around. These cupcakes were made with so much love in your heart that the love spilled onto them and into your loved ones. My very best wishes to your friend Gina. Hugs:)

  14. Mmmm, these look so delicious :) I love the strawberry hearts, what a wonderful idea.

  15. What a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday and a friendship! Special thoughts for your friend as she continues her journey towards remission. xo

  16. What a gorgeous post--both the cupcakes and your friendship! Cheers and all the best to you and your best friend!

  17. Oh, blessings galore to you and your friend. She really is blessed to have a friend like you! Lizzy said it well...a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday and a friendship! Prayers for your friend for continued strength and complete healing! xoxo

  18. I think my favourite part of these cupcakes are those little strawberry heart toppers. So cute, I can't stand it :)

  19. What a sweet and lovely way to celebrate! The heartshaped strawberries look wonderful!

  20. Lovely friend-post :) I'm glad you had a nice occasion to pull you away from all that cleaning. Bleh. Deliciously looking cupcakes, darling!

  21. What pretty cupcakes! May just have to make those for Valentine's Day!

  22. That is not food - it is art!!

    So beautiful - thank you for sharing! Cannot wait to make these for my bf for v-day!!

  23. What beautiful cupcakes. These look delicious!

  24. Your life sounds so busy! But I love the cupcakes and I particularly love the little cut out hearts made of strawberry!

  25. it seems like Valentines is in the air, this is so cute, if ever I made one I will definitely give the first bite to my husband.

  26. Thoughts and prayers for your friend, Gina. Your cupcakes are beautiful--so glad they lifted her her spirits.

  27. Gorgeous cupcakes! Good luck to your friend, she is in my thoughts!

  28. What a beautiful post Gina, and gorgeous cupcakes! I am sure just being around you lifts your friends spirits! You are an amazing person and I know that your love and support will keep your friend warm, strong and as beautiful as any rose could be! My thoughts for a full recover for your friend, hugs

  29. Just wanted to say thanks for participating in the YBR :) You already know I loved this post. Hugs!

  30. You are always such a kind and thoughtful friend. I pray for her. You are cheerful and funny and she must get a lot of positive spirit from you.

    These cupcakes are so cute and I love your strawberry decorations on top! You are always so creative and making topping/decorations so unique and adorable. You know how to get our attentions!