I always swear fall is my favorite season. The colors are magical; the crisp air sucks me in. Drop me a pumpkin patch and hand me a mug off hot cider, and I’ll wander for hours. But really, I’m a child of summer. It’s the time of year when memories smell like honeysuckle and sunscreen. No matter how hard I try to be a hectic Sunday at a football field, I’m just a lazy Tuesday at a baseball diamond. I was raised outside, throwing balls and turning cartwheels in the grass. My childhood is one long blur of summer sunsets and friends crowded around a sticky picnic table. The muggy St. Louis summer is like a best friend who never bothers to knock. You look up from whatever seemingly important task you were doing and there it is, not so much begging for your attention as demanding it. Summers here command you go outside and enjoy the sunshine, humidity and all. Fall may be the season of my idyllic dreams, but summer holds my heart.
Ben and I have started discussing plans for buying a house and starting a family (eventually), and it’s making me nostalgic for my own childhood. I am incredibly lucky that I can look back fondly and have nothing but happy memories. Some of the best days of my life involved sitting in lawn chairs on a sticky summer night, watching fireflies dance across the yard, and I’m desperate to recreate those memories in my adulthood. We were able to capture some of that magic over the weekend, sitting on patios with dear friends and laughing about nothing in particular. Laughing because everything seems right in the world simply because we’re together. We ate burgers and corn fresh from the grill and drank just enough tequila to make karaoke seem like a good idea. (OK, so I was the only one who thought it was a good idea. The sentiment remains the same.)
I made these strawberry cupcakes a few weeks ago for my brother’s graduation. They were the perfect contrast to the peanut butter hot fudge cupcakes I’d made, plus strawberries have always been Joey’s favorite. We’d eat strawberry shortcakes when it was his turn to pick dessert, and although I would never turn down chocolate, strawberry is one of my favorite flavors, too. Strawberry cupcakes with perfectly tart strawberry frosting were just the thing to celebrate. The frosting is made with freeze-dried strawberries. They give it a gorgeous color and an incredible texture. The cupcakes themselves have chunks of fresh strawberries studded in a vanilla cake, and the combination is perfection. Strawberry cupcakes fit perfectly in my dreamy summer visions. I bet they’ll find a place in yours, too.
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Cake from Annie's Eats
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups diced strawberries
- 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons pulverized freeze-dried strawberries
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3-6 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well to combine. Add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix again. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients until almost combined. Fold in the diced strawberries and mix until there are no streaks of flour left. Fill the cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool before frosting.
- Beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, freeze-dried strawberries, and salt and beat again. Add 3 tablespoons milk and beat until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost the cupcakes as desired.