Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes

These cupcakes are such a light treat, and they’re perfect to indulge in with a glass of sweet Riesling on a warm summer afternoon, especially if you can use fresh, local strawberries (and fresh, local Riesling 😉 ). This recipe was my first experience with mascarpone cheese, a sweet, spreadable Italian cheese that is similar to cream cheese in texture, though not as tart and not as inexpensive. It can often be found in the specialty cheese section of your local grocery store. It’s very easy to work with and very versatile, but most importantly, it’s DELICIOUS with strawberries! If your budget doesn’t have the flexibility to purchase the costly mascarpone, cream cheese is a suitable substitute, but it won’t be quite as light and airy. The following recipe is from the fabulous Giada de Laurentiis, but the additional topping of frosting and strawberries is my own incorporation.

Strawberry and Mascarpone Filled Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 box French vanilla cake mix (you can cheat every now and then!),
    and eggs, oil, and water specified on package
  • 1 8oz container mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • ½ cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus ½ cup
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Fresh strawberries, sliced
  • A stand mixer, a food processor, or a trusty electric hand mixer

How to Do It

  1. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Make the cupcakes according to the package instructions on the French vanilla cake mix. Bake according to package directions, and let cool on a wire rack.
  2. Using a food processor, a stand mixer, or your trusty electric hand mixer, whip the mascarpone cheese, strawberries, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and lemon juice. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip, and push the tip gently to the center of the cupcake. Squeeze the bag lightly until the cupcake begins to plump. Don’t squeeze too hard, or you may end up breaking the cupcake. When you are finished filling the cupcakes, refrigerate the remaining filling. If you’ve used most of the filling, make a second batch, and refrigerate.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring the ½ cup granulated sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved. In a medium bowl or a stand mixer bowl, combine the vanilla syrup with the confectioner’s sugar. Whip until smooth. Transfer to a non-metal bowl (if necessary).
  4. Giada recommends that you use a rubber spatula to spread the warm icing quickly onto each cupcake. Here’s what works better: dip the top of each cupcake into the syrup, lightly spin the cupcake so the top becomes covered and smooth, and use a butter knife to trim off any excess, messy syrup. If the icing begins to firm up and become too sticky, place it in the microwave for a few seconds to retain consistency. It should remain the consistency of Elmer’s glue and should lay on top of the cupcake. Place on top of a wire rack to dry.
  5. Take the remaining strawberry filling and put into a pastry bag with a round tip. Frost a medium sized dollop in the center of each cupcake. Place a fresh sliced strawberry in the icing.

Recipe courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com .

Tip: It’s easy to slice strawberries beautifully enough that they make fantastic embellishments to your desserts. Use a paring knife to slice the top of the strawberry (with the stem) off so that the strawberry can stand on its own. Cut the short sides of the strawberry so that you have a flat, even edge on both sides of the strawberry. Continue to make thin slices with the paring knife so that you’re cutting perpendicular to the natural angle of the strawberry. Voila! Beautiful strawberry slices!

Lighten It Up! Use a reduced sugar cake mix instead of the heavier version, reduced fat cream cheese instead of mascarpone, and frozen strawberries packed in water instead of syrup (which I recommend anyway!).

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