Strawberry Saffron Chocolate Chip Cake

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You know when you get your heart set on making a certain recipe? And even though there are other options that are totally easier for one reason or another…it doesn’t matter?

Ladies and gentleman: Welcome to my brain when I made this cake.

The recipe itself is super simple. But it turned out that getting my hands on the right ingredients wasn’t so easy. This post may say “strawberry cake,” but the original recipe¬†called for figs. And in a silly, produce-naive move, I was trying to make this cake before fig season kicked into full force. (Ahem: I made this cake in April…so now you know I’m not always the most punctual with my posts ūüôā )

I had already bought the other ingredients when I realized my faux pas. I tried four grocery stores, but there were no figs to be found. Still: I really¬†wanted to make this cake. I’d been eyeing this cake for months, and was so curious about what a saffron-tinged cake would taste like. Plus, I’d already bought the yogurt and saffron. Time for Plan B!

Lucky for me, the recipe’s author helped me out. I commented on Alejandra’s blog asking if she thought dried figs would work ok. And she gave me so much advice! She suggested other recipes on her site that were fig-less, but similar. She suggested a way to rehydrate dried figs. And she also suggested swapping in berries instead.

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Ta-dah! We had a new plan. Since I stubbornly wanted to use the saffron and greek yogurt, swapping in another fruit was my best option. I got some strawberries to replace the figs, and finally this cake and I got to have our moment in the sun.

I brought the finished beauty to my¬†cake party¬†and it was a total hit. Friends kept commenting on how different it was from other desserts they’d tried before. They couldn’t put their finger on the saffron, but they loved how it tasted!

The cake is super moist, thanks to the olive oil and greek yogurt in the batter. Saffron and almond extract combine for a really unique flavor that’s a little earthy, but balanced. The strawberries add a bit of juiciness and a sweet topping before you bite into the cake itself. Alejandra mentions you can omit the saffron if you want to…but I don’t think you should.

In the end, it all worked out. Thank to Alejandra for all her help! I’m definitely going to try this again now that figs are actually in season!

Strawberry Saffron Chocolate Chip Cake

Original recipe: Always Order Dessert. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Suggested equipment:¬†It’s best to use a springform pan, if you have one!

Total Time: 1.5 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain, whole Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Whisk together your yogurt, eggs, olive oil, vanilla, almond extract and sugar until the mixture is smooth
  3. Combine your heavy cream and saffron in a small bowl. Microwave the bowl until the cream is hot‚ÄĒshould take about 20 seconds
  4. Whisk the cream, and let it sit for 2 minutes. That gives the saffron time to steep into the cream
  5. Pour the cream into your bowl of batter, and mix it together
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk your flour, baking powder and salt
  7. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until it’s just combined
  8. Grease a 9 inch springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper
  9. Pour your batter into the prepared cake pan
  10. Arrange strawberry slices and chocolate chips all over the top of your cake
  11. Bake the cake 40-45 minutes, until it’s golden on top and on the sides. A tester in the middle should come out clean and free of liquidy batter!
  12. Let the pan cool for fifteen minutes. Then, remove the sides of the springform and transfer the cake to a wire rack so it can cool completely

Note: I actually thought this cake tasted even better the day after I made it, so feel free to prep ahead!

 

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Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream

A couple of months ago, we had a cooking challenge at work. There was only one rule: you had to use basil. People tried all kinds of recipes, from pesto to pizza. But the minute I heard the challenge, I knew I had to bake with basil, rather than cooking with it.

IMG_4381I’d baked with basil before, and loved these¬†lemon basil chocolate chip cookies¬†from a bit ago. So, I had good faith in basil as a baking ingredient. Now I just needed the perfect recipe. Given that 1) I work at Pinterest and 2) I’m obsessed with Pinterest, it felt pretty appropriate to turn to Pinterest for ideas. I stumbled on this recipe for basil cupcakes, and knew I’d found my winner.

And this recipe was¬†a winner in every sense of the word. The cupcakes turned out great….and I won the cooking challenge, too! I ended up submitting two entries, and will share the other recipe another time (hint: it involves tangerine).

For now, let’s talk about these cupcakes. When you bake with herbs, you have a few options. You can throw the herb directly into batter, infuse it into an ingredient, or mix it into an ingredient. This recipe takes the latter route, and you mix bits of basil into regular sugar for the cake, then powdered sugar for the frosting.

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Basil sugar

I loved the cupcakes the minute I tasted them: strawberry’s sweetness balances nicely with basil’s earthiness. And since the basil is mixed into the sugar, you don’t get distinct bites of basil as you chomp on the cake. At first, I wasn’t so sure about the frosting, though. I tried a bit of it on its own and couldn’t decide if it was distinctly delicious, or too salty, or too basil-y. I figured the only way to know for sure was to slather it on some cupcakes, and pass them out to taste testers.

Readers, let me tell you: do not doubt the basil buttercream. It was the perfect complement to the strawberry cupcakes, and worked really well once you took a bite of cake and frosting together. It’s super hard to explain what it tastes like, but every bite of cupcake gives you a really nice range of flavors. You get a bit of saltiness, then herb-ish flavors, and then the sweetness of the strawberry cake.

You’ll need to try this recipe to see what I mean! It’s probably not a cake flavor you’ve ever dreamt of before…but trust me, you should give it a shot.

 

Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream

Original recipe: Cupcake Project. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Suggested equipment: Food processor, mixer

Total Time: ~1 hour, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup basil sugar (Make this first; you’ll need 1 cup sugar and 1 handful fresh basil leaves)
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt (plain)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh strawberry puree (I used 7 strawberries)

For the frosting 

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups basil powdered sugar¬†(you’ll need 2 cups sugar, and 2 handfuls of basil)
  • 2 cups regular powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Make your cupcakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Make your basil sugar, following the link above in the ingredient list
  3. Use a medium mixing bowl, and mix your basil sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  4. Add butter, then mix until it’s fully combined
  5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your eggs, yogurt, oil and vanilla until the mixture is smooth
  6. Add your egg mixture to the flour mixture. Mix until it’s all just combined
  7. Fold in your strawberry puree, and mix until just combined
  8. Add in your milk, and mix until it’s just combined
  9. Line a cupcake pan with liners, and fill ’em up about 3/4 of the way
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes bounce back a little when you touch the tops. Mine took 19 minutes on the dot
  11. Let cupcakes cool completely before you frost them

Make your frosting 

  1. First, whip up your basil powdered sugar using the link in the recipe list above
  2. In a mixing bowl or mixer, beat your butter until it’s light and fluffy. It should take just a few minutes if you use a mixer on high speed
  3. Add your basil powdered sugar in increments, mixing in between each addition
  4. Mix in your regular powdered sugar in increments, mixing in between each addition
  5. Add in your salt, and mix thoroughly to make sure it’s evenly distributed
  6. Frost your cupcakes!
  7. Wow people with this totally unexpected-but-amazing flavor combo ūüôā

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

My other blog turned 5 last week, and I decided to bake some cake to celebrate. Sure, I’ll take any excuse to make a cake¬†– but I truly did feel like a celebration was in order. I started the other blog¬†as a place to pen critical commentary and personal musings. It’s been such a gift over the years, and I love writing for it. If you’ve never checked it out, please do! But first: make these strawberry cupcakes.

File_005I’d originally planned to make a snickerdoodle cake and headed out to buy some missing ingredients. But when¬†I saw strawberries were on a buy one, get one free offer, I just couldn’t resist.¬†Between Pinterest¬†and a¬†very organized¬†Google doc, I keep a long list of recipes to try. As soon as I saw the strawberry promo, I remembered a strawberry cupcake recipe¬†I’d saved last year. Clearly the sale was a sign that it was finally time to make this recipe!

These cupcakes were so fluffy, so moist, so delicious. There is strawberry puree in the actual cake batter, adding a subtle fruitiness. The cake texture is really light, thanks to cake flour and extra egg whites. Next time, I’d add more chopped strawberries to the batter, and use the¬†flour trick¬†to coat my berries so they don’t sink to the bottom of each cupcake.

The original recipe included frosting made with freeze-dried strawberries. I decided to swap in a different frosting using fresh strawberries instead so I could use more of my newly-obtained berries. I really loved the frosting I used and suggest using it for your cupcakes, too.

I highly recommend reading through this whole thing before you start baking. Which, technically, I always recommend doing with recipes – but it’s really important this time, since there are a number of elements you prep and set aside, use later, etc.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

Original recipes: ¬†Cake was from Sally’s Baking Addiction, frosting was from The Baker Upstairs.¬†I‚Äôve¬†added some modifications and rewritten the recipes with commentary.¬†

Yield: 24 cupcakes (original recipe claimed it made ~17 but I got 24!) 

Suggested equipment: Mixer, either stand or hand-held

Total Time: ~2 hours

Cook Time: ~25 minutes 

Ingredients

Cake

  • 15¬†strawberries (Berry size varies so¬†much it’s hard to use as a descriptor, but you’ll want enough berries for the puree + berry pieces to fold into the batter. You can adjust berry quantity when you get to the final fold-in step)¬†
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, separated into the whites and the yolk
  • 2¬†additional egg whites, room temperature and separated out from the yolks (you won’t use the 2 yolks from these eggs)¬†
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour¬†(I highly recommend buying cake flour vs. using regular flour)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temp

Frosting

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons strawberry puree

Step by Step Directions

Make your cupcakes 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Slice 8 strawberries and place them in a food processor or blender. Pulse until strawberries are a chunky puree, and then set it aside for now. Chop up the rest of your strawberries into small pieces
  3. Beat your egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form – it will take about 2-3 minutes but you need to keep a close eye on it. You’ll want to use a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment for this step. This handy¬†tutorial¬†shows what your egg whites should look like when you’re done. Set the whites aside
  4. Sift your cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Set this bowl aside, too!
  5. Then, using your mixer, beat the butter on high until smooth and creamy
  6. Add sugar to the mixer bowl, and cream the ingredients on high speed for 3-4 minutes until they’re very well creamed
  7. Add your egg yolk and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until combined
  8. Switch your mixer to low speed. Start adding the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the whole milk. You should start and end this cycle with the dry ingredients. Between each addition, mix the batter until it is just incorporated. Don’t overmix!
  9. Decide how many strawberries you want to add into the batter, and chop up as many berries as you need to get there
  10. Measure out 1/3 cup of your strawberry puree. Refrigerate the rest for now – you’ll want it for the frosting
  11. Fold in the egg whites, strawberry puree and strawberry pieces. This is the time to adjust your berry ratio if you want fewer/more berry pieces!
  12. Once your batter is properly incorporated, pour batter into cupcake liners. I filled mine 2/3 of the way, even though the original recipe suggested to fill halfway
  13. Bake for 20-24 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Mine baked for 21 minutes but you should always start checking at the minimum time to see how your treats are faring
  14. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack to cool completely. Make sure the cakes are fully cooled before you start to frost them!

Make your frosting and assemble 

  1. Beat your butter until it’s light and fluffy
  2. Add the salt, powdered sugar and vanilla, then mix to combine so it’s nice and smooth
  3. Add in your puree and beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Make sure the puree is well integrated before you stop beating the frosting – some bits of puree may be hiding on the bottom!
  4. Frost your cupcakes, and enjoy

A note on storage: These keep well in storage containers for a couple days. I actually froze a few, too, and they defrosted beautifully. Lots of bakers hesitate to freeze frosting but I sometimes do it out of necessity – in this case, because I wanted to save a couple cupcakes for friends. The cupcakes defrosted nicely and tasted great!