|Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream|
Growing up, Valentine's Day was one of those holidays that I looked forward to. I couldn't wait to trudge through the snow to the old Hill's in Ebensburg to pick out my school Valentine's Day cards. I would look at the pictures and the sayings, always making sure the sentiment was right and the character was cool enough for that year. My sister was there too. She would look and look and then ultimately chose Barbie. She was always so pleased with herself and her choice (even though it was evident from the beginning what she would choose) and that would make us smile. I carefully chose which student in my class got each Valentine and I never signed my name with a pen or pencil. I had a special Valentine's day stamp: a red stamp of my name "Rebecca" surrounded with little hearts that I happily pressed on the back of each card.
But the best part of Valentine's Day was always waiting for me on the kitchen table!! It was from my Dad. Every Valentine's Day, my dad would go out of his way to make our day special. No matter what shift he worked, us three girls would walk into the kitchen at some point on Valentine's Day and find roses, little boxes of chocolates and a Valentine's Day card. Of course, my mom's would receive the largest bouquet: a big bundle of red roses sitting in the middle of the table. My sister and I would receive smaller vases of yellow or pink roses. It was tradition for my Mom to read her card and cry. My Dad is a man of few words and his cards to my Mom (no matter the holiday) always seemed to say the absolute right things. Seeing how happy my Mom was on Valentine's Day getting those flowers from my Dad is one of my best Valentine's memories. My Mom always take the time to take pictures of all the gifts then we would open chocolates, smell roses and say how beautiful everything was. A lot of times my Dad was not even around when we received our gifts because he was working night shift and had already left for work while we were at school, but every year, there were our roses.
I am not a big believer in showing love through material means but I know that is not what my Dad was doing. He was letting us know that we were his family: "his girls" and even though he did not say it often, he made it known that we could always count on him. He reaffirmed that commitment every February 14th. Even though his roses stopped arriving on Valentine's Day after I moved out of the house and started my "real" life, I still think about those flowers every year and know that he is still there for me. He is one of the strongest people I know, and over the years he has offered me his quiet support and sound advice when "the going has been tough." Maybe it is because he and I are so alike but no one can speak to me in tough times quite like my Dad!! I am thankful everyday to have this strength in my life.
I believe that the little things that people do for each other make the biggest memories and the most meaningful gifts. Make a memory this year with someone you love. Happy Valentine's Day!
Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cups milk
2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into small dice, plus more for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.
Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition. Fold in strawberries by hand.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups so that each is about 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on wire racks. Cupcakes can be stored for up to 1 day at room temperature in airtight containers or frozen at this time for later use.
Make Strawberry Meringue Buttercream and spread or pipe about 1/2 cup frosting on top of each cupcake. Garnish with strawberries, cut into halves, quarters, or left whole, depending on the size.
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8oz) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
Puree strawberries in a food processor. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees). The mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingers.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir in strawberry puree with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth. Pipe onto cupcakes as noted above.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcake Book