Pretty in Pink: Home Baked Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes

a-pinkI have been into cupcakes lately. And I mean, like, really into it. There is a Sprinkles-like cupcake shop near work that offers one of the best Red Velvet cupcakes (with cream cheese frosting) around and I’ve eaten about six of them just in a mere week! I really don’t know what triggered this new-found addiction (perhaps the trip to Magnolia Bakery?) but my mind is consumed with the images of those lovely, moist cupcakes smothered in ooey gooey frosting every minute, every second. I just can’t get enough.

In all honesty, cupcakes have held sort of the “red headed stepchild” status in my baking repertoire until just recently, and I never really considered them as “real” desserts. I couldn’t figure out what they really were – they weren’t really a cake, but they weren’t muffins either … so what the f#*% were they? Either way, I never considered them more than a confused, mini confection with a dollop of artificially-colored icing and even more unappetizing sprinkles on top. Even my first visit to beloved Sprinkles didn’t impressive me much, but look at me now, I’ll inject a cupcake through an IV if I could.

Maybe my new-found love for cupcakes has something to do with the way those cupcake shops smell when you walk in — you know, these welcoming, comforting aroma, like you just walked into your grandmother’s kitchen? Or maybe it’s the vibrant color of the frosting that reminds you so much of childhood. Cupcakes are like your cute, friendly, bubby, uncomplicated dessert next door that bring a whole lotta fun to bakers and consumers alike. I finally understand the public’s fascination for these pint-size cakes 🙂

It was my mother’s birthday on the 12th, and to celebrate this special day for the most magnificent woman in the world, I decided to bake her cupcakes. I was torn between Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles but the latter won out when I found the recipe for its Strawberry Cupcakes and Strawberry Frosting. I know how much mom adores strawberry shortcakes (the Japanese-French version with airy sponge cake, fresh strawberries and whipped cream) and I figured this light-pink cupcake is pretty close.

a-pink-2Truth be told, this was my first attempt in making cupcakes – yes, my absolute first. Sure, I’ve participated in bake sales at school in the past but I always resorted to cookies and brownies, and never cupcakes. So I was a little nervous in the beginning but I trusted the recipe to bring me the heavenly result.

I brought out my lovely pink Kitchenaid mixer as my trusted companion and I got busy whipping the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. I added the dry (flour, salt, and baking powder) and the wet ingredients (strawberry puree, milk and vanilla, pictured below) simultaneously, being careful not to over mix.

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Once everything is well incorporated, I poured the batter evenly between 12 cupcakes. You can divided the batter into 8 cupcakes too, if you prefer a slightly larger cupcakes.

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Many (or most) say that the frosting is the best part and while I agree that it’s delicious, it’s the scariest thing … ever. To make enough frosting for a dozen cupcakes, I had to use 2 sticks of butter, as well as 3-1/2 cups of powdered sugar. Okay, my cupcake addiction may come to an end here … just the idea of licking the load of softened butter (afterall, frosting is nothing more than that) gave me nausea!

I though the cupcake came out amazing. The cake was perfectly baked – moist without being too gooey, and not overly sweet (just the way we like it). The cake and the frosting had the prettiest tint of pink but it’s comforting to know that no artificial colorings were used in this. The lovely color came from strawberries.

My mother loved the actual cake so much (but all of us – my mother, father and I – were equally afraid of the frosting so we wiped most of it off the cake) that she suggested using this recipe to make a real cake for the official birthday party this weekend.  Maybe I can make her favorite strawberry shortcake afterall, sandwiching fresh strawberries and whipped cream in these layers.

If you love Sprinkles cupcake or just any cupcake, I recommend this recipe highly. The sweet-and-tangy combination from the strawberry puree will take you back to your sweet, summertime memories of childhood.

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Trick or Treat? Sprinkles Cupcakes

The recent food trend that settles well with my stomach is frozen yogurt. I’m a self-proclaimed fro-yo addict so the fact that shops are popping up right and left is nothing short of pure delight (competition only helps consumers!). My date night with my boyfriend is not complete until we take a trip to a nearby frozen yogurt shop that we feel, believe it or not, may offer better yogurt than Pinkberry (if that were possible). I somehow always find ways to squeeze in a spoonful (or a bowlful) of ice-y swirl even on a full stomach.

Well, another trend I’ve noticed in the last couple of years is over cupcakes (even a magazine like InStyle dedicated a section on celebrities and their favorite shops). This, unlike the frozen yogurt fascination that is completely justifiable in my book, is still a bizarre concept for me. Although I like eating cupcakes, it’s difficult for me to tell the difference between the gourmet kind and the one you pick up at a local bake sale. Afterall, isn’t a cupcake just a miniature sponge cake smothered in sugary frosting? Really, how do you make a cupcake outrageously better than a bakery next door, and moreover, how can each cost as much as a meal?

a-strawberrySo I turned to the trendy and popular Sprinkles Cupcakes for answers. But after sampling a few of its offerings, I became further confused.

Let me preface this by stating the obvious: the cupcakes from Sprinkles are good. The place have great selections, from the basic vanilla and chocolate, to more exotic flavors like Chai Latte and Red Velvet, and the entire experience of visiting the most talked-out place is truly titillating. But if I ignore all the fluff and focused solely on the product, I’m afraid I’m not able to justify the whopping $3.25 each cupcake costs.

I know that cupcakes have great possibilities. Just take a look at this amazing blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit which features colorful and unorthodox recipes like Green Tea, Lavender and Honey Cupcake Bombe (ooooh). Or a mouth-watering recipe like Pomatcha Cupcakes found on Raspberry Eggplant (aaaaah).  Now, for a bite of something like that, I’ll be happy to dish out my hard earned money. But nothing at Sprinkles stood out as extraordinary, and they were just … well, good, at best.

I’m not dismissing Sprinkles altogether though. I will probably pick some up for special occasions as the decoration/packaging alone makes it a lovely gift. I hope someone will bring me some soon so I can enjoy the sweet cake without burning a hole on my wallet.

I went to the Sprinkles in Newport Beach (in the same shopping center as Tommy Bahama) but there’s a more popular one in Beverly Hills.

Sprinkles Cupcakes: 944 Avocado Avenue, Newport Beach, CA 92660

★★★☆☆

I met this sweet pup, Hug, dressed up as a lion for Halloween while waiting in line at Sprinkles. He was so charming that I could not resist taking a picture!  Happy Halloween, everyone!

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