Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet darlings! I love this holiday for a multitude of reasons.
1. It is a day dedicated to reminding special people in your life that you care about them & love them.
I’m a very sentimental person. Sometimes we get caught up in life and forget to tell one another how much their continued support & friendship means to us. It’s really weird to just walk up to your friend on a random Tuesday with a card, covered in hearts no less, that states all the reasons why you appreciate them. They might get the wrong idea. We all get lonely and insecure sometimes and it’s nice to know you are cared for.
2. It gives you a reason to be thankful and grateful for the people in your life during a month that generally sucks.
By this time (especially in the Midwest), you’ve totally given up hope that it will ever be warm again. You hate looking at the delicate little snowflakes falling peacefully from the sky and you genuinely wonder why you ever said you liked to wear boots. Now is the time to be reminded of that awesome summer you and your lover/friend spent together and to make plans for spring picnics. Remember how fun it is to spend time with someone outside the constraints of sweatpants & netflix?!
3. Crazy things can happen!
You might have a honey that wants to smother you with kisses for a full 16 hours, surprise you with a pink Pomeranian puppy, or an icy cruise to Alaska. You might have a secret admirer who has planned some elaborate scheme to win your heart. Better yet, you could spend this day happily celebrating the fact that, for once, you aren’t eating a mediocre dinner at a mediocre restaurant, among a multitude of other couples, with someone who doesn’t really even make eye contact with you. Fuzzy slippers, a bubble bath, & a few glasses of wine for you. Surprise yourself with all that self-love!
Anyways, it’s not all commercialism (even though it kind of is), it’s about giving you an opportunity to practice love during a month that isn’t very inspiring or sexy.
To celebrate this great holiday, we shall make beautiful cream & pink colored cupcakes:
Lightly Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream
yields approximately 10 cupcakes
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. cake flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
zest of one lemon
1/2 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine flour, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar & butter with a hand blender. Add the vanilla & eggs and blend until combined. Alternate adding the milk & dry ingredients until all are incorporated into a smooth batter.
Pour prepared batter into a cupcake liners positioned in a muffin pan. Fill to about 2/3 full. Place in oven and bake for about 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure that these cakes don’t brown too much or they will be dry.
While they are baking, let’s move on!
We are making a strawberry puree reduction for this buttercream. Why? Because it is delicious, natural substitute to red food coloring in honor of this pink & red holiday. This reduction process will remove a great portion of the water content from the blended berries while concentrating that yummy strawberry flavor into a thick liquid.
Strawberry Puree Reduction:
1 c. whole strawberries
Place one cup of strawberries in the blender and whirl at high speed until chunks are reduced to a smooth puree. Transfer to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the cup of berries is reduced to about two tablespoons.
By the time you are finished with this reduction, you can get your precious cakes from the oven and let the reduction cool with them, side by side. (This gives them time to hang out before they are going to get together later, hehe).
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 T. reduced strawberry puree
2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
Blend all ingredients in a mixing bowl at medium speed until combined into a light, fluffy frosting. Transfer to piping bag, taking care not to lick your fingers, and pipe onto cupcakes.
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