Simple vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting are the perfect cupcakes for any occasion. From birthday parties to Mother’s Day, summer backyard BBQ’s to school bake sales and of course Valentine’s Day, these cupcakes will become your go-to recipe. Made from scratch, with zero artificial coloring, this strawberry cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to this easy vanilla cupcake.
Vanilla cupcakes sometimes get a bad rap. They are often thought of as the “Plain Jane” of the cupcake world, but when done right, they can be absolute perfection. Vanilla doesn’t have to be boring and when it’s topped with this strawberry cream cheese frosting, it is anything but dull.
My first attempt at this frosting was a complete and epic failure. It was a runny, sloppy mess. I used fresh strawberries and if I wanted more of a glaze, like say for a pound cake, it would’ve been fine. That was not what I wanted, so back to the drawing board.
Next, I tried roasting the strawberries. I thought I would get a nice, deep flavor from them and also bake out some of the moisture. That didn’t work either. At this point, I’m starting to develop a complex, but I’m also slightly miffed and I’m not about to let it get the best of me.
My third attempt was with strawberry jam. Better, but it didn’t taste very “strawberry-y”. That’s a word, right? The consistency was a little softer than I wanted, but the flavor was my major complaint. It didn’t taste like strawberry. It hinted at strawberry. I wanted there to be no doubt that this was strawberry cream cheese frosting.
At this point, I’m frustrated. I went to the store and as I’m walking down one of the aisles, I spied freeze-dried strawberries. I thought “Well, it can’t be any worse”. So, I bought them.
I went home and emptied a bag into the food processor. I ended up with bright pink strawberry rubble. As soon as I opened the lid and saw this strawberry powder, I knew I was on to something good. Finally. All I wanted was a vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting, and I was finally going to get it.
This strawberry cream cheese frosting actually tastes like strawberry! This may seem like a strange statement, but please tell me I’m not the only person on the planet who has ordered something strawberry-flavored, only to have it fall flat. Or worse, it tastes artificially strawberry. In the way that grape-flavored things don’t taste like an actual grape. This frosting honestly tastes like strawberries.
Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
These vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting are award-winning treats. They were entered into a baking contest and took home a ribbon, so I can confidently say that these cupcakes are pretty good. For me, the picture above is the perfect ratio of frosting to cupcake. I like enough, but not too much. I’ve always preferred the cake to the frosting. When I was younger, I used to scrape it off and push it to the side. This strawberry cream cheese frosting will not be scraped off, it will be happily eaten atop these perfect vanilla cupcakes.
To garnish them, I made candied strawberry slices. Because, you know I had a bunch.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temp
- 12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 8 oz pkgs)
- 1 1/2 cups FREEZE DRIED strawberries (or 1.2 oz package)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- pinch salt
- 8 fresh strawberries - sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat oven to 225°F.
- In a small pot, combine sugar and water. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until sugar has completely dissolved. (You just made a simple syrup)
- Dip strawberry slices into simple syrup and lay them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (Silpat) or parchment paper.
- Bake for 2 hours. Remove, set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Whisk flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla.
- Add 1/3 of the flour, half of the milk, followed by another third of the flour, the remaining milk and ending with flour.
- Scrape bowl, making sure to get the bottom. Fold it a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Line a cupcake pan with cupcake papers and fill 2/3 full. Bake for 16 - 18 minutes, or when tester comes out with a few crumbs on it.
- Remove from oven and let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- In a food processor (or spice grinder), grind freeze-dried strawberries until they are a fine powder. It's ok if there are a few pieces as long as they are not bigger than a small pea. Set aside.
- Beat butter and cream cheese together. Add lemon juice, strawberry powder, powdered sugar and salt. Beat until fluffy (about 5 minutes)
- Pipe frosting on cupcakes, or use a small knife or off-set spatula. Garnish, if desired.
- You can make strawberry slices a day ahead. I have made them on a silpat and on parchment. A few stuck on the parchment and had to be carefully peeled off, but it wasn't catastrophic. That being said, they didn't stick at all on the silpat.
- Make sure the strawberries for the frosting are FREEZE DRIED. Not "dried" fruit, like raisins or dried cranberries. This will not work.
USED TO MAKE VANILLA CUPCAKES:
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