I have a crush on strawberries. I absolutely, positively adore, cherish, and delight in a freshly picked strawberry. But not just any strawberry. I never really knew what a strawberry tasted like until I moved to Oregon. And the people here are crazy about them! An Oregon strawberry is a true deep red all the way through the berry! And so sweet! In the summer time Aaron and I love to head over to the valley and buy pounds of strawberries from the local farmers. We bring them home and I make 1/2 pints of strawberry jam, fresh strawberry rhubarb pies, strawberry milkshakes, and whatever else I can think of to use them up while they last. Just like most any produce in this area, the growing season is short, and while it’s here, Aaron and I like to celebrate!
Aaron’s mom, Diane, grew up in Salem, Oregon, and has many a story to tell about their time picking strawberries in the fields. I love those stories. But there is one that is my absolute favorite, and I actually heard it first from Aaron’s Uncle Steve. Diane grew up the youngest of 6 children, all of them being boys but her! Talk about rough! The two closest to her age were Steve and Glenn. Steve told us about how he and Diane would work all day to pick berries alongside Glenn and their mother. It wasn’t easy work. It was typically hot, and your back would start to ache from stooping to pick. But while Steve and Diane worked and worked and worked to pick, every time they would look up, Glenn would be gazing off into the distance and not picking. As Uncle Steve told this story, you could still hear the irritation in his voice! And while Glenn would day dream, their mom would patiently pick twice as many strawberries to make sure and fill Glenn’s baskets as well. Because that’s what a mom does. It’s the funniest story for a couple of reasons. One, I love how irritated both Steve and Diane sound when they talk about looking up to see their brother day dreaming and staring at the other workers. It’s like they still feel it, and yet they smile when they tell the story. And two, I love that Glenn was too busy creatively day dreaming to work. Ever since the first telling of that story, we would always ask to hear it again when we would visit Uncle Steve.
Strawberry season is upon us! While Oregon berries are several months away, Costco got their first shipment of them in a few weeks ago, and when I saw them I knew exactly what I wanted to use them for!
I’ve had my eye on this recipe for quite some time, and when I was asked to make something for Aaron’s class this past week, I jumped at the chance! The smell of the chocolate AND the fresh strawberries was captivating. And while I was washing, cutting, and making my Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, I was day dreaming…
Strawberry Crush Cupcakes
(Adadpted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)
I can’t reveal my chocolate cake/cupcake recipe because it’s a family recipe that I don’t give out. However, you can use any chocolate cake recipe you love, or even vanilla if you’d rather!
Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 5 cups
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz), rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temp
- Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm t the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
- Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, mix until still (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
- With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula and switch to the paddle attachment; continue beating on low speed until all air bubble are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Add strawberries and beat until combined. Stir with a flexible spatula until the frosting is smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
- Pipe onto cupcakes and garnish with a strawberry slice.