Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes

Up until I had a kiddo, I didn’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day.  And here’s why.

My mom’s birthday is 2/14, so my siblings and I would celebrate at school with pink and red everything and little mailboxes full of funny little notes from our friends, but at home it was all about mama.

Jeff and I don’t tend to go overboard with Valentine’s Day stuff because we think of it as a Hallmark holiday.  And I’m not really into flowers.  Sure, they look and smell great.  For about a week.  Then comes the day when you walk in the house and you smell that sickly sweet smell of flower rot.  I paint quite the picture, don’t I?

So when Jake came along, I knew I’d have to step up my game.  The first couple years passed without TOO much changing, but this year, I’m trying to be better at the whole “I Love You” day.  Here’s what’s new this year:

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes 3My little guy goes to daycare and for most holidays, they have a little party for the kiddos.  I wasn’t asked to bring anything this time, but I couldn’t resist.  Plus I had all the ingredients I needed on hand, so why not?

Oh and you may be wondering where the “surprise” in the Strawberry Surprise cupcakes are.

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes1Boom.

Sweet, gooey strawberry jam tucked away inside.  It’s a wonderful thing.

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes
(Makes 24 regular cupcakes or 48 minis)

For the cupcakes:
1 box white cake mix
1 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
1 jar strawberry jam (I used Smuckers Natural Strawberry Fruit Spread)
Water for thinning

For the frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350*.  In a mixing bowl, add your cake mix, water, oil, and egg whites.  Beat on low for 30 seconds or so to combine, then bump up the speed to high for 2 minutes.  You want your batter to get a lot of air whipped into it.  This makes your cake light and fluffly.

Meanwhile, line your cupcake pans with liners.  I ended up doing 24 minis and 12 regulars.  My coworkers are mighty lucky Jake only has 22 kids in his class.  When your batter is fully whipped, dish it out amongst your pans.  I like using the little ice cream scoops.  You want the batter to come just under the lip of the liner.

Bake at 350* for 12 minutes for minis and 15 minutes for regulars.  Check the doneness with a toothpick.  It should come out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool completely before moving on to the next step.

For the filling, empty the contents of your jar of jam into a microwave safe dish.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir.  Microwave for an additional 30 seconds and stir.  You want your filling to be thinned out a little so it will easily flow into the cupcakes.  You may need to add a little water if your jam is thick.

When the jam is somewhat liquidy, push it through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of all the seeds, lumps, and big pieces of fruit.  Once strained, put into a squeeze bottle with a spout.  You can find these in the baking section of any craft store.

After the cupcakes are cooled, squeeze a small amount of filling into each cupcake.  I put the tip of the squeeze bottle into the center nearly to the bottom of the cupcake, applied a little pressure to the bottle while simultaneously lifting the bottle a bit.  You know you’re cupcake is filled when the filling peeks out at you a bit.  Take care not to overfill them.

To make the frosting, add the two sticks of butter to a stand mixer.  Beat on high until the butter is soft and creamy.  Add your marshmallow cream, vanilla, and salt.  Beat until well mixed.  Add your powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time until the 2 cups are fully incorporated.  I continued to beat the frosting for another minute or two to increase the amount of air in the frosting, much like I did with the cake batter.

Move the frosting to a piping bag or a gallon plastic bag.  Frost your cupcakes by drawing a circle on the top of the cupcake and slowly working in.  I like to frost from the outside in but you can do whatever feels comfortable to you.  Or you can just spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes with a knife or offset spatula.

However your frost them, eating them will be the best part.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes 4Happy Valentine’s Day!  And happy birthday, mama!

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