What’s more summery that sitting outside on your front porch, reading a book or watching kids play, sipping a glass of ice cold lemonade? I feel like lemonade is to summer what hot chocolate is to winter, what apple cider is to autumn. It’s like the unofficial season-sponsored drink that signals to everyone, “Hey! It’s summer – relax, play, have fun, enjoy the sun!” Restaurants boost up their lemonade offerings during this time of year, offering everything from mango to blackberry to mint lemonades (as a Spicy Ginger, I particularly like Chili’s name choice for their signature lemonades). 😉 But if there’s anything more summery than lemonade, it’s taking summer’s signature fruit and adding it to summer’s signature drink: Strawberry Lemonade.
Begin Wedding Cupcakes, Installment #1: Strawberry Lemonade
When I volunteered to make the cupcakes for my brother’s wedding last month, I knew we needed at least one summery flavor. Yes, of course we needed something rich and chocolately (hence Nutella buttercream Ferrero Rocher cupcakes), but with a wedding in July, we just needed something fruity and light and fun. And, as we established, what’s more summery than strawberry lemonade?
Then came the challenge of taking something that usually only comes in liquid form and transforming it into a moist, fluffy cake topped with a sweet, creamy frosting…
As I write this post, I’m thinking of my almost-3-year-old, Ollie. He just discovered the TV show “Bob the Builder”. At least once in each episode, they’ll be faced with an obstacle or challenge and one character will shout, “Can we fix it?” To which all the other characters respond “YES WE CAN!” So all week, = I’ve heard him saying to himself, “Can we fix it? YES WE CAN!”
Strawberry lemonade? Can we turn that into a cupcake? Yes we can!
These cupcakes embody the flavor of the fresh summer drink with an uncanny resemblance, packing plenty of tart and lots of sweet. The cupcake is a moist cake bursting with lemony lemonade flavor (inspired by a recipe found on Polka Dots and Pizza YEARS ago). They’re not TOO light so that they don’t have substance, but they’re far from being too dense or heavy. The buttercream brings in the strong strawberry flavor (provided by strawberry jam) and another tart lemonade punch, while layering in the sweetness (for which we love and adore all things cupcake). I topped them with strawberry quarters and homemade candied lemon slices (far easier to make than I’d expected). Don’t they look darling?!
The secret ingredient to these cupcakes – the thing that makes them taste lemonadey and not just lemony – is powdered lemonade mix. I specifically used Crystal Light, which uses an artificial sweetener, so the powder is quite concentrated and only requires a small amount for the recipe. If you’re anti-artificial sweetener (more power to you, friend, you’re better than I) or you don’t have Crystal Light where you live, you could try another powdered lemonade mix, though I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the measurements for those. Obviously something like Country Time Lemonade, which uses sugar, will need a higher quantity of powder to reach the same flavor effect, so you’ll have to experiment (start out small, and gradually add more).
And – shhh!- don’t tell anyone, but Crystal Light doesn’t actually make a strawberry lemonade mix. So I use their Raspberry Lemonade mix. But no one needs to know that! I promise you that no one has ever come up to me and said, “Hey! These taste like raspberry, not strawberry!” They’re too hypnotized by the summer vacation they just took in their dreams while consuming this delicacy. (Ok, yes, you could just use raspberry jam and make them raspberry lemonade cupcakes, which would also be amazing, and I’m totally trying now that I’ve written that. But there’s just something so perfectly summery about strawberry lemonade that I couldn’t get away from it!)
Seriously. Spitting image of the drink. These will soon be summer picnic favorites!
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 2 tsp Lemonade Crystal Light powdered mix (or *other powdered lemonade mix)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup butter, softened
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ - ½ cup strawberry jam
- ½ - 1 tsp Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light powdered mix (or *other powdered lemonade mix)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1-3 Tbsp milk
- 4+ drops of red food coloring
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Line 24 cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
- Beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamed. Add in eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined.
- Combined dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, powdered lemonade mix) in a separate bowl.
- Add half of dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Add half the milk and mix to combine. Repeat with remaining dry and wet ingredients, adding the vanilla with the final milk addition.
- Finally, add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and mix until just combined.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted to center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Remove from oven. Cool in pan or 10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.
- Once cupcakes are cool, mix up the frosting.
- For the frosting: Cream the butter. Add the strawberry jam and raspberry lemonade mix, and beat to combine.
- Slowly add in the 3 cups powdered sugar. Add in 1 Tbsp milk and beat to combine. If the frosting is too thick, gradually add in milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.
- Finally, add in 4+ drops of coloring to enhance the pink hue of the frosting.
- If desired, frost with a piping bag, and garnish with homemade candied lemon slices and strawberry quarters.
*Note: If using a powdered lemonade mix other than Crystal Light, the amount needed will likely be different than that shown in the recipe above. Start with a small amount and gradually add more until you reach the desired lemonade taste.