Grown-Up Birthday Cupcakes


Cupcakes: they’re simple, they’re delicious, and they’re perfect for a birthday party. No cutting or silverware required, no one need be afraid to be the first to dig in or worry about how big a piece they take.  But, on the downside, they can seem a little kid-ish.  Maybe not the perfect treat for an elegant, catered surprise 30th birthday?  Well, they can be.  If, say, you make them in some elegant flavors like Strawberry-Basil and Green Tea.

There’s not a lot for me to say about these except that the strawberry could have tasted more like basil, but instead tasted like strawberry milkshakes, which was completely fine with everyone, and that the green tea were the prettiest little cupcakes I’ve ever made.  Maybe it’s my own affinity for green – my favorite color – but they turned out such perfect little orbs of a wonderful shade of pale emerald that they were almost as much fun to look at as to eat.

photo by Erica Janky

Strawberry-Basil Cupcakes
1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and cored
fresh basil – the more you use, the stronger the taste
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
– – –
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg whites
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tspn salt
1/4 cup half & half
1 tblspn vanilla
– – –
8 oz cream cheese
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
powder sugar to taste

Wash the basil and chop or tear it into small pieces. Place it, the 1 cup water, and the 1 cup sugar into a small saucepan and simmer it until the sugar is dissolved and the basil flavor has thoroughly steeped into the syrup.  Strain it to remove all of the basil pieces from the syrup, and place the syrup and the strawberries back into the saucepan.  Cook the mixture down until the strawberries are squishy and delicious.  Strain the mixture, reserving the liquid; you will use the squishy basil-berries in the cake and the syrup in the frosting.

Cream together your butter and sugar until fluffy.  Blend in egg and egg whites, then flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the half & half, vanilla, and your squishy strawberries.  Beat until the berries are in small pieces and everything is well combined.  Divide into lined cupcake tins and bake for 25 minutes (or until done) in a 350F oven.  Remove and cool completely before icing.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy.  Add, in small amounts at a time, the strawberry syrup and powder sugar until you get to a strawberryness, sweetness, and consistency you like.

Green Tea Cupcakes (adapted slightly from Cupcake Bakeshop)

2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
1 cup half  half
2 tblspn green tea powder

– – –
8 oz cream cheese
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
green tea powder and powder sugar to taste

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and egg yolks, then flour, baking powder and salt.  In a small bowl, mix the half and half and green tea powder together, and beat into batter.  Beat until well combined and smooth.  Divide between lined cupcake tins and bake for 25 minutes (or until done) in a 350F oven.  Cool completely before frosting or you’ll end up with a green gooey runny mess, which would be a shame, because these cupcakes are just so pretty.

For frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese with green tea powder and powder sugar to taste until you reach a frosting you’re happy with.

There you go – some very grown up cupcakes that are absolutely delicious.  Enjoy!