When a little girl requests pink cake for her birthday, she gets pink cake! Miss L turns three today and while I can hardly type that sentence without getting choked up, it also seems just right that my energetic, opinionated, enthusiastic, jumping bean, book-loving, storytelling blondie is that age.
I think that it's only natural to reflect on the past year on days like this one and while I'm doing my fair share of that for sure, I'm also looking forward to all of the things that three means for my girl. She's now old enough to take swimming lessons or gymnastics class in our small town. She can even take dance lessons or ballet! She gets to move up to the preschool room at school which, wait for it, has a computer! And I have a feeling that she's going to inch closer to learning to read this year—or at least continue on her journey of memorizing all of the books in our house.
I have to say that as much as I long for a snuggly little one, I adore L at this age. (And thankfully she's pretty into snuggling before bedtime.) We can communicate, we have "little chats", we make up stories together, we can do extended activities together like planting potatoes or working in the yard that seemed like only a dream last summer, and we make each other laugh a lot. Traveling with her is a total adventure and it's pretty amazing to listen to her interpret the world around her. She's obsessed with hotels, phones, dragons, and a certain kitty who lives next door. She loves bandaids, reading, building towers, and going for walks "to town". It's really, really fun to be her mom right now.
But back to the cake. Sure, these aren't the bright fuschia cupcakes that you might find in a bakery—which might be what she had in mind when she requested them. But they are a pretty pale pink and she could hardly keep her hands off of them once they were frosted. They are actually a version of the cake I made for her first birthday, only in a much smaller batch, and with fresh strawberry puree in the batter. They are incredibly moist, naturally sweet, and they have a faint scent and taste of maple. They also store well at room temperature and are more forgiving than my Lower Sugar Vanilla Cupcakes.
I made them over the weekend while we were visiting my best friends and their little girls. The girls, I admit, were more interested in the frosting, but the adults happily devoured the rest. We're having another little gathering with local friends today that will include frozen yogurt and rainbow sprinkles, but I'm glad that I had the chance to bake something special for my girl to mark her big day. I can't wait to see what the next year brings for her little world!
Maple Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
This recipe includes brown rice syrup, which I realize is not a pantry staple than many of you may have. I sometimes use it in toddler baked goods since it lends a moistness to baked goods as well as subtle sweetness —it's less sweet than sugar and honey. If you don't have access to it, you can try honey, though the texture of these is really great with the syrup.
Makes 8 cupcakes
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup strawberry puree (about 12 oz fresh strawberries cored and pureed in a food processor)
- 4 oz (or half of one package) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened at room temperature
- 2-3 tablespoons seedless strawberry jam or preserves
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup in a glass, heat-proof measuring cup. Warm in 15 second increments in the microwave, stopping to stir, until the coconut oil is melted. Stir in the vanilla.
Stir together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the coconut oil mixture. Stir in the egg and the strawberry puree until completely combined. Fill the prepared liners with the batter to about 3/4 full (or a bit more full). Bake for 35-38 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean. Let cool for 2-3 minutes in the pan, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the frosting, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand-held mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter, and jam. Taste and add more jam if necessary. Spoon into a quart-size zip top bag and store in the fridge until ready to frost. When ready to serve, snip off a corner of the bag and pipe frosting onto each cupcake (or spread on with a butter knife). Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge overnight if needed.
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