People who know me also know that I will use any occasion as an excuse to make cupcakes. In order to keep doing that, I need to find a way to make them festive to match the occasion! That’s exactly what I did with these chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting last year for Valentine’s Day, and again this year. They’re so festive with their simple but elegant toppings, and they taste even better than they look. In this post, I’ll also link to my recipe for chocolate covered strawberries, as well as share how to make those little chocolate candy hearts to place on top.
These cupcakes are easily made gluten free by using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free all-purpose baking flour, which is available in most grocery stores on the regular flour aisle and also online. I honestly use this flour mix for everything (they’re not kidding when they call it all-purpose). Aside from baking, you can also use flour to thicken sauces and soups, and to make breading for baking or frying. The flour uses a 1:1 ratio with regular wheat flour, so you can easily interchange depending on your needs.
One thing I love about this cupcake recipe, in particular, is that the cake is light and fluffy but has deep and complex flavors due to the addition of coffee and lots of unsweetened cocoa powder. Since the frosting is so sweet, it’s nice to have something that brings balance to the dessert. Another great thing about these cupcakes is that the frosting is naturally flavored and colored by the pureed strawberries without having to use artificial dyes or flavors. When you puree the strawberries and blend them with the buttercream frosting, it releases the juices and gives a delicate pink hue. I personally love fresh strawberries as an addition to buttercream frosting. The slight tartness of the berries does a great job of cutting the richness of the frosting and gives it a flavor effect similar to that of cream cheese frosting – super sweet with just a hint of tartness. Combined with the deep chocolatey flavor of the cake, it’s a match made by Cupid himself.
Dust off your apron because chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes make a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for anyone – they’re simple, heartfelt, homemade, sweet, and beautiful. Plus who doesn’t love food??
Makes 24 Cupcakes
For the Toppings:
12 chocolate covered strawberries*
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
*recipe for chocolate covered strawberries can be found here
For the Frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced
For the Cupcakes:
2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup freshly brewed coffee*
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
*The coffee can be warm, but make sure it is not hot! Otherwise, it will start to cook the eggs when you add it to the batter.
For the Chocolate Heart Toppings:
1. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat again if necessary, until the chocolate is melted.
2. Cut a small hole in the end of a frosting bag (or in the corner of a plastic sandwich bag if you don’t have a frosting bag handy).
3. Line a large baking sheet with wax paper (aluminum foil will also work) and set aside.
4. Use a spoon to scoop the melted chocolate into the prepared bag. The baking sheet covered in wax paper is where you will design your hearts. Hold the tip of the bag 1-2 inches away from the paper and gently squeeze while moving the bag to create a heart design. Without stopping the flow of chocolate, make one or two smaller hearts inside the larger heart so that most of it is touching with very little gaps (this will make it easier to remove from the paper without breaking the heart).
5. Place the sheet into the freezer for at least 10-15 minutes, or until the chocolate is completely hardened. Gently peel each heart off of the paper when you are ready to decorate your cupcakes.
For the Frosting:
1. Make sure the butter is softened (close to room temperature). If it is not, microwave it for 5-10 seconds at a time until it is soft. Be careful because it will turn liquid very quickly in the microwave if you are not paying attention!
2. Place both sticks of butter into a large bowl. Place one cup of powdered sugar into the same bowl and use an electric hand mixer to whip the butter together with the sugar. If the butter is properly softened, it should combine with the sugar to resemble frosting very quickly. After the butter and sugar are well combined, repeat the process with the remaining three cups of powdered sugar, being sure to blend for at least 30 seconds to a minute between each addition.
3. If a softer and smoother texture is desired, add 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream and blend with the electric mixer for another 30 seconds.
4. Place the diced fresh strawberries into a food processor and pulse until the strawberries are blended into very small pieces (they don’t need to be blended down to a complete mush – a few larger chunks will add a delicious and rustic effect to the frosting).
5. Fold the strawberries into the frosting and use the electric mixer to blend for at least 30 seconds to release the juices and tint the frosting evenly.
6. Set aside until ready to frost the cupcakes.
For the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, and coffee. Whisk to combine.
3. In another bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir well to combine.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, about 1/3 at a time – be sure to stir between each addition to ensure that there are no large lumps.
5. Take your prepared cupcake pans and fill each liner about ¾ of the way full with batter. Bake for 17-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
6. Allow the cupcakes to cool until they are close to room temperature – otherwise, the frosting will melt as soon as you put it on. You can accelerate the process by placing them in the refrigerator if desired.
7. Prepare a frosting bag with a large star-shaped frosting tip and scoop the frosting into the bag. Starting from the outside and working your way around in a circle to the middle, frost each cupcake.*
8. To decorate each cupcake, place either a chocolate covered strawberry or a chocolate heart on top!
*If you don’t have a frosting bag or frosting tips, you can use a spoon or knife to hand-frost each cupcake! They’ll still look and taste delicious.