The most amazing woman I know was born today. She can’t run a marathon, bench press 150 pounds, or leap tall buildings in a single bound–but she is a superwoman just the same. I really admire how she has always forged on in the face of adversity and life’s challenges.
I admire her strength–Forced to leave everything behind, including two daughters from an arranged marriage, she came to this country with nothing. She missed her 3-year-old and 10-month-old daughters and wanted to return, but she stayed to create a better life for them.
I admire her intelligence–She can do anything. With her keen business sense and practicality, she can excel in any role or situation.
I admire her empathy–She has never worked in public relations, but she is one of the best PR people I know. She respects everyone regardless of social status, and genuinely cares about them.
I admire her thoughtfulness–She still takes the time to call or send a thank you note, remembers birthdays, and checks-in with family and friends going in to surgery. Regardless of how busy her schedule is, she makes it a point to spend time with the elderly; even if it means flying thousands of miles to see her mother,or driving an hour each way just to spend an afternoon to keep her ailing mother-in-law company.
I admire her values–She is the backbone of the family, scheduling frequent family gatherings to bring together all of her children, their significant others and her grandchildren. The bonds among my sister, brother and I are reinforced by boisterous conversation as we dig in to the feasts that she lovingly prepares. My siblings and I always look forward to these get-togethers. There is never empty silence. We sometimes even talk over each other in our eagerness to share stories and catch up with each other. She cleverly schedules these months in advance so that our busy lives do not get in the way of what truly matters–family.
I admire her beauty–I didn’t know my mom until I was 6-years-old when my sister and I were finally able to come live with her; not having any memories of life as a 10-month-old. All I knew of her were the stories that I heard, and the dresses and Hello Kitty toys that she would send to us whenever she saved up enough to buy them. I do remember her grade school portrait (see below) framed in my grandmother’s living room. Ever since I was 3 or 4-years-old I would sit on the sofa and stare at the photo, thinking that my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Despite the passage of time, my mom is still beautiful inside and out. And lucky for my niece and nephew, they will have wonderful memories of her from ever since they can remember (maybe a little too wonderful because she spoils them rotten as grandparents tend to do).
I will never be able to repay her for all of the times she was there to support me, but I at least wanted to celebrate her special day with these Strawberries & Cream Cupcakes created just for her. Pink and whimsical to represent a daughter’s love for her mom.
I made up the vanilla cupcake base a while ago when I decided I was going to bake without referencing anything, including my cooking notes. I needed to create something simple so that it would be easy to remember if I ever I find myself needing to bake without access to fancy equipment and my recipes.
I did not want the cake to be too sweet so I kept the flour and sugar equal in weight. Cake flour was a must with delicate yellow and white cakes that should have a tender crumb. Every cup of flour needs a teaspoon of baking powder so that it rises (too little and your cake will be flat, too much and the bubbles will escape the batter during baking…also making your cake flat). A little salt enhances all of the other flavors. Heavy cream did double duty as a liquid and a fat, and a smidge of canola oil added moisture. One egg provided enough structure from the egg white, and a hint of yellow from the egg yolk without making the cake taste too eggy. The resulting recipe is just as easy to make as a boxed mix. Just as quick to whip up with the same number of dishes to wash. And it tastes a whole lot better.
Pile cloud-like strawberry cream frosting onto this fluffy vanilla base, and you get a dreamy celebration-worthy cupcake. Happy birthday mom.
Strawberries & Cream Cupcakes
Makes 20 cupcakes.
2 cups (218 grams) cake flour
1 cup (220 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg*, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/3 cup strawberry jam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold
5 strawberries, rinsed dried and quartered
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Place 20 cupcake liners in muffin tins.
In a large bowl, whisk together by hand the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined.
Whisk in the heavy cream, canola oil and vanilla until just combined. Do not overmix the batter; otherwise, the cake will be tough.
Whisk in the egg until just combined.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tins so that they are 2/3 full. Bake for 12 – 13 minutes (7 – 9 minutes for mini cupcakes) until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs (not wet batter) attached to it. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove the cupcakes from the oven immediately. Overbaking cupcakes makes them dry and tough.
Cool the cupcakes for 30 minutes – 1 hour before frosting.
To make the frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with a paddle attachment on medium until it is fluffy. Beat in the jam, vanilla and sugar until just combined.
Switch to a whisk attachment and reduce the speed to medium-low. Add the heavy cream in a slow steady stream.
Increase the speed to high and whip until the frosting is fluffy and slightly stiff. Do not over whip, otherwise it will look curdled.
Frost the cupcakes and top each one with a quarter of a strawberry.
If you have an issue with the cupcakes setting when baking them, try increasing this to 2 eggs. It is a fine balance between the egg white providing structure and drying out the cake.
Fresh & Co. Video
Check out the Fresh & Co. blog tomorrow to see our video recap of my sandwich-inspired meal.