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Strawberry shortcake cupcakes are typically vanilla cupcakes with a springy or spongy texture, topped with strawberry buttercream frosting and sliced fresh or dried strawberries. One of the main reasons why strawberry shortcake cupcakes are so springy to the touch is due to the use of cornstarch or tapioca starch in the recipe. These types of cupcakes may also feature strawberries baked into the cakes, and may include strawberry sugar as the sweetener and a strawberry meringue filling in the center. Many strawberry shortcake frosting recipes use whipped heavy cream, yet cream cheese frosting is also popular for these cupcakes.
All shortcake cupcakes are springy to the touch and have a sponge-like texture that helps distinguish them from traditional cakes and cupcakes. Most strawberry shortcake cupcakes accomplish this texture by the addition of cornstarch or tapioca starch along with white flour, which helps make the cupcakes light, airy and fluffy. Almost all strawberry shortcake cupcakes follow the same recipe as regular strawberry shortcake, yet many recipes use a slightly higher level of baking powder to help the individual cakes rise. Vanilla cupcakes are the usual base recipe for strawberry shortcake cupcakes, with the frosting containing the strawberry flavor.
Sometimes a strawberry cupcake might use strawberry sugar as the main sweetening agent, which is pure sugar mixed with strawberry essence or extract. Most of the time, powdered sugar is used to help create the springy texture of the strawberry shortcake, in both the batter and the frosting. There are some strawberry cupcakes that contain sliced strawberries, whether fresh or dried, in the vanilla cupcake batter in addition to the strawberry frosting. This creates a bolder and more intense flavor of strawberries in the cupcake, and contributes to a lightly pink color of the cupcake overall.
The majority of frostings for strawberry shortcake cupcakes use whipped heavy cream with fresh sliced strawberries placed on top. Buttercream frosting is also popular for these types of cupcakes, as is whipped cream cheese with fresh diced or sliced strawberries. All of these frostings often use powdered sugar as the sweetening agent, which creates a smooth and sweet topping; however, honey can also be used for a more distinct flavor. The addition of strawberry jam to the frosting, whether whipped cream, cream cheese or buttercream, also adds a richer flavor of strawberries to the recipe.
I guess it all depends on your definition of shortcake. My mom's shortcake was more like a sweet biscuit. I've also used the "dessert cups" that are sponge cake that usually start showing up during the spring.
My definition of strawberry shortcake cupcakes would be yellow cupcakes topped with whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries, but that's just me. I suspect if you polled 100 bakers, you'd get 100 different definitions.
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