These cupcakes are a strawberry lover's dream! The cake is soft and moist with a deliciously fresh and natural strawberry flavor. The extra-moist strawberry cupcakes are paired with an easy strawberry compote cupcake filling and a light and fluffy strawberry cream cheese buttercream!
Whisk Instant Clearjel and 62 g (¼ cup + 1 Tbsp) Sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Combine Frozen Strawberries, 76 g (¼ cup + 2 Tbsp) Sugar, and Lemon Juice in a nonstick skillet or saucepan.
Cook on Medium heat until strawberries are fully thawed and liquid begins to simmer. Using a sturdy spatula, break apart the strawberries and cut them into very small pieces (around ¼ inch pieces) as the strawberries simmer. The strawberries should be soft enough that they are easy to cut with the spatula. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes or until the strawberries are softened and you are happy with their size.
Remove from heat and add the Instant Clearjel/Sugar mixture and stir in quickly. The compote will thicken immediately, and continue to thicken as it cools. Reserve ½ cup (118 g) prepared compote for the cake batter, another ½ cup (118 g)for the frosting, and save the remaining for filling the cupcakes. If you make the compote in advance, keep refrigerated until using.
Make Strawberry Cake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake tins with 19 cupcake liners.
Heat the Salted Butter in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish until just melted.
Make strawberry puree by heating the 3 oz (¾ cup) Frozen Strawberries until thawed in the microwave. Then puree the thawed strawberries in the food processor until it's a smooth puree. It should make about ¼ cup puree.
Combine the Strawberry Puree with the remaining Wet Ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and well-blended.
Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the Dry Ingredients into a separate large bowl. Whisk until well blended.
Pour Wet Ingredients into Dry Ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Pour Melted Salted Butter over batter and whisk in until incorporated. Add ½cupPrepared Strawberry Compote and whisk until batter looks uniform and shiny.
Using a 2-oz scoop or ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tins.
Allow filled cupcake tins to sit for 5-10 minutes before putting it in the oven. This will give time for the instant clearjel to thicken the cake batter before it bakes, allowing for a better rise.
Bake in the middle or top rack (avoid bottom rack) of the preheated 325-degree oven for 8 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and bake for another 6-8 minutes. The cupcakes are done when a toothpick or small paring knife comes out mostly clean when quickly stuck in the cupcakes. Because these cupcakes are so moist, it is okay to see a couple of moist crumbs on your knife when you check the finished product for doneness. But any wet-looking crumbs mean they need more time in the oven.
Brush Cupcakes lightly with simple syrup (optional, see Note #3).
Make Strawberry Buttercream
Whisk the Powdered Sugar andInstant Clearjel together until well-blended. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer (preferred) or handheld mixer and a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until broken up and softened.
Add the room temperature salted butter and continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
While the mixer is on low, slowly add the powdered sugar mixture.
Add the ½ cup reserved Strawberry Compote, and beat on low until well blended. Add the strawberry extract and pure vanilla, then beat on high for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. The Instant Clearjel will cause the buttercream to thicken slightly during the next 10 minutes as it sits.
Fill and Decorate the Cupcakes
Use either a paring knife or a Cupcake Corer to remove the center of each cupcake. Spoon your remaining compote into each cupcake, then top with the cored cake. You can also squeeze the compote into the cupcake with a disposable piping bag to save time and mess. Frost the cupcake with an icing spatula or another disposable piping bag and 1M star tip, then top with strawberry halves. This recipe has just enough compote for 19 cupcakes, and enough frosting for a short swirl of buttercream (like the recipe photo). Enjoy!
Read my article Instant Clearjel: a Magical Little-Known Bakery Ingredient to see why I think this ingredient is worth having in your pantry. Instant Clearjel must always be whisked thoroughly with other dry ingredients before being added to wet ingredients to avoid clumping. I have tested this recipe with the following Instant Clearjel brands: Hoosier Hill Farm, Prepared Pantry, and Ingredion (Make sure what you purchase is labeled as "Instant." Cooktyle Clearjel is a different product that does not work the same in cakes).
If you use a different brand of Strawberry extract than Olive Nation, you may need to adjust the amount to taste--it's always better to start off with less than you need, then add more extract if you think the flavor needs to be stronger.
Simple Syrup is optional, but I highly recommend it to seal in the moisture of your cupcakes. While the cupcakes cool, make a simple syrup by combining 2 teaspoon water and 2 teaspoon sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the sugar is dissolved after whisking, about 20-30 seconds. You can also make a larger batch of this (1 part sugar to 1 part water) and keep it in the fridge if you’re doing a lot of cake/cupcake baking.