Ever since I started baking in my awkward tween years, I declared that every Fourth of July barbecue my family hosted needed a red, white and blue dessert in order to be at its most festive. I scoured cookbooks and the internet to churn out things like flag cakes, berry pies, star-shaped fruit tarts and layered fruit salads. Years later, I haven't strayed from my declaration. This is my contribution this year.
These cupcakes are as celebratory as ever: Red raspberries, white cake and buttercream, and blueberries ensure the color scheme is taken care of. Seeing as we are in the heart of berry season, the fruit lends the cupcakes the sweet juiciness that only feels right this time of year. Plus, the spike of lemon in the buttercream gives the baked treats an extra zip for good measure.
These bright cupcakes are sure to be a guaranteed hit at your Fourth of July party this year, whether it's by a pool, at the beach or simply in the backyard. A big bite reveals speckles of red and blue tucked into a sweet, yet zesty lemon cake. Lemon buttercream adds more zip, and the blueberries and raspberries on top hint at what's hiding inside.
Very Berry Fourth of July Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
For the buttercream and decorating:
2 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
Pinch of salt
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh blueberries and raspberries, for garnish
1. Make the cupcakes: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 F. Line a standard 12-well cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, and beat until fully incorporated and the mixture looks creamy and very pale yellow, about 2 minutes.
3. Beat in the flour, baking powder, and salt at low speed, followed by the milk. Beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, and then on high for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gently fold in the raspberries and blueberries with a rubber spatula until just combined.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake wells. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back. Bake until the tops are light golden-brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 10 minutes more.
5. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
6. Make the buttercream: Place the cream cheese and butter in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
7. With the mixer on medium speed, add the salt, then 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions, until the buttercream reaches soft peaks and is spreadable. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Beat in the lemon zest and juice, then continue beating on high speed until whipped and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes.
8. Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream, place a couple of berries in the center of each cupcake, then serve.
Recipe notes: Cover and store leftover frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to one week.
(Sheela Prakash is assistant food editor for TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to email@example.com.)