Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

The month of February is a bit crazy over here. First there is my half birthday and then 3 days later it's Valentine's Day. A week and a half after is Isla's half birthday, with Emma's half trailing 3 days behind that. By the time we make it to Emma's special day, we are all highly under the influence of sugar and I confess that there has been a time or two when I've served leftovers of her older sister's dessert 3 days prior for her celebration. Sue me. 

The observance of the half birthday originated thanks to my father, who was born on April Fool's Day. I've been told many a tale of his childhood birthdays when he received wrapped boxes full of rocks as gifts and "cakes" made of cardboard and iced with shaving cream. When he and my mom met and subsequently married, my mom took pity on his poor soul and began honoring his half birthday, which could be celebrated entirely prank-free. Of course once us kids came along, we weren't about to let dad be the only one to have a day with cake and special treatment and a gift. And so the tradition was born.

My husband has gone along with the tradition, somewhat begrudgingly at times. I'm pretty sure he thinks it's a gimmick to get him to buy me more gifts. (It is). But honestly, who can complain about having an extra day each year where people offer up well wishes, say nice things about you and cook you your favorite meal? Doesn't seem like a terrible arrangement to me.

Anyhow, we do our best to keep our half birthday celebrations small - cake, one present, and your choice of breakfast and dinner. But if any of you have ever met my first born, you know "small" is not really a word in her vocabulary. It's pretty much go big or go home. All day. Every day. Her half birthday this year was no exception. Her enthusiasm with celebrations used to really stress me out. She is constantly planning parties and menus and making guests lists for all sorts of events she hopes I will host for her. It can be overwhelming when we don't really have the capacity to host 7 of her closest classmates and all of their families for no particular reason. BUT, when we do have an actual occasion approaching, particularly one that honors her, it's glorious. I just sit down with a pen and paper and ask her to recite me her menu. Wham. Bam. Thank you Ma'am and done. 

Of course, her menus usually aren't the simplest of undertakings but we work together and we make some compromises and in the end we come up with something we can both work with. This year's offerings included the following:

Cheese and "the rectangle crackers from Trader Joes"
Mandarin oranges
Potstickers with dipping sauce 
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting 
(I of course also added an Asian slaw salad because I'm anal about serving vegetables like that)

It just so happened that my brother-in-law was in town on Isla's special night and so we invited the whole Crozier clan and made her half birthday dinner a combined family affair. She was pretty sure Uncle Scott flew up from California JUST to celebration her and I wasn't about to burst her bubble. Next year she'll be pretty bummed to remember half birthday dinners usually include "just" the five of us!

When it came down to her menu, the first four courses were all items I knew I could make. But I was a little unsure about her Fresh Strawberry Frosting idea which I had never, ever heard of. I mean, it sounded divine but is it really a thing? What do real strawberries taste like in frosting? Do they turn brown? What is the texture like? I did some puttering around on Google to make sure I wasn't the first person ever to attempt such an undertaking and I was reassured  that I couldn't screw up too terribly when I saw that Martha Stewart had a recipe floating out on the world wide web. Most of the recipes I encountered called for strawberry jam or freeze-dried strawberries and Isla was insistent that we use fresh so we got crazy and free-styled a recipe. As it turns out, I'd say my Isla is onto something: Fresh Strawberry Frosting is DELICIOUS, not to mention a natural lovely pink! 

I'm a big fan of cream cheese in my frosting and it does a great job of countering the sweetness of the combination of powdered sugar and strawberries. You might have to play around with the ingredients just a bit, depending on the ripeness/juiciness of your strawberries. Add more powdered sugar to thicken the frosting or more strawberries to thin. Ours ended up a bit on the thin side but it held up well under refrigeration. Also of note, you need not use *quite as many sprinkles and my little helpers did (gag!!) when you decorate yours. ;)

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely diced strawberries

Combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand up mixer. Beat at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 seconds. Add powdered sugar and strawberries and mix on low speed until combined. Adjust thickness as needed by adding more powdered sugar to thicken or additional strawberries to thin.

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

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posted by kelsie