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I don’t know if it’s like this in other parts of the country (or in other countries—hello to my non-American readers!), but in the Pacific Northwest, summer likes to get going in fits and starts.  This year, it started being summery in May, then turned back to winter, then became summer again in early June, and then got gross again.


Well, starting today, it looks like we’re back on an upswing (though a very muggy and hot one, thanks to all the late spring rains).  So I finally feel inspired to write about my “summer in a cupcake” cupcake made a couple weeks ago.

What is “summer in a cupcake,” you might ask?  Well, for me, it’s this:

Cake: white cake with strawberries, a hint of almond, and a hint of lemon zest.  Frosting: buttercream, with muscat port and apricot preserves.
My inspiration for this cupcake began with a trip to David Hill Winery for a winetasting outing on Memorial Day weekend with a very dear friend of mine to celebrate his birthday.  The flowers were blooming, the wine was flowing, and I discovered David Hill’s muscat port.

Now, this muscat port is divine in its own right.  But my first thought when I tried it was “I wonder if I could make frosting with this?”  I asked the man pouring if anyone ever had, and his response—“Oh, yeah”—told me I couldn’t leave without the bottle.

So enter a trip to the grocery store the next weekend, where I found these beautiful gems:

A plan began to formulate.  The muscat port would pair well with fruit in its own right…so why not pair it with fruit in a fruit-based cupcake?  When I stumbled past a jar of no-sugar-added apricot preserves, my plan was set.

The Boy and I had friends over dinner and a little Game of Thrones action the day I made the cupcakes, which we had for dessert.  Let’s just say they went over quite well.

So, while it may sound like a lot is “going on” in these cupcakes, don’t be afraid to give them a whirl!  If you don’t have something akin to the muscat port, you can always leave it out entirely (you’ll probably need less powdered sugar that way), or you could use something else like champagne, or maybe even rosé–anything that would go well with fruit.  Half the fun with cupcakes is experimenting, so go crazy!  And enjoy a little “summer in a cupcake.” :)

Strawberry Cupcakes with Lemon Zest 


  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used half sugar, half Splenda)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used nonfat)
  • ¾ tsp almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, diced small
  • Zest of ½ medium lemon

Using the paddle on a stand mixer (or a handheld mixer and a large bowl), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, at approximately medium speed.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture one third at a time, alternating with the milk, mixing well after each addition.  Add the almond extract and lemon zest to the batter, mixing well.

Remove the batter from the stand mixer.  Using a spatula, fold the diced strawberries in gently.  (You want to make sure to dice the strawberries fairly small—otherwise, they will not cook right and will make your cupcake an undercooked, gooey mess!)

Fill lined cupcake tins three-quarters full.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool cupcakes in the pan.

Muscat Port Buttercream Frosting with Apricot Preserves

This frosting recipe is a riff on the Raspberry Champagne Buttercream Frosting recipe posted a while back, except instead of champagne, it uses muscat port (a nice muscat would work as well), and instead of raspberry preserves, it uses apricot preserves.  For me, this created a “looser” frosting that needed a little refrigeration before piping onto the cupcakes—I don’t like to use too much sugar to stiffen because then the frosting is too sweet.  Also, I highly recommend using sugar-free preserves—this frosting is plenty sweet on its own! 


  • ¾ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-6 tbsp muscat port
  • 4 ½ to 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-6 tbsp apricot preserves

Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat the shortening and butter together until well combined; the mixture should be satiny smooth.  Add 3 tbsp of the muscat port.  Add 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar approximately one cup at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.  Add the apricot preserves to taste, and more powdered sugar and muscat port if necessary to reach the desired consistency/taste.  (I ended up using about 6 tbsp of muscat port, 5 tbsp preserves, and 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.)  Now you’re ready to frost and enjoy your “summer in a cupcake” cupcakes!