Love in cupcake form, with the help of Harry & David

Every year about this time, I start dreaming of strawberries.  Sure, I love Honeycrisp apples and Clementines, but for me, strawberries are perfection.  Perfectly red, perfectly sweet with just the right amount of tart...*sigh*.
So, you can imagine it took about a nanosecond for me to say YES when Harry & David asked if I'd like to try their chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I think this is the way God intended them to be eaten.  I'm not sure, but that's my hunch. 

The strawberries arrived in a big, red heart-shaped box tied with a red satin ribbon.  I was pretty much a goner from the box alone.  You see...I have a "thing" for hearts:

You open the box to find the prettiest chocolate-dipped strawberries ever.
And more than pretty, they are divine.  Bright red throughout, so flavorful and so might want to forget your Valentine and order them for yourself.  In fact, I'd highly recommend it.

And, if you feel so inclined, how about making some chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes?!?

For the cupcakes, I used a recipe for the Sprinkles strawberry cupcakes.  Yes, Sprinkles.  They shared it with Oprah...I'm sharing it with you.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes
{makes 12}

for the cupcakes:
1 cup fresh whole strawberries
1 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature

for the frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dutch-process cocoa, such as Hershey's Special Dark
1/4 cup natural cocoa
2 & 2/3 cup powdered sugar
pinch coarse salt
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
chocolate dipped strawberries 

make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. Measure out 1/3 cup and set aside.  Reserve the remaining for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla and strawberry puree; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed, until just blended.

Add half the flour mixture, and beat on low; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Add remaining flour mixture, beating on low, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until the tops bounce back when lightly pressed, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool for 15 minutes.
Remove from the pan and let cool completely on the wire rack.

make the frosting:
Beat the butter until light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, sift together the cocoa powders, powdered sugar, and salt.

Beat in half of the cocoa mixture, followed by half of the milk.  Repeat, adding the vanilla with the last addition of the milk.  Beat until smooth and combined.  The frosting will be thick and fudgey.

Spoon into a piping bag and trim off the end.  Pipe the frosting by squeezing the bag over the middle of the cupcake.  Release the pressure and pull up.

Top each cupcake with a chocolate-dipped strawberry.  Store in the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

{This post was sponsored by the lovely people at Harry & David.  All opinions are my own.  And no, I'm not sharing my strawberries.}

Strawberries + Chocolate.  A match made in heaven. ♥ 

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