Despite the fact that I’ve become a far more adventurous eater in the last few years than I ever was before, there are some flavor combinations that make me hesitate.  Even when I know it’s a classic pairing and one that many people love, sometimes I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.  One of those combinations is strawberries paired with balsamic vinegar.  I am always worried it will taste too much like, well, vinegar.

Clearly, I’ve been overthinking it.  (Overthinking things is a special talent of mine.)  Back in April we visited Josie and she made us a fantastic strawberry balsamic ice cream.  Manners definitely trump weird food quirks so of course I ate it, and to my surprise I kind of loved it.  The balsamic was barely there, and if you didn’t know you probably wouldn’t have guessed it, yet it added a special something to that ice cream.  So…same deal here.  A fantastic strawberry cupcake that is just a little bit different and a little bit more awesome because of it.

I opted for a browned butter cupcake base so that the balsamic flavor would not be entirely obscured by something like a strawberry cake.  The frosting is the ever popular strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream.  A little nest of macerated balsamic strawberries and a balsamic drizzle pull it all together.  And it is good…very good, indeed.  I took them to a party over the weekend to see how they would be received by others and they got great reviews.  In fact, they seemed even more popular than the funfetti ones I brought along as well.  So let’s all raise a strawberry balsamic cupcake to stepping out of our comfort zone and trying new things.


For the cupcakes:

  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature

For the frosting:

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries (16 oz.), rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 6 tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For topping:

  • 3 cups strawberries, diced small
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place the butter in a large skillet over over medium heat.  Let melt and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter is a deep golden brown color (be careful not to burn it).  Set aside to cool slightly.  Transfer the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add in the sugars and beat on medium speed until smooth and the bowl is slightly warm to the touch.

  • 02

    Meanwhile in a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk to blend.  When the butter and sugars are adequately mixed, beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed between additions.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix each addition only just until incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes total.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  • 04

    For the frosting, combine the chopped strawberries, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and balsamic in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries have softened and the liquid is somewhat reduced, about 5-8 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Chill the mixture well before use in the frosting.

  • 05

    Combine the egg whites and the remaining 1¼ cups sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the strawberry-balsamic puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 06

    To make the topping, combine the berries, sugar, vinegar and vanilla in a medium bowl and stir to blend.  Let sit at least 20-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the balsamic drizzle by combining the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan or skillet.  Heat over medium-high until bubbling, then lower the heat and continue to cook until significantly reduced (about 4 tbsp.)  Set aside to cool slightly.

  • 07

    Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (I used Ateco #809.)  Pipe a round of frosting onto each cupcake.  Use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to scoop out a small bit of the center of the frosting to create a well.  Add a spoonful of the macerated strawberry mixture to each well.  Drizzle the cupcakes with the balsamic glaze to finish.

  • Cheers to that! They look and sound delicious.

  • bwinkler

    Looks amazing! I made strawberry shortcakes with balsamic chocolate glaze recently and absolutely loved it. I’ll definitely have to try these! So pretty.

  • Gorgeous cupcakes Annie! I love this flavor combo- just recently tried it in a salad and I’m sure these cupcakes are perfect!

  • Whoa! These sound awesome!

  • Sarah

    Just what I needed! I got a little carried away at Spencer Farms the other day and came home with 17lb of strawberries! Oops! I’m already planning to make your traditional strawberry cupcakes for a wedding this weekend, and will probably try out your roasted strawberry muffins as well. Now I can add these to the list! Thanks! Hooray for strawberry season!

  • Kelli Z

    Pretty sure I started drooling reading this. I need one!

  • marcie @ flavor the moments

    Berries and balsamic are one of my favorite flavor combinations! I love it over vanilla ice cream. Your cupcakes look so beautiful and delicious! You always do such a terrific job.

  • Caroline L.

    They look like little pieces of artwork, as well! Hooray for trying new things and having them end up very nicely!

  • Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie

    Canot tell you how xcited these cupcakes make me! I’m so into balsamic these days. Yum!

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Strawberries and balsamic are BFFs! This cupcake recipe is killer!

  • Annie Standing

    I’m the same, I see so many recipes with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, but I’ve always hesitated as well. These look so cute I really may have to give the flavour combo a try!

  • grandbabycakes

    Wow, those are some seriously gorgeous cupcakes!

  • Jess @ Floptimism

    I also get a little hesitant with strawberry-balsamic, mostly because I get turned off by anything that has a very strong balsamic flavor (even vinaigrettes are sometimes too much for me). But these look absolutely stunning, especially with the little wells in the frosting for the chopped berries!

  • These cupcakes are gorgeous Annie! I haven’t tried that pairing yet, but these definitely make me want to.

  • Tracy

    First of all, gorgeous! Love the fresh strawberries on top. I’m always a little hesistant mixing savory into the sweet, but this seems to be a tried and true combo, I can’t wait to try!

  • I Love strawberries and balsamic…but have never had them with cupcakes (my other love!). Came over from the cookbook diva, and so glad I did! With strawberry season upon us, I’ll be trying these soon.

  • disqus_VmC2D9oBAk

    These are beautiful!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    Those look like works of art. I love pretty food!

  • annieseats

    Why, thank you! :)

  • Liz

    These sound delicious! Can’t wait to try with fresh strawberries :)

  • OMG, Annie, these are over the top to DIE for!!! Your pictures are always so gorgeous I just want to come through the screen… And the frosting… I can’t. I want to just eat it straight up with a spoon.

  • nessa

    These are stunning, and look incredible!

  • Laura Campbell

    What completely gorgeous cupcakes Annie!!! I definitely agree that your presentation is so beautiful… these would sit happily in any fancy patissiere’s window! :) I’ve always loved the combination of strawberries and balsamic, though I can understand why you’d have initial reservations. For me, the trick is buying great quality traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. It’s much more delicious, syrupy, sweet but a tiny bit acidic. Much nicer for desserts than the inferior, “vinegary” supermarket varieties :) Thanks for this recipe! x

  • Diana Hill Brooks

    These were a huge, amazing, wonderful success!! It was my first time trying the strawberries with balsamic and it is a perfect match! Thank you for another perfect cupcake combination!

  • Ali @ Solano’s Kitchen

    These cupcakes were absolutely outstanding (and they look beautiful too!!) Got rave reviews at a housewarming party this past weekend!

  • annieseats

    I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks for the feedback :)

  • annieseats

    Yay! I’m glad to hear they turned out so well :)

  • Annalise

    Annie, these look fabulous! What a fun idea!

  • KryWry

    These look amazing! Just like one of my favorite ice cream flavors at a local ice cream shop. (Check out Salt & Straw ice cream for other interesting flavor combination inspirations!)

    I know you often make your cupcakes a day ahead of time – does the frosting hold up with the strawberry topping/glaze? Or do you think I should wait on that part till the day of? Can’t wait to try them! Thanks!

  • annieseats

    Wow, those are some unique flavors!

    They hold up fine made in advance. Enjoy!

  • JBSham

    I have always been skeptical of the strawberry/balsamic combination, but it is one of my husband’s favorites, so I made these for him the other day. I am now a convert. These are amazing. As for what my husband thought, I have never seen him eat something so quickly in my life. This is now his absolute favorite dessert. He took some from work where they were gone almost immediately. His boss said their was a problem with his, “it’s gone.” Others said I should quit my job and make cupcakes. So thank you for this recipe! I’m off to go make another batch. (But a double one this time, those were gone entirely too fast!)

  • annieseats

    That is awesome! I am so glad to hear they went over so well :)