What’s the easiest way to quiet a cranky kid? Give the child a cupcake.

“My mom used to make me cupcakes all the time,” says Chef Christina Tosi. “They’re easier to hand to a hungry kid who wants cake.”

That frosting-happy kid flitting around the kitchen grew up to be the owner and pastry chef of New York’s beloved Momofuku Milk Bar where her zesty strawberry lemon cake is now a best seller. Tosi shared her recipe (versatile enough to adapt to any pan shape—including cupcakes) with InStyle. We especially love how Tosi uses pickled jam in lieu of strawberry preserves to up the tartness of these sweet cakes.

What’s the secret to the pretty perfection of her cupcakes? Tosi says it’s all about the butter. She swears by superb unsalted butter, like the ultra indulgent Plugrá brand that her Momofuku team prefers.

Read on for the delicious recipe!

Want more of our Mother’s Day special featuring chefs’ favorite family desserts? Pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.

Still hungry? Try more of our decadent Mother’s Day desserts:

Pistachio Biscotti Cookies

Pavlova with Berries

Chocolate Cream Pie

 

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes

Prep time:
30 minutes

Bake time:
20 minutes

Cupcakes ingredients (makes 12):
8 tbsp butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 tbsp buttermilk
⅓ cup grape-seed oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
3 tbsp lemon juice
1¾ cups cake flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

Pickled Strawberry Jam ingredients (makes about 1½ cups):
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pectin
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup strawberry purée (from 2 cups fresh strawberries)
½ tsp sherry wine vinegar
¼ tsp white wine vinegar

Pickled Strawberry Frosting ingredients (makes about 1½ cups):
¾ cup vanilla frosting (homemade or store-bought)
¾ cup pickled strawberry jam
1 lemon, thinly sliced (optional)

For Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Using a stand or a hand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 2–3 minutes. Scrape down sides and add eggs; mix for 2–3 minutes.
3. Add buttermilk, oil, and lemon juice; mix on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, until smooth.
4. Using a very low speed, add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated and batter is smooth.
5. Prepare cupcake pan with liners. Fill each liner a little more than halfway and bake for 15–20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Let cakes cool completely.

For Strawberry Jam:
1. Whisk together sugar, pectin, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. To pickle, slowly stir in purée, sherry vinegar, and white wine vinegar; bring to a full rolling boil. Reduce heat; cook at a low boil for 2 minutes to activate pectin and firm the purée.
2. Once the jam coats the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and let it cool.

For Frosting:
1. In a medium bowl, mix frosting and strawberry jam until well combined. Refrigerate remaining jam in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
2. Frost cooled cupcakes with the mixture; top with a lemon twist.