Today is a new beginning. What better place to start than cupcakes? They’re so approachable. So humble. So cute. So…..unthreatening. You bake them. You ice them. You eat them. No first time baker starts with a wedding cake or some other extravaganza. A cupcake is a metaphor, a delicious, sweet symbol for taking it just one step at a time. Which is what I am doing right now with this, my very first post and very first recipe. The title of this blog “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Bake Cupcakes” is about the little steps you can take at any moment in the in face of adversity.
Update: though I have changed the title of this blog to Cooking Lessons, the concept remains the same.
It’s overwhelming to think you always have to take Giant Leaps to get where you want to go. Sometimes you can do that, but mostly, it’s about the baby steps. Sometimes, you can’t do a damn thing about the economy, the state of the world, the state of your love life, the state of (fill in the blank.) But you can always cook or bake something. At least you are moving and you get to eat something really, really good at the end of the exercise. So, welcome to these pages. I hope will find something useful here: recipes, and such. Don’t know what the ‘and such’ will be yet, but I do know it’s out there. Times are not always tough, but every day has its little challenges, and the kitchen is a great place to escape to, to get out of yourself, and to get over yourself. Tell me what’s on your mind. I’ll be listening.
I believe in cupcakes. An article in Newsweek a few months ago decried their popularity as a bubble about to burst, the has-beens of the next best thing, a sugar rush heading for a crash. http://www.newsweek.com/id/214866 Not!
I don’t accept that. Cupcakes are forever. True, someday the cupcake shop near you will probably fold, just as everything changes, everything comes and goes in time, but what do you think those muffin tins in your cupboard are for? You can whip them up yourself in a cupcake emergency. And frankly, there are plenty of emergencies that require cupcakes. Birthdays, for example, especially when school children are involved. Or how about a miserable friend, suffering from a break-up? Wouldn’t a cupcake cheer her up? You can bake ‘em and freeze ‘em (without the icing of course) and pull ‘em out when you need a few (freeze the icing in small batches, too.) You probably don’t want to provide your child’s entire class with cupcakes at three bucks or more a pop, so make these.
The key word here is emergency. These are not les petits gâteaux élégants. They have mayonnaise in them, which is sort of French, isn’t it? Anyway, keep in mind that eggs + oil = mayo. When you have mayo in the fridge and some cocoa powder in the cupboard, you can be in business in almost no time--under 10 minutes (to mix,) add another 20 minutes (to bake.) And you don’t have to go out when it’s snowing, the stores are closed or you just can’t face the supermarket. These are deep, dark chocolate cupcakes. Just don’t mention the mayo.
Emergency Chocolate Cupcakes (Makes about 16 cupcakes)
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup mayonnaise, not low-fat
2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard-sized muffin pans with 16 cupcake liners.
2. Whisk the cocoa and the boiling water together until smooth in a large bowl. Let it cool slightly while you measure the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the mayonnaise and vanilla to the cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fill the cupcake molds two-thirds full.
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then gently remove them to a rack to finish cooling. When they are completely cool, frost them with Old Fashioned Chocolate Icing
Old Fashioned Chocolate Icing. (Makes about 2 cups icing, enough for 16 cupcakes.)
1/2 cup (4 ounces/1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces (3 squares) usweetened chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1. Beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla and mix until combined. Beat in the melted chocolate and the corn syrup. Don’t go to town, just beat it until it’s soft and creamy and not too aerated. Spread them on your cute little cakes with abandon.