I need to start by explaining that I don't wear a lot of jewelry. I never have; despite my 1980s turquoise blue dangl-ey earring phase, I'm a plain Jane when it comes to adornment. For a while I wore a leather necklace with a totem. There are a few pieces I rotate through to go to work: some modest gold hoops, a pair of sparkly earrings that a student brought me from India, a necklace that my mother in law gave me shortly after our wedding date, with a piece of Italian asphalt on it.
So it's hardly surprising, then, that when my neighbor invited me to a Silpada party, I was a little hesitant. I didn't want to go under false pretenses, knowing that I would probably not buy anything. I didn't know if I'd feel weird, watching everyone else gaze at jewelry. Home business parties always make me a little uncomfortable anyway: Pampered Chef, PartyLite, Arbonne, Lia Sophia ... it's all the same. I feel an obligation to the seller, because I know that this is her (usually, her) living, and I feel an obligation to the hostess, because she's helping out this woman by hosting. Yet, I wonder, do I really need this stuff? I wonder sometimes whether the home business scene is a strange circulation of capital from one woman to another, where everyone ends up accumulating stuff that they don't really use.
But I also happen to think that this neighbor is an amazing human being (she has survived breast cancer twice, has three wonderful children, practices Jin Shin Jyutsu, goes to yoga, donates her time to the domestic violence agency and Operation Smile, and just seems like the calm, centered kind of person I'd like to be if it weren't completely against my nature), and I didn't want to pass up the chance to hang out with her. So I told her my concerns and said I'd try to make it, and she promised that it would just be a fun girl's night out.
I -- and this is probably a vestige from my elementary school years -- need to be liked. A lot. I was never the popular kid, and as a result, even as an adult, I find myself trying to please people. Love me, I say to my husband, who laughs at me. This is true even at parties that I'm not even sure I want to attend. (Steve: "You need to impress people you don't even know?" Me: "ESPECIALLY the people I don't even know.") Lately, I've found that people like me for my cupcakes. It's like a powerful secret weapon. Instant appreciation. I'd just recently gotten Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and was torn between red velvet cupcakes and cookies of some sort from my new book, but decided on the red velvet, because ... well ... they're just more impressive. And because Ian likes to lick the bowl.
And when I walked in to her studio with my cupcake carrier in hand, watching about 25 women, most of whom I didn't know, neatly wrapped in scarves and poring over catalogues with wine glasses in hand, I knew I'd made the right choice.
I still didn't buy anything, but at least I felt a little less guilty about coming. And today she emailed me, telling me that she wants the recipe. Who says you can't buy love?
Red Velvet Cupcakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
I have never had a single person guess that these are vegan. Ever. Most people tell me they're the best cupcakes they've ever eaten. Score for the vegans ... more on that in my next post.
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, Dutch processed or regular
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract
(Chocolate extract is worth the trouble to find, but if you can't, use 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin/cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.
3. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and mix.
4. Add the oil, food coloring, chocolate extract, and almond extract to the curdled soy milk. Whisk well to combine. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry, mixing until large lumps disappear. Do not over mix, otherwise your cupcakes will turn out gummy! Small lumps are okay.
5. Fill cupcake liners about two-thirds of the way full as these cupcakes will rise fairly high.
6. Place in hot oven and bake 18-20 minutes until done. You can stick a toothpick into a cupcake to see if it's done. If you get tiny dry crumbs on it, it is ready!
Let sit on the counter for a few minutes in the pans and then transfer to a cooling rack or surface to cool completely.
DO NOT ICE CUPCAKES UNTIL FULLY COOLED.
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup non hydrogenated margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream together margarine and cream cheese until just combined. Use a stand mixer to whip while adding the confectioners sugar in 1/2 cup batches. Scrape down the sides in between too! Mix until smooth and creamy, then mix in the vanilla. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use.