Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Day, Reprise: Cupcake Double Header

Apparently, the stirring of spring I could have sworn I felt the other day was a tease. This morning the phone rang at 5 a.m. for the second day in a row, with a recorded message letting us know that Ian's school was closed. Steve's site was closed. We were expecting another foot of snow. My office was open, though classes were cancelled on the campus; though the streets looked pretty clear, I decided not to go in. After all, I had important business to attend to today.

Making two different flavors of cupcakes at the same time on the same countertop is actually more challenging than it sounds, if you're at all paying attention to your kitchen chemistry. You can set up your wet and your dry ingredients for both, but once you've started to combine them, you're working against the clock. Ian helped me out, mixing one batch while I sifted and started mixing the other. He's very good at sifting, measuring, and mixing, and assigning one bowl to someone else, even I have to micro-manage, helps me keep my recipes straight.

I'd been asked to make two dozen for a coffee hour, so I went with cappuccino and chai tea latte, figuring that they would go well with warm drinks. The chai cupcake is a delicate spice cake (which, if I'd been a little less decadent, could even just be dusted with cinnamon-sugar), and the cappuccino cupcake packs a deep, moist, caffeinated punch. Though I'm not personally getting paid for these (they were a donation for a charity auction), it's my first commission, so I went all out and got a window box.

Despite the snow day, and the fact that it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day after the snow was done deliberating between blizzard and flurry, I did actually get some real work done today, too: the kind that I get paid for. Technology makes it hard to escape the office these days, unless I'm in the middle of the woods without internet. Mercifully, I don't yet have a Crackberry or an iPhone. But honestly, making these were a lot more fun than doing the work I was paid to be doing. There's no bowl to lick when you're done putting together a presentation, or when you've finished making small grants to applicants, or when you're editing student papers.

The other day, Ian and I were looking through my old portfolio. It made me remember that once upon a time, I was a pretty talented artist. With less time to spend on artwork and writing, I seem to have channeled my creativity into food. Nothing wrong with that, right?

These are adapted, again, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. While I'm not vegan, and probably will never be as long as I'm married to Steve (who asked me plaintively today, as I was making the grocery list, if we could "maybe please have some meat?"), I love the fact that they whip up so quickly, that they're so reliable, and that they don't require a lot of fuss (aside from some soy milk and soy yogurt) or even heavy machinery. Sure, you ought to have a piping bag on hand ... but that would be true even if all you ever made was Betty Crocker from a box and frosting from a can.

Go make these little pick-me-ups for someone you love.

Cappuccino Cupcakes

1/3 c. oil (mild olive is fine; use something less processed)
3/4 c. granulated natural sugar (Sucanat is best)
1/2 c. vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 c. soy or rice milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1 t. vanilla extract
2-3 T. instant espresso powder (you can use instant coffee if you must)
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin pan with 12 liners.

In a large bowl, whisk ingredients through espresso powder until smooth. Sift in the rest of the ingredients all together, and mix until combined and smooth.

Fill liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-22 minutes. Be careful; if you don't bake these long enough, or open the oven to peek inside, letting precious hot air escape, they will sink and become little dormant volcanoes. On the other hand, you don't want to overbake them, either. When they're done, transfer to cooling racks and cool completely before filling.

Cafe Au Lait Frosting

1/2 c. unsalted butter or vegan spread
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. soymilk with
1/2 t. instant espresso mixed into it

Beat butter until light and fluffy, using a stand mixed if you have one. VERY slowly, beat in powdered sugar. Add vanilla and soymilk; beat again until fluffy. Pipe on and bask in the appreciative comments!

Chai Latte Cupcakes

1 cup soy or rice milk
4 black teabags or 2 tablespoons loose black tea
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soy yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground white or black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 and line tin with cupcake liners. In a small saucepan heat soymilk till almost boiling, add tea bags, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.When ready to use stir teabags and thoroughly squeeze to insure as much tea is dissolved in milk as possible.

In a large bowl wisk together oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper into wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are okay. Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted comes out clean.
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  1. Oh my. You can definitely make a day job out of this. Amazing pictures. This is total food porn!

  2. Hi there,

    I have given you the Sunshine Blog Award! Please stop by and pick it up!

  3. Congratulations Justine! Like I said, you can make a living cooking and blogging;)

  4. Maya's birthday is on the 29th and I am thinking of a cupcake party. I think I am going to make these for the adults. Do you have a favorite vanilla recipe? We are America's Test Kitchen devotees but honestly, their cupcake recipe isn't great.


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