May 6th, 2012
Don’t ask why — the reasons are long and complicated, involving at least four countries and more than one birthday — but this week I made 11 dozen cupcakes and one layer cake. Luckily, I happen to own a stainless steel mixing bowl that could eat Chicago.
First, I made four dozen vanilla cupcakes from my favorite “California Cake” recipe (circa 1865). Then came four dozen chocolate cupcakes, using a fantastic vegan recipe learnt from a fellow member of the Fourth Street Food Coop in NYC. That was followed by a dozen gluten-free chocolate lavender cupcakes from a mix. And last, but not least, two dozen carrot cupcakes and a two-layer carrot cake.
With the exception of the carrot cake and cupcakes, which require cream cheese icing as a matter of course, I topped the cupcakes with butter cream in various flavors:
- Vanilla cakes with pink rosewater cinnamon butter cream
- Vanilla cakes with milk chocolate butter cream
- Chocolate cakes with purple vanilla butter cream dipped in shredded cocoanut
- Chocolate cakes with coffee butter cream
- Gluten-free chocolate lavender cakes with purple vanilla butter cream
Here’s the majority of my handiwork. A few cakes didn’t make it out of my kitchen…and it wasn’t long before a few more were swiped by passersby once I delivered them to the lodge. We hid the layer cake until it was time for the candles to be lit.
The cupcakes were a hit — and I even saw a few people eating them the next day for breakfast! The remains of the carrot layer cake are in our refrigerator, haunting us with every overwhelming mouthful.
September 10th, 2011
Tonight, over dinner (in a restaurant — I’m staying clear of the kitchen for a while), I totted up how much baking I’ve done this week. 196 tart shells and 225 cupcakes later, I think I’m ready for a break.
In case you’re curious, here is my cupcake receipt, from a reprinted edition of the “Everyday Cookbook” from Lord & Taylor, circa 1865. I don’t have the original text, so the following is in my own words.
Two cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
Two eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups sifted flour
Flavoring, fruit, or nuts to taste
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, milk, and flavoring. Sift flour and baking powder. Beat flour into wet ingredients in three parts, beating until smooth between each addition.
Bake at 350 until done. Makes 2 cakes or 75 mini-cupcakes.
I have no idea what makes this cake particularly Californian. It’s very good though. Moist, yet light, with a surprisingly coarse crumb. My favorite flavoring is rosewater and cinnamon. But vanilla or almond is nice too. I’ve made it into a few layer cakes (with raspberry jam in the middle) over the years, but usually stick to cupcakes. Regardless of shape, size, or historical accuracy, my favorite icing for California Cake is butter-cream. Rosewater butter-cream. Yum! Like eating a bouquet or drinking a bottle of perfume. But in a good, non-poisonous way.