The Cupcake Crazy tour through Mississippi was such a great success. There were so many lovely treats that people brought, it was often difficult to decide a winner. But we had a great time tasting and deciding. Marlana Walters, who hosted us for such a lovely event at her store The Everyday Gourmet shared this piece that she wrote about cupcakes, her adorable twins and our event for Northside Sun Magazine.
As the twins 3rd birthday approaches, I am forced to make a major decision: cake or cupcakes? I struggle with the choice more than I should because baking is not my strongest area in the kitchen. My admitted weakness is further exacerbated by knowing the children must have something to support a candle and that the party guests are expecting some type of cake topped with icing to make the party legitimate. After about 30 seconds of over analyzing my phobia of baking, I choose cupcakes.
In trying to make a decision of the appropriate dessert to serve at the children’s birthday party, I conclude there are two types of people: Bakers and Cooks. While people may have skills to suit both categories, I believe that bakers can be good cooks, but good cooks are often lousy bakers. The rational for my theory is based on profiling characteristics of people I know and level of culinary skill as it correlates to their personality. My observations are by no means scientific.
Bakers: precise cooks using exact measurements, timing and procedures to create uniform results in baked goods – not to be confused with someone that opens a box of cake mix and adds a couple eggs. True bakers weigh ingredients and take into consideration altitude and humidity as factors in the outcome of their labor. Other characteristics include:
- Ability to read and follow directions – Before attempting assembly. This quality applies not only to baking, but other tasks as well.
- Punctual – If you were to as someone that is habitually late if they are a baker, I will bet you a pound of sugar they are not.
- Perfectionist – No self-respecting baker would settle for anything less than a perfect pâté á Choux (cream puff), soufflé or pain de mie (French bread).
- Neat – Spices are organized alphabetically. I can only assume the have an organized sock drawer too.
- Cautious – Make complete stops at every stop sign. Bakers are better drivers because they are on high alert for potential rouge motorists that do not obey traffic rules.
Bakers are special people – patient, detail oriented and consistent. If you have never tried baking, but feel like the list describes your personality – you might be the next great baker.
Cooks on the other hand, are much more fun to talk to at a dinner party. They tend to roll with the flow, are much less rigid in the kitchen and give balance (in addition to the main course) to the baking population.
Cooks: well versed in the areas of frying, roasting and sautéing. Their skills are best accentuated on the stove-top and are not restricted by the use of recipes as they thrive under pressure. Other common attributes of a cook include:
1. Competitive – they use the recipes of others as an opportunity to make their version taste even better.
2. Procrastinator – have a genuine desire to make homemade cinnamon rolls, but haven’t gotten around to it.
3. Resourceful – adapt quickly to change; no pasta in the pantry, no problem – they use rice instead.
4. Messy – organized chaos can best describe a good cook. While their spice drawer may not be organized by name, they can find a pinch of nutmeg when they need it. Their sock drawer is a different matter and good cooks will often wear mismatched items because they are late for an appointment.
5. Risk taker – often times speeders and violators of posted 30 minute parking notices. Whenever I am in traffic court, I have the opportunity to visit with many great cooks.
After realizing my personal weakness in the kitchen, I have decided to make an effort to be a better baker. There is no reason people love to cook can’t be great bakers. Just to prove it, we’re hosting a cupcake baking contest to bring out the baker in all of us. The cupcake contest will begin at 10 am on Friday, April 20th at the Pear Orchard location of The Everyday Gourmet in Jackson. Bring a batch of your homemade cupcakes and we will award one lucky person (who will no doubt arrive early and dressed to perfection) an Annieglass cake plate.
In the meantime, I will be focused on improving my own baking skills with a little practice making double batches of chocolate cupcakes to celebrate Maris and Heath’s birthday. Since I fall into the category of being a cook and a wannabe baker, I sought the help of the ultimate baker, Martha Stewart, for inspiration for my Twin Chocolate Cupcakes – Dutch Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Frosting.
Dutch Chocolate Cupcakes
1 ¼ cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ¼ Neilson Massey pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Using stand mixer with whip attachment on medium to low speed, combine cocoa, flour, sugar baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slowly add eggs, yolk water, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Mix until smooth 2 to 3 minutes.
Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling about halfway. Bake cupcakes 10 minutes rotate and continue to cook another 8 to 10 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing cupcakes from tin. Cupcakes should be completely cooled before frosting.
Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Frosting
1 ½ cups sugar
6 large eggs whites
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
1 teaspoon Neilson Massey pure vanilla extract
5 ½ ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and completely cooled
Combine sugar, egg whites and salt in double boiler over simmering heat. Whisk 2 to 3 minutes until whites are warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved. Transfer to stand mixer with whip attachment and beat on low until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat on medium high speed for 10 minutes until stiff, glossy peaks from and mixture is cooled completely. Reduce speed to medium low and add butter 2 tablespoons of butter at time, beating continually to incorporate fully after each addition. After butter is fully incorporated add vanilla and chocolate. Switch from whip to paddle attachment and beat on lowest speed for 5 minutes to reduce air bubbles.Icing may be piped on to cupcakes using a large tip and pasty bag filled with icing.