Today, my dad comes home after being out of town for work for two weeks. What better reason does one need to make cupcakes? I felt like branching out a little from my usual baking cookbook staple, Shirley Corriher's Bake Wise, but there's no better source for recipes, so I used her "Moist Golden Cake" as a base for some extremely silly cupcakes that were inspired by a cake I saw at the River North Goddess and Grocer the other day:
I didn't really want to make a six-layer cake, but I loved the idea of coloring batter and playing with it. My cupcakes didn't involve any icing in between layers, which created a really psychedelic banding effect. I only made five layers (no yellow, alas) because I would be separating the batter over 12 little cupcake wells. Five layers seemed like trouble enough. My colors aren't as bright, either, but I'll keep that in mind next time. I didn't want to spoil the delicious cake with all that dye, and I didn't want to waste all my dye on an experimental dessert! I'm happy with the results, nevertheless:
On top is lemon cream cheese frosting, which I made by altering Shirley's "Carrot Cake Cream Cheese Frosting" recipe. There's about a tablespoon of pure lemon extract and the zest of one lemon in there. It's really lemony, which is perfect with the richness of the frosting and cake. Plus, dad will love it. But don't spill the beans; it's a surprise!
This week, I was asked to write the feature for the Drive-Thru section of Gapers Block, a section that I've been writing for for a few months. I love being a food writer! I was allowed to write my feature about pretty much whatever I wanted, and in honor of this new cookie place in Lincoln Park, as well my forthcoming baking podcast (the first two episodes are about cookies), I decided to write about my favorite food.
I suppressed the urge to mention it in my article, but remember people: Cookies are a sometime food.
I got a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer for Christmas from my World's Best Dad. He even got it in the Williams-Sonoma exclusive buttery yellow color I wanted. I cried when I opened it.
It's amazing how simple this one device makes the baking process. Mostly it's a time thing (also a little energy): I can start creaming the butter and then measure the sugar while the butter is creaming. I can gradually add the flour without stopping the mixing process and not get flour everywhere. It's just wonderful. (Note to home bakers: when using such a "set-it-and-forget-it" tool, it's important not to actually forget it. There is such a thing as too mixed, and it is bad news).
In packaging and advertising and such, simplicity also appeals to me. One recipe I'd been putting off since Christmas called for Marshmallow Fluff, which I don't really keep around the house. And since they don't sell it at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (at least not the one near me) I was going to have to get some on a special trip to the "normal" grocery store. Ugh. Then, lo and behold, I spotted some at CVS last Friday. I think I might have purchased it even if I hadn't needed it, again because of the simplicity. It's not a fancy brand, it won't win any design awards, but it called to me: a white plastic (NOT glass! Yay!) container with a red lid and a blue label. Easy to get out the sticky stuff, nice to look at, reusable. Simple.
Sometimes simplicity can be bad. For example, I took this picture with the iSight on my computer because it would be simpler than using my phone or my normal camera. Oh well. You get the idea.