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proving once and for all that I am no food photographer.

I am not really a pastry chef.  Most of the time, I’d rather have the savoury than the sweet.  It’s my theory that the creators of American Food Holidays threw in cupcakes whenever they came up with a blank: check out Dea’s cupcake throwdown; and Della’s cupcake petits-fours.  I am no queen of cupcakes, like our friend Heather, co-owner and co-founder of Cupcakes in Vancouver.

Cupcakes make me feel… housewifely.  Not a terribly familiar feeling, nor welcome.  To get in the mood, I threw some Blossom Dearie on the stereo.

There oughta be a moonlight savings time

so I can love that man of mine

until the birdies wake and chime

Good Morning!

Hmmm.

If I was going to be a housewife, I don’t think that’s the kind I would be.  I pulled out Blossom (sorry, Dearie), and put on Concrete Blonde.

Love is the ghost haunting your head

Love is the killer you thought was your friend

Love is the creature who lives in the dark

Sneaks up, will stick you and painfully pick you apart

A little dark, non?  But really – admit it – we all sort of want, or want to be (or both) the kind of housewife who meets you at the door with a kiss that turns into a bite, drags you inside by the scruff of your neck while you yelp, “let go of my ears!  I know what I’m doing!” and she says “prove it.”  (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

This slightly dark image perfectly symbolizes the kind of cupcakes I wanted to make.  I thought of savoury.  There’s a whole debate raging out there, apparently, about savoury cupcakes.  But I ask you, when is a cupcake no longer a cupcake?  When does a cupcake become a muffin or a scone?  I think there’s an essential character to a cupcake.  It has to be cake.  So while you shameless bacon-eaters can make lovely caramelized bacon cupcakes, as soon as you start adding whole wads of cheese and ham… they turn into scones.

I found what I was looking for at Big City, Little Kitchen: Guinness Cupcakes!  The authors say “the beer adds richness and

I'm always game for a recipe that includes booze.

moisture”… but I’m not sure I buy that.  A stick of butter is half a cup, folks, and don’t forget the sour cream.  Just FYI I used light sour cream (and light cream cheese in the icing) but I’m not sure how much of a difference it made, with all that butter and beer.

I followed the advice of one of the commenters and substituted Guinness for milk in the icing.  I also threw in a scant teaspoon of cocoa, to bring the colour more accurately to Guinness “foam”.  They’re pretty damned good.  Not too sweet.  I like the cream cheese icing, not being a fan in any way of buttercream icing (* shudder *).  Interestingly, neither the cupcake nor icing on its own tasted all that “Guinness-y”, but together, they imparted a subtle Guinness flavour.

Would I make them again?  Doubtful.  I would still rather spend my calories on dinner (or eggnog).  But a worthy endeavour, nonetheless.

Cheers! ~ Eva

P.S. Betty Boop apron again – somehow it seemed to fit.

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[Ed.: The Lovely S. is guest blogging today, after making us proud to admit our dirty secrets on National Fast Food Day. Enjoy!]

The humble brownie made its first appearance at the Columbian Exposition in 1893.  Apparently, according to wikipedia, a chef at the Palmer House Hotel created the confection after Bertha Palmer requested a dessert for ladies attending the fair that would be smaller than a piece of cake, and easily eaten from boxed lunches.

I remember brownies making several appearances in my lunch boxes as a child.  I also remember eating an entire pan (a small pan) of chocolate cream cheese brownies and that was the first time I had ever eaten myself sick.  Not a good feeling, but I didn’t let that stop me.  You hear stories about people eating an entire apple pie, getting sick and then never eating apple pie again.  Not so with me and brownies.  If anything, that little episode only made our relationship stronger.

I grew up with the standard chocolate brownie with icing.  My brother and I would have contests to see who could lift the icing off the brownie entirely intact so we could eat the sugary topping all by itself.  Heaven!  When D. asked me to do today’s entry, I promptly called my mom for her recipe.  She was driving home with my dad from a day of skiing and she easily recited the entire thing over the phone.  Here it is:

1 c. butter (melted)
1c. cocoa
2c. sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1c. walnuts (optional)

Mix together, pour into 13×9 pan, bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Let cool.  Then for the icing:

5tbsp. butter (melted)
1/4c cocoa

Mix the above.  Add 2 cups icing sugar and then 4-5 tsp. warmed milk.  Spread onto brownies and enjoy!

When I made this yesterday I rediscovered the joy of licking the beaters and just dipping a spoon into the batter and eating freely. Mmmmmm! I made the brownies first and then headed out to run some errands.  When I got home, A. had returned from work, found the brownies and happily helped himself.  Thus, the photo with the (very) large piece missing.

I recommend these brownies for the next get together where you need to bring something sweet and nibbley.  They are delicious comfort food and bring back happy memories of childhood.

[Ed.: Once you’re done trying to reach into the screen to score some of S’s delicious looking brownies, surf over to The Brownie Project where another blogger is making a list of the best brownies she’s ever had. Some sound AMAZING.]

Q: Why do squirrels swim on their backs?

A: To keep their nuts dry!

Okay, all joking aside, nuts are really good for you.  They’re an excellent source of unsaturated fat.  People who are trying to diet find that nuts fill them up and they lose weight faster (as long as the nuts aren’t coated in chocolate).  (Okay, you dirty perverts, get over it now.  We’re talking nuts, not testicles.  Quit your giggling).

But really, who the heck cares about the health value of nuts? This blog is a celebration of food!  Health is secondary, let’s face it (maybe even tertiary).

Let’s talk about Maple Walnut Chiffon Cake, instead.

This is Mom’s recipe.  It’s also the birthday cake I had every year, once I got over my “don’t care what it is as long as the frosting is pretty” phase.  I thought for this blog that I would include a picture of my happy, chubby young self, enjoying some bright pink or blue frosted cake.  Alas.  Apparently I wasn’t really a photogenic child.  The best Mom could come up with was a picture of me with fish. That’s my big brother on the left.

A love of "seafood".

A love of "seafood".

Mom:

a photo of your first realization that you loved seafood.  As an after note, you could state that you started making cakes in your Easy Bake Oven when a child and really started cooking in earnest when you worked for the restaurant in Warner.  Your love of “gourmet” or fancier dishes didn’t start until long after you left home and tried to find tasty vegetarian dishes…

Now that hurts.  I thought my “hamburger soup” recipe was fine gourmet cooking.

But I digress.

In our house, birthdays meant:

  1. you got to pick your dinner;
  2. more importantly, you got to pick dessert; and
  3. most importantly, you didn’t have to do dishes (after a particularly whiny night this year, when I really didn’t want to do dishes, J. said to me: “don’t worry: it’s your birthday year”.  I chose to ignore the sarcasm).

Didn’t I mention there was a recipe?

Maple Walnut Chiffon Cake (I bragged to my friend Di that this is a very healthy recipe but in retrospect, I think I lied):

  • 1 ⅔ C flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ C white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ C vegetable oil
  • 5 egg yolks, unbeaten
  • ¾ C water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp maple flavouring (okay, in respect of authenticity, I published the recipe “as is”.  But I have to say, “maple flavouring” isn’t all that easy to come by, and maple syrup is soooo much better.  I ditched the sugar (and the “flavouring”) and used syrup.  It turned out wonderful.  Sorry, Mom!)
  • ½ C finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 C egg whites
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  1. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well to add other ingredients.
  2. Add in order: vegetable oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and maple flavouring* (see comment above).  Stir in chopped walnuts.
  3. Measure in large bowl the 1 C egg whites sprinkled with ½ tsp cream of tartar.  Beat until very stiff.
  4. Fold egg whites into batter.
  5. Bake in ungreased angel food cake pan at 325° for 1.5 hours.  Invert cake pan on funnel to cool.

Icing (about that healthy part?  Sorry, Di.  I lied)

Beat together:

  • ½ C butter
  • 1 ½ C icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp maple flavouring* (see comment above – I ditched the cream and the maple flavouring and used maple syrup)

Okay, so it’s not healthy. Whatever.  Now I’m feeling defensive. But it’s damned good cake.  Ooey-gooey sticky goodness.  I suggest toasting the walnuts first.

Thanks for the recipe, Mom. Even if you didn’t take pictures of me on my birthday.  Like, ever.  Too bad it’s not my birthday today, though.  I had to do the dishes. J. wasn’t letting me off the hook this time.  Sigh.

A bonus for our “fans”: my chubby, cake-loving self on the swings (probably after stuffing myself with plenty of sticky icing):

Look at those chubby legs!

Look at those chubby legs!