Sunday, January 31, 2016

Alice in Wonderland: Red Roses, Red Hearts, Red Velvet

"So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her."

Have you seen the new suggestion box, underneath my 'About Me' section? Now you can suggest a book for me to read/bake next and maybe you'll see me attempt to transform your favorite read into a delicious cupcake recipe. It's like normal book recommendations, with a sweet bonus! I've been getting a lot of good ideas (A few bad ones, too. Looking at you, whoever suggested 'Spike & Dru : Pretty Maids All In A Row.') But out of the good suggestions, I noticed a trend--children's books!

I don't know how I left out such an important genre this long. Children's books--the reason I love reading today! I still remember by first chapter book (Wringer by Jerry Spinelli--I was weird, okay?) Although there were a lot of good suggestions, I decided to go with a classic--Alice in Wonderland by Luis Carroll.

Note: I know there's a billion versions of this story, and I'm using this one, because I like the illustrations.

Alice in Wonderland is great for a lot of reasons--it's adventurous and whimsical, full of nonsense and play in a magical world where things don't always make sense, but then, when you think about it, they sort of do make sense. It's hard to talk about it without sounding like you've been smoking with the caterpillar yourself. But the absolute best thing about Alice in Wonderland is the way Carroll plays with language in very silly ways, which perfectly emphasized the absurdity of Wonderland. He played with sounds, meaning, rhythm, spelling, everything. Imagine being around when the original came out, in Victorian England. It must have been a revelation.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.”

There's a lot going on in this book, so I decided to focus my attention on the Queen of Hearts, the foul-mouthed ruler who loves nothing more than sentencing people to death for the smallest things. These red velvet cupcakes are much nicer.

Other than adding a little more red dye than the recipe calls for (in order to get a really pretty red color), I kept this recipe simple--just a classic red velvet recipe. The fun with these came much more with decorating the cooled cupcakes, but would you look at this red?!

I decorated with cream cheese frosting, powdered sugar and little icing roses that I found in the baking aisle at WalMart. Come to think of it, these would make awesome Valentine's Day cupcakes too!

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 (1 ounce) bottle red food colorr
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
3. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla.
4. Gradually beat in flour mixture until just blended.
5. Fill cups and bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean.

"My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

"When the procession came opposite to Alice, they all stopped and looked at her, and the Queen said severely 'Who is this?'"

“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

"'Well I'd hardly finished the verse,' said the Hatter, 'when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, 'He's murdering the time! Off with his head!'"

"Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life; it was all ridges and furrows; the balls were live hedgehogs, the mallets live flamingos, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and to stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches."

Happy baking, everybody!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wands Up: A Tribute with Cupcakes

“" he whispered. The green eyes found the black, but after a second, something in the depths of the dark pair seemed to vanish, leaving them fixed, blank, and empty. The hand holding Harry thudded to the floor, and Snape moved no more.”

I was prepared to make completely different cupcakes this weekend. And then Thursday morning I heard the news. Alan Rickman--Professor Snape, Colonel Brandon, Sheriff George of Nottingham, Hans Gruber and The Blue Caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland--passed away at the age of 69. While there are plenty of movies that wouldn't have been the same without him, these cupcakes are in honor of Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.

I picked up my first Harry Potter book in 5th grade and was immediately hooked. At the midnight release of The Order of the Phoenix, I almost punched a kid when he started reading from the last chapter OUT LOUD. When the movies started coming out, I was terrified my favorite books were going to be ruined--you know movies have a tendency of doing that. But they were EVERYTHING. And Alan Rickman was everything and more. With that long black greasy hair, sometimes flipped out at the end. The way he glared at Harry and his friends, the way he always left the room with a flourish and a flap of his black cape, the way he said, "Page 394."

And as the series continued, we learned more about Snape and just when we learned that Snape was actually a hero dealing with a long-lasting and unrequited love, he was taken from us. Ya'll. I cried and cried and cried. I cried when I read the book. I cried when I saw that scene in the movie. And I'll probably cry again tonight as I binge watch all the movies.

Non-Harry Potter fans (Muggles, if you will) are always asking how I can love these books so much even as an adult. "It's all about magic stuff, right?" Wrong. These books are about heroes and villians, friendships and doing the right thing. They're about love, awkward school dances and puberty. They're about good and evil and how the line isn't always so clear between the two. They're about growing up. I'm glad to have grown up with them and if I ever have a kid, they will too.

There's no need to rate the books. There aren't enough stars in the world. So let's move on to the cupcakes.

Butterbeer cupcakes (aka butterscotch cupcakes)

I was in a rush, so I adapted these cupcakes from a recipe I found on a blog called The Domestic Rebel. However, I wasn't sure how big of a bottle of cream soda this blogger/baker was referring to in her recipe. So instead of asking, I eye-balled it. I never learn.

I ended up having to bake this cupcakes WAY longer than she suggested in order to not end up with a soupy mess. But my house will probably smell like butterscotch for days, so it's not all bad. Now that I've lived and learned (a little at least), I'm sure she meant a small personal size bottle--like maybe 16 oz...?

1 box yellow cake mix
1 bottle butterscotch soda or cream soda
1 small box sugar free/fat free butterscotch instant pudding mix
¾ cups butter, softened
3 Tbsp butterscotch sundae sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 4 cups powdered sugar

1. Combine the cake mix and the soda. Ignore what the box says about eggs and such.
2. Stir in the butterscotch pudding mix.
3. Bake the cupcakes for approx. 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
4. For the icing, beat together the softened butter, butterscotch sauce and vanilla until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, about one cup at a time, until frosting is light and fluffy.

“I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter’s son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter —”

“Ah, yes. Harry Potter. Our new — celebrity.”

“Detention, Saturday night, my office,” said Snape. “I do not take cheek from anyone, Potter . . . not even ‘the Chosen One.’”

"And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, as equals, they departed this life."

Happy baking, everybody!