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Posts Tagged ‘Anne’

Hugo, girl.

My friend Croque has finally convinced her husband to get a dawg.  They pick up the treasure tomorrow afternoon, and I want to be the first to welcome  him to his new and wonderful life with the loveliest of families!

I love you, Hugo! (Name pending husband approval.)

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A special day.

I granted myself permission to postpone an important day for a week so that I could give it its proper due, since I was out of town last week. Alas, I still have not gotten my act together enough to do anything beyond announcing to the blogosphere that a week ago today, Croquette celebrated her 29th birthday.

Annie, I wish I could’ve been there to celebrate with you!

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The Croquer beat me to it, and she’s going to be hard to beat. She’s already posted her results of our Super Bowl Cupcake Showdown, and so far, her performance, well, takes the cake.

Let’s see how I measure up.

I was nervous about these cupcakes. Peanut Butter and Julie won a recent Food Network Showdown with them, which Croque Madame had originally alerted me to. But upon reading the recipe reviews, a few issues came to light. It seemed some thought the cake not sweet enough, the frosting too sweet. Some complained that they couldn’t taste the malt. Croque Madame decided to make Paula Dean’s Red Velvets instead.

But, always up for a baking challenge (and somewhat convinced the Food Network reviewers just hadn’t used the right ingredients), I decided that I’d go for it anyway. After hunting for malted milk powder all over Brooklyn and Manhattan and quieting some of my worries over a lovely email exchange with Julie, the recipe’s author, who explained that she’d cut the sugar down on the cake so as to provide a contrast to the sweet frosting, I set to baking.

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These cupcakes are incredibly easy to make, and they baked up beautifully. I suspect that I added extra cream to the frosting, because I had set aside a bit (and used the rest to make polenta) the night before, then forgot to measure out the proper amount later and just dumped it all in. I was worried that this made the frosting too goopy, and I was concerned that it never set up and that the acid in the cherry preserves had curdled the buttercream a bit (causing a very slightly grainy texture and appearance), something Julie had warned me about. Repeated licks off my fingers as I frosted, though, revealed it to be delicious.  (Any baker knows that, no matter how many damp paper towels you keep on hand, the best way to stay unsticky during the frosting process is to lick.) The buttercream was sweet, yes, but the tart cherry preserves created such a marvelous contrast! And Julie was right: The contrast between the cake and the frosting was also lovely. (Contrary to some of the Food Network reviewers, I did not find the cake too bitter on its own; it was a refreshing change from the overly sweet cupcake one usually encounters.)  I could not taste the malt, really, but I didn’t miss it.  The hint was enough, along with the hint of espresso and the slight chewiness of the mini milk-chocolate chips (which one taster would later call a “toothsome addition”).

The cherry on top? The perfect finishing touch.

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I had my cupcakes taste-tested at two separate Super Bowl parties. I encouraged honesty in scores and comments, but overall the response was very positive. Perhaps I hadn’t provided a space in which my testers felt comfortable critiquing me; perhaps my ‘cakes were just that good. I ate three over the course of the weekend (and several cups of frosting along the way), but I suppose I’m biased.

Many remarked on the appearance of the cupcakes (“cute” was an oft-used adjective, and one taster said, merely, “wow”), which surprised me, because I found them a bit sloppy. (I’ve never taken a pastry decorating class and quickly abandoned my original idea of piping the frosting onto the cakes when I realized I didn’t have a frosting tip large enough for the chunks of cherry preserve to push through.) All seemed to enjoy the experience of eating the cupcakes, too, though some were more critical than others. The lowest score, both by an individual judge and by the group combined, was awarded to the cake texture, which also surprised me. I loved the cake, even more than the frosting, though I cannot discount the pure joy it was to encounter one of those tart cherry chunks among that creamy, sugary buttercream.

Other comments included that the cake was moist and dense at the same time, a “perfect texture.” One judge described the flavor of the cake as having a “mind-bending complexity,” but this judge (and I have my suspicions as to who it was, but in the spirit of anonymity, I won’t reveal) also thought that these cupcakes should put Magnolia (whose buttercream recipe is my usual go-to) out of business, so I suspect he (or she) was having a bit of fun with the hyperbole.

And so, the much-awaited scores:

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This was never about the competition, so I won’t even bother to compare my scores with Croque Madame’s. Make your own comparisons, and draw our own conclusions. My take on it is that we both made some pretty delicious ‘cakes.  I wish we could’ve tasted each other’s!

Note: My testers, too, were confused by the ballot.  In the future, 1 shall be low, and 5 shall be high.  My thinking behind 1 as high was No. 1, but I guess that doesn’t translate implicitly.

And as for Croque Madame’s comment that her ‘cakes were more Super Bowl-appropriate — I assume because of their color — I add that mine were pink, too, with a splash of red on top.  But that was just a happy accident.

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Announcing the first annual Superbowl Cupcake Showdown. Croque Madame is making Red Cardinal Velvet cakes, to compete with my Double Chocolate Malt Shop Cupcakes With Cherry Vanilla Buttercream.

My cupcakes are done, so it’s left to the Croquester to see if she can top them. I have my doubts. These things are pretty phenomenal. The recipe is by Peanut Butter and Julie, who won a Food Network Recipe Showdown with them this month. I had a few questions about the recipe, and she responded kindly and quickly to my email. I hope I’ve done this fabulous recipe justice. The contrast of flavors–sweet with bitter, sweet with tart–is really fantastic, and I think I captured it well.

It’s up to my judges, though, who will be selected at random tomorrow, to decide.

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Off we go to a party in Williamsburg, which is one of my least favorite places to travel to and especially to walk around alone in, but luckily tonight I’ll be accompanied by my loyal companion (blog coming soon, he promises), and he lives on the G train, which is really the only reasonable way by which to travel to Williamsburg from within Brooklyn.

I am wearing a sparkly gold sweater that I bought to pair with my bridesmaid’s dress from Croque Madame’s lovely wedding. I am also wearing some brown boots and a pair of jeans that I have not washed in several weeks but have worn pretty much every day. Is that too much information? It’s just such a pain in the neck to travel down to the laundry room between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is on the list of Things I Must Do This Weekend, though, along with Watch Lots of TV and Eat Pasta.

And on Sunday, we ice skate!

I hope everyone is attending a party of some sort tonight, whether it’s what we would typically label a party or just a personal sort of party involving eating frozen pizza in your underpants on the couch while watching such television masterpieces as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” I already attended exactly that sort of party earlier tonight before rallying for the Williamsburg outing, so I can tell you that it’s a really fun one.

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