Thursday, February 25, 2010

Case Study 53: "The Savory Tart"

If it looks like a cupcake and is baked like a cupcake, is it a cupcake?  Though this is not the first savory morsel featured in Cupcaketology, this one's a bit different than the rest.  It's quite the little tart.  

A few weeks ago, I declared war on winter, and since then it's been a major battle with Jack Frost.  Though he might have won by holding my little Jeep hostage on an unplowed street for 2 weeks, I fought back, sipping Dark n' Stormies to a live reggae band, and going on an all out shellfish feast.  But when compromised by never-ending snowflakes and the desire to create while keeping to Lenten promises (read: no sweets, junk, desserts...), sometimes making the everyday meal a little extraordinary is the best weapon of choice.    

Inevitably indoors again today, I put on a little Al Green, and popped open the door to my deck to watch the snow fall.  As lunchtime wandered in, I knew what had to be done.  Up rolled my sleeves and out rolled an olive oil wheat dough as I poured a little glass of afternoon white. 

"The Savory Tart" is just that, savory, full of flavor and vegetables, and topped with cheese and a fresh crackle of sea salt and pepper.  A veritable Red Queen, it is lined by dough hearts and stocked with asparagus, tomatoes and feta cheese.  Perfectly comforting for a wintry day while still being extremely hopeful for alfresco dining in a very few short months.

Though I've just about had it with this weather, I've realized  that this might actually be the end of it until next year, and am finally making the decision to embrace it.  Hell, maybe it's just good old karma telling us that it's about time we slowed things down a bit.  So whip up a few of these tasty puppies and treat yourself well until normal sugar consumption resumes and the sun finally shows its face.  My, what a fine fine day that will be...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Notes from the Field: "The Candyshop Quartet"

"Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back...with wonder."

On Friday night, friends gathered in my little apartment to enjoy cupcakes and champagne in support of the wonderful charity Christopher's Smile.  

Amidst tealights and gumballs, champagne punch and prosecco, we were veritable "kids in a candy shop", enjoying a group of sweet-inspired cupcakes sure to remind everyone of their favorite Wonka dreams. 

There was a "Crunchie Cupcake", a vanilla cake topped with a vanilla buttercream, homemade chocolate dipped honeycomb and a chocolate drizzle...

The "Wondercake", a chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream and mini M&Ms...

"Dirt Cupcakes", chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream, Oreo cookie crumble and a gummi crawler...
  And the "Snickerdoodle", a peanut cupcake topped with chocolate frosting, toasted peanuts and a slice of Snickers bar.

Christopher's Smile, based in Lightwater, UK, was set up in October 2008 by Karen and Kevin Capel following the tragic death of their only son Christopher from medulloblastoma, an aggressive childhood brain tumour.  The charity aims to raise money to fund development of new drugs to treat medulloblastoma and other childhood cancers without devastating side effects. These drugs will provide an effective cure for all and save the lives of the 25% of children who currently do not survive their disease. 

But it wasn't all cake and bubbly.  To gain a little perspective on the focus of the night, guests were asked to ponder one thing during the party: What was your favorite childhood memory?  

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Notes from the Field: Cupcakes For A Cause

On March 21, I'm running the Fleet Half Marathon in Hampshire, UK to raise money for Christopher's Smile.

Christopher’s Smile is a wonderful organization that was set up in October 2008 by Karen and Kevin Capel following the tragic death of their only son Christopher from medulloblastoma, an aggressive childhood brain tumor.  Christopher ’s Smile aims to raise money to fund development of new drugs to treat medulloblastoma and other childhood cancers without devastating side effects.  Funded researchers also collaborate with those doing similar research right here at the wonderful Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

In light of it all, I decided to throw a little soiree, combining two great things for one good cause: Cupcakes and Champagne!  I am convinced that lovely little things can make magic happen. 

For more information, please check out my fundraising page: And don't forget, in helping others we also give hope!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Case Study 52: "The 'This Is Why You're Fat' Tuesday"

Lent is here again, which for many means one thing: no more sweets.  

It also means that we better eat as much junk as possible before Wednesday.  And that my friends, is where Mardi Gras comes in.

In Rio de Janeiro, blocos de carnaval parade throughout the city to a samba-reggae beat. In New Orleans, laissez les bon temps rouler for weeks prior to the actual day. I've celebrated Fat Tuesday in a variety of ways. But whether it was polishing off the Valentine's Day stash or hanging with bottles of bubbly on a crumbling back-alley ponte in Venice, it's typically been marked by one thing: disgustingly delicious indulgence.

The " 'This Is Why You're Fat' Tuesday" is a miniature banana cupcake that is filled with peanut butter, topped with a chocolate cream cheese buttercream, sprinkled with buttersnap pretzels and drizzled in caramel.  Plain and simply put, these scrumptious little puppies are on the agenda tomorrow.  Dare I say more?

This Mardi Gras, whether you're flipping pancakes or catching beads with your face, hitting the bars or digging plastic babies out of cakes, don't forget to live it up.  A little sacrifice goes a long way in learning some life lessons, and that is a good thing, mes amis!

Also, if you have yet to see, mosey on over and check it out.  And then go wrap something in bacon or dip it in chocolate.  It's a long forty days until you'll get it next.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Case Study 51: "The Honey Child"

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose name you meditate --
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

- Sylvia Plath 

To think of what I've experienced in the past year, the greatest and most foreign feeling I discovered was the love of a child.  When my nephew was born in the spring, I remember crying.  He was the first child, the grandchild, the first great-grandchild.  Let it be known, I'm nowhere even close to becoming a mother.  But this sweet dumpling has taught me a lot about life.  

He has taught me to laugh. Not only is one giggle worth a thousand swords when fighting tears, but playing with baby makes adults do deliciously silly things.  He reminds me to lighten up.  We always say "nothing can be bad in the presence of a baby."  How could it be when you're nuzzling a little pink-cheeked monkey with a crown of curls. Most of all though, he has taught me something important about life: it goes on.  

"The Honey Child" is a vanilla bean cupcake with an animal cracker crust, Italian meringue frosting and a chocolate-dipped jimmie-sprinkled animal cracker on top. Snips, snails, and puppy dogs tails aside, it is also sweet, creamy, chocolatey, and finished with a little crunch.

My grandfather unexpectedly died in November.  He was a gentle giant with big hands and a quiet, yet constant presence.  As he got older, he softened, with one remarkable thing shining clear: he was childlike.  Not childish, not petty, not immature.  Childlike. Childlike in his mannerisms and his gentleness.  Childlike in the way he acted deliberately and loved so acceptingly.  And throughout his funeral services and weekend of family gatherings, everywhere we went, the light oddly shone on one person: my nephew.  

Life is funny how it teaches us about things.  

It reminds us that we really are part of a circle.  Parents become grandparents and grandparents become great-grandparents, and in it all we share a thread of that same tiny double helix thread that makes us both ourselves and part of a beautiful chain at once. And it urges us, no matter how mature, how beaten down by reality, and how wrapped up in ourselves we get, we must try and view the world with a little more wonder and awe. To see it through the eyes of a child.

When I think about love, I think about life.  And in this little one, I have been brought nothing but joy, and the ability to see things in a different light.   

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Notes from the Field: God Save McQueen.

"And round that early-laurelled head 
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,  
And find unwithered on its curls  
The garland briefer than a girl's"
- A.E. Houseman 

Of Cabbages,

And Kings...

Rest in Peace McQueen.

 (Runway photos from

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Notes from the Field: Snowed In.

Snowed in today with four dozen cupcakes.  

Red velvet lovelies with cream cheese buttercream and fondant hearts...

Chocolate sweeties with raspberry meringue frosting and dark chocolate dipped raspberries on top...


Victoria sponges with strawberry jam filling and vanilla buttercream...

...and Lemon chiffon cakes with lemon curd filling and vanilla bean meringue frosting.

Anyone have a snowmobile to get to the party?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ethnographic Study 2: On Plastic Babies and the Intersection of Art and Science

"If cooking is an art, 
baking is a science" 
- King Arthur Flour Catalog

I don't think I've ever met anybody as enthusiastic about perfecting her cupcakery skills as Lee, and so our next Ethnographic Study in cupcaketology comes from her own eager kitchen right here in Philadelphia.  Lee, a research specialist, will be the first to tell you that practice makes perfect when it comes to trying recipes, but it is her creativity and hilarious reasoning that best chronicle her kitchen adventures and an evolution in piping.