Monday, October 17, 2011

Case Study 98: Prizewinning Pumpkin Cupcakes

On Saturday, I had the honor of competing as a finalist in my little Connecticut town's Fall Festival Pumpkin Recipe Contest.  

Selected by judges the prior week, my recipe for "Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes in a Ginger Graham Cracker Crust with a Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream and Candied Pepita on top" competed against other pumpkin recipes in both sweet and savory categories.  The competition was judged in a "Throwdown" fashion with scoring by local food celebrities and "People's Choice" alike.  And the result was...

 I won!

Prizes and glory aside, it was a priceless experience in my little hometown.  The weather was perfectly autumnal, and absolutely nothing beats the look on people's faces when they eat something that you are really proud of.  

I will include the "award-winning" recipe after it is published in the local newspaper, so check back soon!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Case Study 97: "The Ginger Snap Pumpkin Cupcake"

Today was one of those Fridays.  

You know, the kind that ends one of those weeks.  The kind where you find yourself in the afternoon, halfway between gazing longingly at the clock and forgetting exactly where you are.  And so, I was hanging out in that middle place around three o'clock eastern standard time when I looked at the calendar and realized that there was not one but two countdowns beginning on this day. 

In less than one month, I will make a swift escape from my mid-twenties.

Long days and tough weeks require quiet nights, and so tonight I opted out of a wild night of traipsing through the city and instead hopped a train out of the city to my in-between space.  I poured a glass of a fifteen year old bottle of Chianti, turned on my new AM/FM and decided to let this whole aging thought bake for a bit...along with a third go of a recipe test for the perfect pumpkin cupcake.  

In many ways, age to me really isn't anything but a number.  You see, I've surrounded myself with people of all numbers my entire life.   I am the daughter of parents who defy any kind of years.  And I really don't feel any older as the months fly by. But over the past year, I have in fact aged.  I've refined my tastes and my choices.  I've pared down my necessities in favor of simplification, quality and what just feels right.  And I have entered a bit of a spiritual revolution, of which I am slowly, but surely, finding my way out.  

How does this bring me to the pumpkin cupcake?  Well, my first recipe in this series of tests was all wrong, and to be honest, the second wasn't much better.  My ideas were jumbled.  There were opinions and suggestions and quite a lot of noise.  The tastes were interesting, but the cake was flat, the texture off and the crowing adornment less than elegant.  Most of all, these cakes just weren't me

And so, I landed here: a light and fluffy pumpkin cupcake, nestled in a ginger graham cracker crust and topped with a maple cream cheese buttercream and a little pepita.   It's simpler than I anticipated.  It's clean and light, but underneath it's swirling with spice, creaminess and flavor.  It's just right.   

Luckily, with cakes, as with life, time is of the essence.  Time allows for trial.  It permits frustration and denial, and then it gives the opportunity to take the thought out of it and let what's natural fall into place.

Madness, like youth, can be a great catalyst for creativity and ideas. But time, time begets a sort of enlightenment that is different.  The kind that can bring peace and grace.  And the kind that can lead to finally finding the absolutely right cake.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Notes from the Field: Oh snap...

I was absolutely delighted to see a little cheeky cupcake throw-down in this week's New Yorker magazine.