Thursday, December 29, 2011

Case Study 104: "The Champagne Year Cupcake"

"I thought I'd learned my lesson
But I secretly expected
A choir at the shore
And confetti through the fall night air

It's not a perfect plan

But it's the one we've got
 I tell ya, it's gonna be a champagne year"
- St. Vincent
This was a year.  A year to take a different direction and to stumble along the way.  A year of tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes.  A year of learning to be at peace just living in the middle place, wherever that middle place was at any given time. 
It was a year of travel- in cars, on trains and in helicopters.  A year to live in hotel rooms, sleep in childhood beds and curl up in the wee hours of the morning on beach town couches.  

It was a year of connection.  Disconnection, re-connections and utterly wonderful new connections.  A year to build a new support system, the kind to really depend on in times of romantic crises and style consultation, straight talk and life intervention, and everything in between.  
And it was a year of champagne. For celebration, in memorial and absolutely no damn reason at all.  
"The Champagne Year Cupcake" is a vanilla cupcake topped with a Chambord Champagne buttercream and little stars.  It's light and sweet with a little boozy kick. 
The nice thing about a year like this is that when it ends, we can take the stumbles, the travels, the connections, and yes, all of those champagne cocktails, and wrap them all up into a cohesive experience.  One where everything- good, bad, right and wrong- is a lesson, and absolutely nothing warrants reason for regret. 
I've promised myself that Twenty-Twelve will be my year.  Everything is in place and all signs are pointing towards awesomeness. Besides, if nothing else, there will be adventures, misadventures and copious amounts champagne.  I'll toast to that.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays from The Cupcaketologist...

 "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, 
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...

 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there."

 I'll be celebrating Christmas in Connecticut with warm gingerbread cupcakes topped with orange peel-vanilla bean mascarpone buttercream, homemade fondant holly...
and fifteen of my wonderful family members.

  From my table to yours, 
here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas 
and a healthy and happy holiday season.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Notes from the Field: A Cozy Christmas

"And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep...."

My favorite part of Christmas is undoubtedly the feelings of nostaglia for home, for holidays past, and for the inevitable desire to be all nuzzled up someplace warm with my favorite people.

And so, I often find the most heavenly bits of the season are not really the fanciful or decadent, but rather what is cozy and just damn good.  Nothing emphasizes this more than the fact that one of my most beloved Christmases ever was celebrated powerless and completely snowed in deep in the Connecticut woods.  Brothers and sisters, cousins and grandparents, we made do all night, singing carols at the piano, doing somersaults by a roaring fire and hand-whipping heavy cream for dessert.  

I present to you the fixings for gettin' cozy.  After all, tis' the season. 

A Cozy Christmas 

Cupcake:  Gingerbread cupcakes topped with cream cheese buttercream and a ginger snap.  The cake is warm and earthy and the cream cheese buttercream is made tart with a pinch of lemon zest. 

Cocktail: Mulled wine.  While the best mulled wine I ever had was in Vienna in 2006, the best "at home" recipe combines a bottle of red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon) with 2 cinnamon sticks, the juice and zest of one orange, 3 whole cloves, 3 star anise, 1/2 cup of sugar, and six whole peppercorns.  Add all ingredients to a pot, simmer at medium heat for 2 minutes, then reduce to low heat for 30 minutes.  Serve in mugs and garnish with cinnamon sticks. 

Sound: The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole.  As a child, we used to put on Nat's classic Christmas album on the record player every year.  This is my favorite.  Always has been, always will be.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Notes from the Field: A Sparkling Solstice

Last night, a full moon hung low over my little elm tree-lined Connecticut town.  Outside the air was cold.  Tree skeletons stood frozen and illuminated.  Inside the light through the blinds of my childhood room cast stripes across the wall. I love this season.  

This was the sort of dreaminess that followed me through my winter years growing up here.  Light and shadows across snow packed fields; a brief glimpse of a lunar flashlight as we sped through windy back roads.  As I moved to the city, the cold winter nights turned into a hustle from street to fireside bar, where warm drinks and hands awaited to gather us in.  

I love summer, and I love fall, but there a still and quiet loveliness about a cold winter's night that holds its own.   A season like this deserves an endless celebration.

My recipe for all holiday festivities is simple enough: good music, cocktail and cupcakes.  And so in my first edition of several posts on holiday cupcake pairings, I present to you the makings to warm up your cold winter's night.

 A Sparkling Solstice

Cupcake: Vanilla bean cake topped with whipped vanilla buttercream and sugared fruits.  
The cake is light and fluffy and the sugar dusting off sets the tartness of the fruit, and sparkles by candlelight.  

Cocktail: Champagne Cocktail
In a champagne flute or saucer, soak a sugar cube in Angostura bitters.  Swipe a lemon peel across the glass and fill it with good champagne.  

Sound:  I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun - Beach House

Combine all three elements, and serve chilled for a sparkling solstice eve.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Case Study 103: "The December Delight"

December is here and it seems the weather is finally cooperating.  There will be cold breathe clouds, necessary champagne toasts and mile long scarves to get wrapped up in.  There will be bundled up strolls through the twinkle lit streets, because nothing says romance to me like New York City at night during this holiday season. 

"The December Delight" is a chocolate cupcake topped with a peppermint buttercream, chocolate ganache drizzle and smashed up peppermints.

So here's to a month of merriment, brightness and all that jazz.  However you celebrate, it's simply a reminder to love the ones your with and spread a little bit more joy.