Friday, April 16, 2010

Cupcake Nation

applesauce cupcakesSqueeze a couple of hundred people into a neighborhood bar, throw in free cupcakes from dozens of professional and home bakers, and whaddya get? Cupcake Camp!

This wacky event made its Boston-area debut this week. Naturally, I baked, as did my good friend from Doves and Figs (she of the Farmer's Market Fudge Cakes mentioned in the Boston Globe article). My contribution was two dozen Mini Applesauce Cupcakes With Cinnamon Buttercream. These cupcakes had a CSA connection: They were baked with the last of my homemade applesauce from the fall. I was pleased to see that they were gone within the first hour.

As for choosing cupcakes to sample, that was hard. (Hmmmm. Root Beer Float cupcakes or Guinness and Bailey's? Or maybe the Hostess look-alikes?) I opted for an orange and vanilla "creamsicle" cupcake that was lovely and light, and an organic mocha cupcake, which, despite the whole wheat flour, still tasted like a treat.

By the time we left Cupcake Camp (around 8:30 p.m., before sugar comas set in), the line to get in the door stretched down the block, and "bouncers" were making sure no one left with cupcakes, lest the masses go unfed. Cupcakes as contraband! Who knew?

* * *
Cupcake Camp was just the culmination of a couple of cupcake-filled weeks. I was a kitchen assistant one morning for Doves and Figs' bat mitzvah dessert project. I think the total was 13 dozen cupcakes. (I'm inspired by this Cupcake Goddess, but not so inspired as to take on a similar project for Kit's bat mitzvah.) And I baked Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes for home toward the end of Passover. I skipped the mint cream part and just topped the dimpled cupcakes with sliced strawberries. Caboodle wants me to make a batch of these for her birthday in June. By that time, I may want to see cupcakes again.

Mini Applesauce Cupcakes With Cinnamon Buttercream
(Adapted Recipe)

The cake recipe originates with one that appeared on a can of Ideal applesauce (Acme supermarket's house brand) sometime in the 1970s. The cake is egg-free and can be made dairy-free, although it tastes better with butter. Because the cake is so moist, I recommend using foil cupcake liners over paper ones. Frosting is optional.

For the cake:
2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter (or substitute non-dairy margarine or flavorless cooking oil)
1 pound applesauce (homemade or store-bought, mostly smooth and without added sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set cupcake liners into mini-muffin tins. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, spices, and baking soda. (Yes, that means you sift the flour twice: Before you measure it and again when you combine it with the other dry ingredients. But you can get by with just the first sifting.)

Stir in the melted butter and applesauce until well blended. (A wooden spoon works well. No need to pull out the mixer.) Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Bake 20 minutes or until done; a cake taster should come out dry or with only a little moist crumb. Remove cupcakes from the tin and cool on a wire rack completely before frosting. Makes 2.5 to 3 dozen mini cupcakes, depending on the size of your cupcake pans and liners.

For the frosting:
(Slight adaptation of standard Domino Sugar buttercream)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 pound powdered sugar (that's roughly 1 7/8 cups)
1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or more to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy. (Use a low speed to keep the sugar from flying about.) Add more milk if needed for the frosting to be right consistency for spreading. Pipe or spread frosting on completely cool cupcakes.

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