Cupcake Chronicles

by Sandra

I’m tired. I didn’t realize that baking would ever make me so tired, but alas, it has.

This past Saturday, Ernae comes up to me and she says “have you seen on the cupcake blog, they’re holding a cupcake competition and I thought I would enlist you. We could collaborate.” (or words to this effect).

On Sunday, she suggested a chocolate/orange/hazelnut combination, and I was smitten right there. The catch to this whole process was that the competition ends on Friday, and given both our schedules, Monday night was the only night that we were both free, because she had to get her hair done on Wednesday (tonight).

So we broke up duties — she in charge of the cake and I in charge of the filling/frosting. Done and done. If only it had been that easy….

Monday was filled with phone calls from all over. After Sunday’s “announcement,” people started coming out of the woodwork to offer congratulations and get the juicy details. Because of this, I was late in getting to the store to pick up supplies, and therefore late to meet up with Ernae here at home. By the time we got going, it was past seven thirty, and did I mention — we only had until nine thirty, when I have house meeting.

After having a brief korero on our final flavor combination (chocolate/orange cake with hazelnut buttercream frosting and a Nutella ganache), I got started on the buttercream while Ernae went again to the store. At this point it is becoming obvious that this process was going to take a bit longer than anticipated. To make matters worse, I repeated the mistake of beating the half and half too long, and started getting Frangelico-flavored butter in my mixing bowl. Sigh. Around this time as well, Ernae calls and says she can’t find the grocery store, and we realize that she’d gone the wrong way down Wilshire, to Beverly Hills, not away from it.

When she finally gets back to my house, we set to the arduous tasks of grating orange zest, creaming butter and sifting flour. Wherever that stupid saying that a woman’s work is in the kitchen came from, I don’t know, but I do know that kitchen work is freakin’ hard work.

What bothered me most about the evening was the knowledge that not everything was done, and that Tuesday night was going to be spent is much the same way as Monday — in the kitchen. The cake itself came out great. Very tasty and very moist. The oil from the zest of the fruit provided a strong yet subtle orange aroma and very accurate taste — none of this fake orange taste here.

Monday night I tried again with the buttercream, opting instead for a recipe that didn’t include half and half. I ended up adding much more Frangelico than was called for, only to even out the extreme sweetness of the powdered sugar. At the same time, I
came up with a Nutella ganache, adding the spread to some heavy whipping cream and putting it over heat. My one worry was that the nut oil in the Nutella would seperate in the heat, but those fears went unconfirmed, as the two ingredients mixed in quite well together.

With Rachel as my tester, we sat at the dining room table, filling cupcakes alternately with the buttercream and the ganache, and frosting them with the opposite. I cut one of each open, and we jointly agreed that the hazelnut buttercream frosting on top with the ganache in the center is the winner in the taste test. You’re right — since all the ingredients were the same, they tasted similar, but we enjoyed the sensation of the sweet frosting hitting the tongue before the bittersweetness of the Nutella/chocolate ganache. Still. after scooping out the middles of over a dozen cupcakes, I was really wiped in the end. Not to mention the enormous pile of dishes that I left in my wake.

So far the reaction to the cuppy cakes have been positive, even my big-shot stock broker boss enjoyed them, after telling me a great story about how he used to work in the kitchen of a high class hotel and could buy beer from the hotel pub for 22 pence (or roughly 30 cents) a pint and share it with all his mates.

In the coming days, I will have the recipe up here, along with a few photos. Again, our deadline is this Friday. Wish us luck. Yum!