I tried to take inspiration this year from two people I miss in life and who were wonderful bakers: Sophie and my grandmother. I chose my grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe and substituted dark chocolate because Sophie and I used to enjoy dark chocolate together all the time. I also modified the recipe to use olive oil instead of vegetable oil and it added wonderful richness to the cake.
I was reflecting on my memories of Sophie and recalled weeks and weeks of her making homemade marshmallows which we would have with cocoa at Madeline’s all that winter so I decided to take that on. It is technically tricky because if the temperature of the marshmallow isn’t correct the consistency is off but three batches later, I had it! I then melted them and whipped them into a basic buttercream and the filling was born!
I had a wonderful time creating the cupcakes this year and really felt like Sophie and my gramma were with me. As a finishing touch I hand made little Bagels for each cupcake to perch on top.
These are chocolate cupcakes covered with green-dyed vanilla frosting. For decoration we used a variety of M&Ms, chocolate chips, purple sprinkles, and Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal. (Where it was completely necessary for decoration we also used two Skittles).
Choosing what we wanted our cupcakes to be was a difficult task. How could we do the most with the limited supplies we had on hand: half a bag of M&Ms, a quarter container of frosting, a sprinkles container, chocolate chips, and a Ziploc bag of leftover skittles. We knew we wanted to draw inspiration for our cupcake decoration from the season: Halloween is coming up and spookiness is in the air.
We brainstormed perhaps making ghosts, pumpkins, or even just creepy eyes that stare at you from the surface of the cupcake. Eventually however, the answer was obvious: just as Dr. Frankenstein created his monster assembled from old body parts and strange chemicals, we had to create Frankenstein’s monster cupcakes from leftover candies and not-too-unordinary cooking ingredients.
We added high amounts of frosting to create the effect of Frankenstein’s large, lumpy forehead, and used chopped up M&Ms or chocolate chips to create his spiky black hair. The eyes were difficult, as avoiding getting green frosting into the white frosting of his eyes was nigh impossible, and on subsequent attempts we ended up using M&Ms or even cereal as eyes instead.
While the end results came out in a variety of different forms and shapes, we thought this somewhat captured the ragtag nature of Frankenstein’s monster himself, and each cupcake was a fun challenge to decorate. And it was even more enjoyable to eat them!
This cupcake tells a story of roots: my own roots and my efforts to be rooted in my new home of Ithaca. This story is told with the help of root vegetables, ube, and carrots.
Ube (Dioscorea alata) and its purple flesh is the quintessential flavor of my childhood in the Philippines. It is known as Ubi Keladi in Malaysia and Indonesia and has travelled with seafaring Austronesian-speaking peoples, becoming naturalized in such far flung places as Haiti and Madagascar. Its flavor is described as vanilla meeting pistachio, but one never just tastes with the tongue. You eat ube with eyes, too, because the sight of its vibrant purple color delivers joyful synesthesia. Ube is impossible to get in Ithaca, but Stokes® purple sweet potatoes are a suitable substitute, as are Okinawan purple sweet potatoes.
Carrots are the ubiquitous root vegetable probably slowly aging in the bottom of your refrigerator. Roasted, Quick pickled, sauteed, steamed, boiled, blanched, sous vide, pureed, and baked, its possible forms of preparation are endless. Nearly every cuisine in the world has adopted this modest cultivar, Daucus Carota subspecies Sativus. I must admit that my favorite way to eat carrots are in cake.
This cupcake, naturally bright purple and with vibrant orange carrot speckles, is an experiment for me in recalling my personal history, caught as it is between the United States and Southeast Asia. Biting into it, I am transported back to memories of eating ube chia pudding with my sisters, steamed ube rice cakes with grated cheese with my mother, and carrot cake birthday parties with friends.
These are chocolate cupcakes infused with Kahlua liquor and topped with Baileys Irish Cream Buttercream Icing and chocolate sprinkles. It tastes like an edible Mudslide!
During Quarantine, my neighbor and I have become quite the little mixologists! We have made an amazing drink with the Kahlua and Baileys and I wanted to turn it into a cupcake. I never had seen an alcohol cupcake and I wanted to make one! It was easier than I expected by replacing liquid ingredients with liquor. Wow! These are insanely delicious! For 21+ only!