Last weekend I went home for the first time. Not HOME- home, but my new home. My parents just moved from Vermont, where we have been living for the past eight years, to the grand state of Ohio. It’s an interesting experience – to go home to a house you’ve never been, to a region of the country you barely know (who knew the Midwest was so flat?!). But despite any weirdness, it’s still home because my family is there. After all, isn’t that what’s really important?
Between sampling Midwest cuisine (I still haven’t figured out what that is), reveling in better-than-New-York-City foliage and watching way too much Orange Is The New Black, I managed to squeeze in plenty of time with Abigail – my seven-year old sister/best friend/sous chef extraordinaire.
I love baking with Abigail. It’s a reality check. After all, I spend a lot of time aiming for perfection – on-the-dot measurements and even cuts. When I cook with Abigail we are just having fun. She reminds me to relax, to take a step back from technique. Batter is mixed wildly, two bowls at once. Sprinkles are thrown in every direction. And we always throw in an extra handful of chocolate chips (whether there were any to start with or not).
Anyone who is serious about cooking should try cooking with a seven-year old. It reminds you why you first loved cooking – back when you still thought unsweetened baking chocolate would taste good and you didn’t understand the difference between dry and wet measuring cups. Baking with a seven-year-old is a test of endurance. They have a lot of energy. But they also are happy being appointed the “stir master” and plopped on the counter with the butter and chocolate.
Seven year olds are great. They remind you that your batter won’t always be perfect, and your frosting won’t always be flawless…
…but with a little neon food coloring anything can be beautiful.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 C AP flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1/4 C dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 C buttermilk
- handful of chocolate chips (optional)
Whipped Vanilla Frosting
Courtesy of Jordana (ex-roommate/baking expert)
- 5 Tablespoons AP flour
- 1C milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1C granulated sugar
- Neon food coloring variety pack (optional)
- At least 4 kinds of sprinkles (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a small saucepan over the stove top. Stir often to prevent burning. When both are fully melted and combined, remove the saucepan from the burner and let the mixture cool.
In a medium bowl combine cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl combine eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until fully mixed. Add the (now cooled) butter/chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture and stir. Add the buttermilk, followed by the second half of the flour mixture, stirring together until smooth. Spoon the batter evenly into your cupcake/muffin tin (lined with cupcake liners). It should be enough batter to evenly distribute between 12 cupcakes. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
When the cupcakes are done let them cool thoroughly on a wire cooling rack before frosting. To prepare the frosting, start by combing flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium-heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens (this will take only 2-3 minutes). It should have a thick, batter-like consistency. Remove from the stove and let it cool completely.
Cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. When the flour/milk mixture is cool, stir in the vanilla. Then use an electric mixture (or a lot of arm power) to combine it with the butter/sugar. Beat the living daylights out of it. When you are done, it should resemble whipped cream.
Whisk in food coloring as desired. If you’re doing multiple colors (like we did), just separate the frosting into different bowls first. Use lots of sprinkles and have lots of fun. Happy baking!