I'd like to give vegan cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz a big high-five for the title of her latest book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
Although I admire her spunk and tenacity for giving vegan baked goods a respectable crumb, it's the cupcakes taking over the world part of the title that resonates. I can see the headlines: "Cupcake Prez Installs New Bakery in White House, Plans for Cupcake World Peace Day Imminent."
Saving the world with cupcakes – is it really such a crazy idea? Is it any more preposterous than the war on terror or the lax gun-control laws that made it easy for Seung-Hui Cho to buy semiautomatic weapons for his deadly shooting spree at Virginia Tech?
In the wake of that awful day in April, I set out to test my theory that cupcakes could make the world a little brighter (and tastier), if not safer. I baked a batch of lemon cupcakes, topped them with a milk chocolate frosting, admiring their glistening tops that looked like just-coiffed beehive hairdos. If just looking at these beauties made me smile, I speculated that my fellow citizens would respond similarly, particularly if they were hand-delivered for immediate consumption.
And that's what I did one afternoon after the shootings. I got in the car and delivered cupcakes, one by one, with the hope that with each crumb, the world would be a sweeter, more tender place.
And for a few hours, it was.
Lemon Cupcakes With Milk Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim
2 1/4 cups cake flour (I used pastry flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated (at least one lemon's worth)
1 teaspoon lemon extract (also sold as lemon oil)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
Cupcake pan with 6 or 12 cups, paper liners
6 ounces premium milk chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream (I substituted plain yogurt with great success)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until well-mixed, about 2 minutes. Beat in lemon zest and extract.
Thoroughly whisk egg whites and buttermilk together.
Alternate flour mixture and liquid, starting with one-third of the flour mixture, and incorporate into the creamed butter. Add half the liquid, followed by another third of the flour mix, and so on, finishing with the flour mix. Beat batter on low-medium speed for about 3 minutes.
Grease pan with oil spray and liners. Evenly divide batter among cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well-risen and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely.
In the meantime, prepare the frosting. Add a few inches of water in a small saucepan and cover with heatproof bowl that sits snugly on top. Place chocolate in the bowl and melt, over low heat.
Cool until chocolate is about 105 degrees.
Whisk sour cream or yogurt into the cool chocolate. With a small metal spatula or wide-bladed table knife, spread a thin layer of frosting on each cupcake. Makes about 18 cupcakes.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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