Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: It's A Menorah! It's A Chanukiah! It's...Cupcakes!

Time for a nerdy true confession: I've been dying to make this cupcake menorah ever since I saw it last December on the King Arthur Flour blog. Christmas has so many treats - peppermint bark, gingerbread men, nasty-ass fruitcakes - so why couldn't we have one too? This was the perfect solution: religiously relevant AND tasty, which is more than you can say for the Christmas food! Anyway, I prepared assiduously, buying special blue and white cupcake wrappers at Zabar's and exorbitantly expensive blue sugar at East Side Marketplace.

I used the recommended recipe, a KAF guarantee (although being a poor college student who had just shelled out five dollars for blue sugar, I was not using KA Flour). I'm not wild about their method, which involves beating butter into the dry ingredients instead of the usual butter-sugar-eggs-dry ingredients steps. That's not maligning the finished product, though; my complaint is more that flour gets everywhere when you're working with a hand mixer. But the finished cake was delightful, dense and moist. Also, I have to put in a plug for these cupcake wrappers. They're the kind where you don't even need a cupcake tin, you just stick 'em on a cookie sheet and bam, you're done. I was skeptical that something so magical could exist but let me tell you, these were the most evenly baked cupcakes I've ever made. The wrappers are as sturdy as they are pretty. They really get the job done!

But enough plugging. I made a simple buttercream - two sticks of butter, a bunch of confectioner's sugar, a dash of vanilla - and piped it on. With the blue sugar sprinkled on top, it ended up being almost overpoweringly sweet, so I was glad that the cupcakes themselves were more delicately flavored. All in all it was really adorable and fun and I think it will make a great holiday tradition!

Here is the link to the original KAF post about the cupcake menorah, and here's the recipe. I halved it and it was perfect for eight regular-sized and one jumbo cupcake. Have a great last night of Hanukkah!

Golden Vanilla Cake from the King Arthur Flour Blog


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

2) Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

3) Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

4) Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

6) Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.

7) After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

8) Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon.

For cupcakes, scoop by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tins.

9) Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers; 24 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes.

10. The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

11) Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.

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