Sunday, January 29, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
So last weekend, I went to Chicago for a business trip to the American Economics Association conference. I am obviously qualified for such things, because I took Principles of Economics pass/fail and I passed (barely). It felt cool and exciting and grown-up to go on a business trip in a new city, and even though I spent most of the time in the sub-sub-sub-basement of the Hyatt Regency trying to sell books to economists, I did get to explore Chicago a bit. And I loved it! It’s totally charming. With the brilliant blue sky and the balmy weather (balmy for Chicago in January, anyway), it seemed like the whole city was welcoming me. When I was walking in Millennium Park, there was a large group of pre-teen girls who appeared to be on some sort of class trip sitting on a wall and getting filmed for the news, yelling on the cameraman’s cue, “HAPPY NEW YEAR! WE LOVE THIS WEATHER! WE LOVE CHICAGO! WE LOVE FOX NEWS!” Okay, so maybe not totally charming.
Obviously, when one goes to a new city, the most important thing one must do is check out the local cupcake scene. I got some recommendations from my officemate Katy, last seen being awesome here, as she went to University of Chicago. Unfortunately, I had very limited time – I usually had to grab a cupcake from whatever place was nearest to the Hyatt during my lunch break – and the places she suggested too far away. But I wanted to give them a shoutout anyway, because I’m sure they’re delicious. Molly’s Cupcakes and Twisted Baker, we shall meet again.
The other cupcake place that won the coveted Closest to the Hyatt Regency Award was Sugar Bliss, on North Wabash Avenue. According to their Web sit, they “specialize in gourmet cupcakes” which are “extra moist” and “decorated with our signature Sugar Bliss bloom,” the petal design you can see in the photo above. They had a lot more flavors than Sarah’s, as well as a more neutral brown, blue and pink color palette. Plus, they have mini cupcakes, which are a cupcake reviewer’s best friend (and a cupcake vendor’s favorite rip-off device). For $1.50 each plus tax, I treated myself to a chocolate mint and a chocolate caramel cupcake. I also shared them with my new pals over at the Columbia University Press booth, to see what they thought. We were in agreement that the chocolate mint was the more interesting of the two, with a bold, intense mint flavor in both the cake and the frosting, plus the wedge of peppermint patty on the top. I waited to cleanse my palate before trying the caramel, but they did not, so I’m going to discount their opinion on that one. Oh well, not everyone can be a professional. Neither the chocolate cake nor the frosting made a particularly strong impression on its own, but when I combined the airy cake with the velvety frosting with the chewy caramel wedge, the overall effect was quite pleasing. I would be interested in trying more flavors at Sugar Bliss.
So there you have it. I definitely want to go back to Chicago – probably not in January next time – and I’ll have to try the places that Katy recommended. Plus, I go to a couple of these conferences a year, so y'all can expect Cupcakes of Denver, Cupcakes of San Diego, Cupcakes of New Orleans, etc. in the future I was explaining my review process to my boss and he called me the Derrida of cupcakes (because I deconstruct the cupcakes). I kind of like that for a blog name…
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
225 g / 8 oz unsalted margarine, at room temperature
2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup soy milk, at room temperature
12 oz chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately - add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until the ingredients are incorporated and scrape down the bowl as needed. Turn off the mixer, and with a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
Bake in the center of the oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. If at any point the cake is browning too fast, cover the top loosely with a piece of foil. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack. Finish the top of the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar.