Sunday, February 19, 2012

Be Mine. (Or not. It's up to you.)

Red and white, what a delight.
Another Valentine's Day has come and gone. I survived, thankfully, but barely. I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine's Day. On the one hand, I hate having romance thrown in my face only to be reminded that I've never had a Valentine. On the other hand, I can't resist the pinks and reds and hearts, reminders of my childhood. Remember those yummy red heart lollipops? And Valentines with my name misspelled in every way imaginable (Realch- really?!). These are the souvenirs of a simpler time, a time when I believed in Valentines. A time when I believed that it was just a matter of time before I found my true love. I believed in love then.

Now, though, I don't know what to believe. I've never known love and I don't know if I ever will. I don't have a good track record. Okay, so I have no record at all. Love is just something that happens to other people. It just doesn't happen to me. One of my favorite quotes from The Amber Spyglass (which is the third book in one of my favorite trilogies, His Dark Materials-read it now if you haven't already!) by Philip Pullman is the following: "Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would. I'd spend all of my life without ever going to China, but it wouldn't matter, because there was all the rest of the world to visit." I think that about sums up my feelings on the subject.

And so this year, I decided to focus on my parts of the world: baking and dancing. I made some red velvet cupcakes for my bellydance class (and my coworkers). There really is so much joy to be had in giving. I love sharing the treats that I have baked, and seeing others' surprise and excitement. If I can do this much, bring happiness to the world in my little way, well then, I can say that I'm not doing too badly.

Cupcake has a cupcake shadow!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 lrg eggs, room temp
1 bottle red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners. Whisk together the first 3 ingredients.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, mix the sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and food color.

Reducing the speed to low, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (you'll get a fun little frothy reaction), and mix into the cake batter on medium speed for 10 seconds.

Divide the batter evenly among the cups and bake, rotating half way through, for about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temp
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, then add the vanilla. Beat until smooth and combined. Frost the cupcakes using and offset spatula, or using a pastry bag fitted with your favorite decorating tip. Add sprinkles and enjoy!

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