Home on the Range
July 22, 2012
The cupcake was once all innocence: a stub of cake, a swirl of frosting. On a dressy day, adorned with a sprinkle.
It worked the birthday-party circuit for the under-6 crowd. It didn't mind. It was the sidekick, junior, the kid in the pastel pan liner. Not cake, but cakelet, cake-in-a-cup, cupcake.
We know what came next: success, excess, stress. How long can a cupcake endure the spotlight before succumbing to meltdown? Now the glamorous cupcake is considered passe. Been there, bit that.
Not that we mind. We liked the old-fashioned cupcake, short and sweet. We even liked the industrial cupcake — at least its glaze-and-curlicue style, its cream-stuffed construction, if not its plastic-wrapped actuality.
There's something mesmerizing about that smooth dark surface, the white link of loops. It seems like an incantation in sugared cursive. Something like: eat, praise, love.
Now we hear that Hostess, maker of the nostalgia-chic cupcake, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Which gives it a certain life experience that's thoroughly au courant.
2 dozen chocolate cupcakes
2 cups marshmallow fluff
Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)
Fit a pastry bag with a wide, plain tip. Fill bag with fluff. Turn a cupcake over, poke with the tip of the pastry bag, and squeeze to fill. Stop when the cupcake bulges ever so slightly. Return cupcake to its upright position. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
Grasp a filled cupcake gently by its sides. Dip head-first into warm glaze. Flip right side up onto a rack and let set. Don't fret over glaze drips. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
When glaze has set, switch to a narrow, plain pastry tip (or simply roll parchment paper into a narrow cone and fill with fluff). Draw linked loops across the cupcake. Let set. Repeat with remaining cupcakes. Enjoy.
Chop 4 ounces semisweet chocolate and tumble into a medium bowl. Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream to boiling. Pour hot cream over chocolate. Cover with a plate and let stand 5 minutes. Gently whisk smooth. Whisk in 1 tablespoon butter (cut into small bits) and 1 teaspoon cognac (optional).
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.