G and I co-write a monthly food column for the local weekly paper that G works for, and this month I wrote about our wedding cupcakes. I hope you enjoy!
blossom, dressed in flour and chocolate
This week we're deviating from our usual he-ate, she-cooked format since Gregg is consumed with Groom duties as the wedding date approaches. I jest. I think. He's back in Wisconsin; I'm in Michigan helping with landscaping the reception site (my parents' home) and being showered by friends and family.
On my last trip to Michigan a few weeks ago, I toted my trusty pink Kitchen Aid mixer (named Blossom); pounds of Pine River Dairy butter; bags of flour, sugar, nuts, and cocoa to my parents' house in Michigan for a baking extravaganza. I've dreamed about baking my own cupcakes for our wedding, and in three long morning baking sessions, I created 250 cupcakes for our special day.
Gregg and I taste tested recipes for the past six months, and finally settled on vanilla, chocolate, and carrot as our three flavors, and we selected recipes from some of my favorite cooks--Dorie Greenspan, Martha Stewart, and Deb from the Smitten Kitchen blog. We were looking for moist, flavorful cakes that would stand up well to a month in the freezer.
Each baking morning, I tied on my favorite all-purpose apron and set out my ingredients. While I know all of the baking rules about room temperature ingredients and precise measurements, I often relax these standards in everyday baking. Not so for these cakes. I followed the recipes religiously, carefully rotating the pans in the oven as they baked for even temperature distribution. I nicked my hands on the hot oven racks once or twice, but the burns are already faded.
As I creamed butter and sugar and roasted nuts and scraped vanilla beans, I also thought of Gregg and our celebration to come. I love baking recipes we previously enjoyed together, and I love the idea of sweetness and celebration. For what else is a wedding about? I thought of one of my favorite novels, Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate. Tita, the main character, infuses her emotions into the food she cooks. The wedding cake she created for her sister's wedding (to Tita's true love), causes the guests to sob and fall into a deep sadness over unfulfilled love. On the contrary, I want our guests to taste our love, and to feel joy, lightness and laughter with each bite. Thinking of my family and friends eating the cupcakes while happy music plays made the joy infusion even easier.
The baking wasn't without some glitches. As the first batches of vanilla cupcakes cooled, they pulled away from the beautiful golden papers I had specially purchased for all of the cakes. Apparently grease-free also means quick-release, not ideal for neat, contained cupcakes. I plan on removing these cakes from the papers and placing them in new papers when it comes time to thaw and frost. For the rest of the baking, however, I used classic foil grocery store papers for a simple, elegant appearance, with no more mess.
I baked all morning, three days that week, while my Mom was at work, and when she arrived home at noon to a house scented with sweet vanilla, cinnamon and spice, or warm chocolate, I was pulling the last cupcakes out of the oven and loading the dishwasher with bowls and spatulas and measuring cups and spoons. Each day, I offered her half of a cupcake--the leftover test cake I had previously sampled. Vetting the recipes ahead of time paid off, as each test cake met our expectations of moisture, crumb, flavor, and shape.
chocolate cupcakes everywhere!
The kitchen table was filled with cupcakes until we packed them away for the freezer, sealing them in foil baking pans. Mom and Grandma generously moved around their stash of last year's berries and venison steaks to make room in their chest freezers for the cupcakes until it's time to frost, decorate, serve, and eat them under the stars on July 14.
My wedding party and I will spend the day before the wedding carefully spreading frosting on the cakes. While I've seen gorgeous cupcake creations on the Food Network and in cooking magazines, I have a simpler, more realistic vision in mind: a generous spread of buttercream, topped with something that hints at the flavors inside, whether a carrot slice or chocolate covered espresso bean.
I can't wait to set the cake table with my collection of vintage cake stands and depression glass plates in shades of pink, jade, milk glass, and clear glass. I also baked one six inch layer of each flavor, which I'll stack, fill and cover with cream cheese frosting (Gregg's favorite). Crowned with a vintage bride and groom cake topper, this will be our cake to take back to the hotel with us, to freeze and eat on another happy day when we celebrate our marriage, tasting the love in every bite.