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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

It's fitting that today is the day the sun begins to regain it's strength and the days begin to lengthen. The storm yesterday left us several inches of beautiful snow here in the lowlands of town - only 7,000 ft. elevation - and the sun is out and making everything sparkle. The nearby ski resorts must be doing a happy dance. Lauren said Taos Ski Valley got over a foot while she was at work yesterday. Here's a link to the web cam up there. I haven't gone skiing in 25 years, but I think I might want to try it again this year.

And today, since I don't really have to make beads for few days, I'm going to bake! It's all Jean Yates' fault. After seeing my beads with diamonds (OK... CZs...) in them, she sent me this picture of a Diamond Cake that's selling for something like 1.6 million dollars in Tokyo. I guess you're supposed to eat it after removing the 233 diamonds. Crazy, but kind of cool. After seeing that, I thought, well, it's a little out of my price range, but maybe I can have a little silver cupcake charm, or a t-shirt from Johnny Cupcakes. I snapped up a silver cupcake on ebay for almost nothing, and then decided I needed to know more about the little cakes themselves. Living here in a small town, I'm slow to catch onto trends... I didn't know there were so many la-de-da little cupcake shops out there! And then there are recipes, books, blogs, websites.... I've become obsessed with cupcakes overnight!
When I went outside this morning, everything looked like a cupcake. The little blobs of snow on the trees, the fluffy caps on the latilla fences, the flower pots looking like cupcakes on steroids.... all the world is a cupcake! And so, even though I'm not known for my baking skills, I sent Rick to the store for flour, sugar, spices, and little paper cupcake thingies. Today I'm going to make gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting. The recipe follows the pictures here. I think you should make some too. And if we want to, we can even decorate them with sunflowers, so they'll be Solstice Cupcakes! Wouldn't it be weird if I quit making beads and started making cupcakes instead?

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream-Cheese Frosting
Source: Gourmet Magazine, January 1990
Makes 12 cupcakes.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsulfered molasses
1 large egg -- beaten lighly
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cream cheese -- softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced crystallized ginger

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the ground ginger, the cinnamon, the cloves, the allspice, and the salt. In another bowl cream 1/2 stick of the butter, add the granulated sugar, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy. Beat in the molasses and the egg, beating until the mixture is smooth.

In a measuring cup combine the baking soda with 1/2 cup boiling water and stir the mixture to dissolve the baking soda. Stir the mixture into the molasses mixture (the mixture will appear curdled) and stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture, stirring to combine the ingredients well.

Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the liners, filling them halfway. Bake the cupcakes in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (The cupcakes will be flat or slightly indented on top.) Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool.

In a bowl cream together the cream cheese, and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, add the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy and smooth. Beat in the zest and the lemon juice and chill the frosting for 30 minutes. Spread the frosting on the cupcakes and top each cupcake with some of the crystallized ginger.

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