Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mocha Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting + How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue {book tour}


How to Eat a Cupcake: a novel

Author: Meg Donohue
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: TLC Book Tours
soft cover: 320 pages

"foodie" elements:  yes

random excerpt: Jake was silent for a moment before his eyes brightened.  I could practically hear his dimples clamoring for release.  "I ate a cupcake the other day, and it wasn't one of yours," he said.  "I was at a party.  Everyone was doing it.  I promise I didn't enjoy it." p.174

summary/synopsis (from TLC):  Free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clairs’ housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls oblivious to class differences could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death, and a painful secret jeopardizes Julia’s engagement to the man she loves. A chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, but when a mysterious saboteur opens up old wounds, they must finally face the truth about their past or risk losing everything.

my thoughts/review:  Friends, family, food, and a hint of mystery all wrapped up into one can't-put-down novel.  I really enjoyed this book.  From the irresistible descriptions of cupcakes with the occasional chocolate croissant thrown in for good measure to the love-hate (thin line...) relationship between Julia and Annie to the suspense of a mysterious man, a lost treasure, and mysterious bad things happening to the shop-in-progress, I found a little bit of everything I loved.  And it kept me glued to the pages.  I found myself carrying the book around with me when I went to pick up my daughter after school or in the kitchen so I could read between stirring and chopping.  Lover's of foodie novels, chick lit, and mystery/suspense will all find a little something for them lurking in these pages.

The following cupcakes were inspired by Julia's "hidden pantry cupcake".  She talks about how she's perfected the act of eating a cupcake.  And then proceeds to describe something that had my cheeks tingling in anticipation...  Back to that very first bite of hidden cupcake in the pantry: a soft cap of vanilla buttercream giving way to light, creamy mocha cake.  I kept eating, turning the cupcake slowly in my hand.  This was not rich, one-bite-and-you-couldn't-possibly-have-more chocolate.  This was refined, complex chocolate cut with a hint of coffee and what else... Currant?  Salt?  A grown-up, masterful cupcake.

So I added Balsamic vinegar to hint at that currant (or raisin-esque) flavor and espresso sea salt along with cold espresso in the batter for those hints of coffee and salt.  I went with a vanilla bean buttercream...in honor of that soft cap of vanilla buttercream.  But if I'm being completely honest, I enjoyed both parts separately, but didn't think these two particular tastes matched all that perfectly.  I think a soft cap of Best Chocolate Buttercream (with malt) Frosting would complete the package to a T.  My oldest son loved them just the way they were, though.  Personal preference!

Mocha Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 17-20 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert chocolate butter vanilla beans coffee cake American

Ingredients (12 cupcakes)
    cupcakes
    • 1½ c. all-purpose flour
    • 1 c. superfine sugar
    • ⅓ c. cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • ½ tsp. espresso sea salt (or regular)
    • ½ c. espresso or strong coffee, at room temp.
    • ½ c. coconut oil, melted & cooled a bit
    • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs, room temp.
    frosting
    • 4 oz. butter, soft
    • 1½ c. powdered sugar, sifted + more as needed
    • 1 Tbs. whole milk
    • seeds scraped from ½ of a vanilla bean
    • big pinch sea salt
    Instructions
    making the cupcakes:
    Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

    Add remaining cupcake ingredients to a large mixing bowl and beat with mixer until well blended. Gradually add in the dry mixture until everything is combined and no more flour is visible. Turn up the speed to high and beat for 1 minute. (You can do this by hand, you'll just have to beat a bit longer - until it looks fluffy.)

    Fill lined cupcake tins (or greased and floured) ~¾ of the way full. Slide into oven and bake for ~17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

    making the frosting:
    Beat or whip the butter until light and fluffy, ~2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the mixture comes together. Add milk and vanilla bean seeds. Beat on high for about a minute. Mixture should be thick, fluffy, and spreadable. Adjust consistency by adding a bit more powdered sugar or milk, as needed. 

    Spread on cooled cupcakes (enough to frost 12 cupcakes). Frosting adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook.
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    about the author:  Meg Donohue has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughters, dog, and a weakness for salted caramel cupcakes.

    further info: website | facebook | twitter

    Plus, check it out: Meg will be joining Book Club Girl on Air on Tuesday, April 24 at 7pm ET.

    *I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

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