Saturday, June 26, 2010

Combat Cupcake

"You don't know what you got til it's gone." Joni Mitchell
"If you like it then you should have put a ring on it." Beyoncé

Words of wisdom :)  And I am guilty.  Looking over my posts and reviews about cupcakes and cupcakeries alike you'll see entries full of superlatives: "the sweetest cake," "the creamiest frosting," "the most unique flavors"...When was the last time I enjoyed a cupcake without judging or comparing, but simply for the pure joy of it?

Since coming to Afghanistan in February I have dreamt that I was eating cupcakes no fewer than three times.  I have perused online grocery stores, debating the merits of ordering flour, sugar and leaveners from across the world in the vague hope of being able to cobble together a dozen cakes in our meager kitchen.  I have Googled temperature conversions to operate our Celsius oven.  I have scoured vegan baking sites in search of the perfect egg-milk-butter-substitutions, as I have access to none of these.  All in search of the "perfect cupcake" given my circumstances.

So imagine my surprise when, on a particularly lonely and homesick night, I happened to come across tiny frosted cakes during a late night run to the dining hall.  Holding a styrofoam to-go box filled with barbecued beans and franks, I did a double take.  I looked around surreptitiously to see if anyone else had spotted what could not possibly be true.  I inched closer to the tiny card above the tray that read simply, "Cupcake"

Sure, it's baked in a Dixie cup. And the crumb texture could probably double as an exfoliator.   And the frosting is obviously powdered egg meringue.  I would not pay $0.75 for this in the States.  But so what?  Being so far from home, friends, family and everything I hold dear--particularly as I celebrated my birthday last Sunday with a thoughtfully shrink-wrapped bundt cake courtesy of my mother--has really reminded me not to take for granted even those smallest things that bring me joy.  Thanks to everyone who has helped to remind me of the truly important things in life, and next time you take a bite of that cupcake--be it superb or simply so-so--just think of me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Believe it or not, right now you're actually looking at the world's worst banana pudding.  As you know, whenever I have tons of leftover bananas I'm always on the lookout for unique banana recipes (aka anything other than the standard banana bread).  in this case I'd actually been craving homemade banana pudding and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out for myself.

But have you ever tried to look up a banana pudding recipe?

Just try it. Humor me with a quick little Google search.  How many ACTUAL banana pudding recipes did you find, and how many vanilla-pudding-with-sliced-bananas-on-top recipes did you find?  So, you see my dilemma.

As the next best thing I thought about trying to crank out a chewy banana cookie and came across this awesome recipe from cupcake/cooking/cheese/restaurant/all-things-food blog Vanilla Garlic.  this recipe is actually his Grandma's and you may also remember it from my submission to the Washington City Paper's Young&Hungry back during the dark days of Snowpocalypse.

So, if you're also experiencing a banana pudding fail, try out these soft, moist cookies that are full of banana flavor and are awesome with chocolate chips.

Vanilla Garlic's Grandma Capune's Banana Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp EACH cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
optional 1 cup walnuts and/or chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until well mixed.

2. Mix the mashed bananas and baking soda in a bowl and let sit for 2 minutes to froth a bit, this will give the cookies their rise.

3. Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Combine the flour, salt, and spices and mix into the butter and banana mixture until just combined.

4. Fold in the pecans and/or chocolate chips if using. Drop into dollops onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes, or until nicely browned.