June 2, 2008
I co-hosted a baby shower this past weekend, something I have done quite a few times during the past fifteen years. Whether a bridal or baby shower, christening or any such celebration, the elements of a successful party are always the same. You need:
- lots of delicious food
- attention paid to presentation and decor
- most importantly, people who love and wish the best for the guest of honor
Naturally, the menu is important, and a meager spread is a particular pet peeve of mine. I was raised with the notion that if the table wasn’t groaning under the weight of the food atop it, it wasn’t a good party. One doesn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money, but you do have to spend time planning a good menu, having a proper mix of low-cost items, low-effort foods, do-ahead dishes and perhaps one or two show-stoppers.
I am not a cake decorator, and as a result, I’ve always been one to buy cakes for all the showers I’ve been in charge of. I decided to make cupcakes for this shower since I’ve become a bit more emboldened thanks to this blog, and the mother-to-be had wanted cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery for her wedding (alas, it was not to be). I’ve been trying out different chocolate cupcake recipes, and I’ve really like this one I’ve found on Recipezaar. It’s very moist, uses basic ingredients, and doesn’t sink down in the middle as some cupcakes are prone to.
A basic chocolate glaze using melted high quality chocolate and heavy cream tops these delicious cupcakes. I used rolled fondant and a mini onesie cookie cutter from Ebay to decorate these cupcakes with a baby boy theme.
Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
(Yield: original recipe said 24, but I found it only made about 22)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup hot water
3/4 cup milk
2 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325° F. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar. Turn the mixer on low and add, in order: water, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla; scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium briefly until smooth.
Scoop the batter into muffin tins lines with paper baking cups; each cup should be about 2/3rds full (maybe even slightly less than 2/3rds). Do not over fill – 3/4ths full is too much! Bake at 325° until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
I also used a basic buttercream and fondant flowers as explained step-by-step in Cake Journal, along with a cupcake tower.
Vases of cut flowers from the garden (peonies, bleeding hearts and roses) add tasteful decorations to any gathering. I try to use in-season fruit as much as possible, and June means strawberries in these parts. Guylian Belgian chocolate and large sweet strawberries: a perfect marriage.