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This year, for the first time, Little Dude asked me to MAKE the cake for his birthday party.
For a moment I sat, stunned. "You don't want me to get it from the bakery?"
"No, I want you to make me chocolate chip-cookie dough cupcakes. Because I love your baking the best." He flashed me a smile and dashed off to play Ninjago or Pokemon or some other game that involves teenish boy-men smacking each other with magical creatures or swords.
Because he loves my baking the best.
I was sunk.
Happily, I found that chocolate-chip-cookie-dough cupcakes are quite The Thing on the internet. I made my own with this mix of methods, with my very own mixed but tasty results:
1. I made the this "cookie dough stuffing" recipe for the middle and froze it overnight, which all the recipes seem to agree is critical. I went with an eggless recipe because I really didn't want all of Little Dude's friends to get food poisoning along with their rock-and-roll goody bags at the party.
2. I mixed up a boxed yellow cake mix and filled the cupcake tins. Then I plopped a dough ball in each. No need to cover it or otherwise mess with it. The cake will take care of it.
Now here's the first thing I wish I had done differently. I didn't have any boy-birthday-appropriate cupcake wrappers/papers: I only had Christmas ones. So I merrily sprayed the heck out of the pans and trusted that would work.
Wrong. I spent a lot of time and anxious energy trying to coax those cupcakes out of the pans. Thankfully, first graders don't really evaluate whether a cupcake is PERFECT before shoving it in their mouths. Husbands are a different story. They point out the raggedy sides. And then they shove the cupcake in their mouths.
But here was my second mistake: the recipe says to dump all of the confectioners sugar in at once, then blend. DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE. The sugar went everywhere. Happily for me, my sweet and helpful mother was visiting. As she wiped away probably a half pound of sugar, she simply smiled and said, "you have never done anything halfway, my dear". Look, at left. She really did smile.
Blend the sugar in gradually. Little bits at a time. Or you'll wish you had listened to me.
So how were the cupcakes? Raggedy. Rich. Delicious. I would definitely make these again, so long as I had suitable cupcake wrappers. In fact I have some extra dough balls stashed in the freezer, just waiting for another opportunity to whip these up.
Little Dude's review: "They were really good, Mom. But I didn't like the frosting."
Me: "Oh. OK. Well, I won't freeze the leftovers to put in your school lunches, then."
Little Dude, panicked: "Wait, no, you can freeze them. I'd eat them for LUNCH." (As opposed to breakfast, I guess... not that we EVER have cake for breakfast in this house...)
So, you might want to consider vanilla frosting if you're making these for kids. But for grown-ups? Go whole-hog and do the dough frosting!
We hope you’re enjoying the holiday season! The hard-working elves at First Book are doing everything they can to get new books into the hands of kids in need this winter, and you’ve got the chance to do the same.
Your generous donations to First Book have a significant impact – $2.50 provides a new book for a child from a low-income home, and this holiday season, our friends at Disney are matching every $1 donation with another new book. Click here to donate to First Book.
Build-A-Bear Workshop will donate 50 cents to First Book for every Read Teddy they sell this Christmas season. This stuffed bear is fuzzy, cute, and has a jaunty expression we’re quite fond of.
philosophy is donating 100% of the net proceeds from all sales of their sweet dreams fresh cream shampoo, shower gel & bubble bath to First Book. Do good and feel good!
Altruette makes all sorts of beautiful charms, and donates half the proceeds of every sale to a the cause represented by the charm. Lovely! This Christmas, sales of their ABC Book Charm will benefit First Book.
Baking for Good is a great online bakery where every purchase supports your choice of a great big list of charitable causes. When you buy all the cookies you could possibly want and/or afford, enter “First Book” as the cause you want to support, and 15% of your order will go to provide new books for kids in need.
I See Me! makes really cool personalized books for kids – stories with a special child’s name in them. And when you check out, if you enter “firstbook” as a coupon code, they’ll will donate 10% of sales to First Book … plus you’ll get 10% off your order.
You can find more about these great partners, and others like them, on our website. Good luck with your holiday shopping!
Here are two ideas to keep a big brother and sister happy and busy while mother and baby snuggle nearby.
Cupcakes! (A Sweet Treat with More Than 200 Stickers), by Brandy Cooke, photos by Connie Kramer, Little Simon, $6.99 (board book), ages 3-5, 18 pages, 2011. A little decorator is needed quickly to sprinkle on toppings and make them stick! In this sweet board book, nine cupcakes with towering swirls of frosting are laid out for readers to decorate with colorful stickers. The stickers, stored in an envelope on the inside cover, are photographs of real-life confections and look as yummy as the frosting they stick on. There are sugar bugs to crawl up a chocolate mound of buttercream, gumpaste flowers to decorate a verdant swirl of frosting, and a host of mammals to swim and climb about the others, from gummy whales to a koala, lions and dinosaurs. In the first five spreads, Kramer suggests toppings that would match a frosting's color scheme. On the last spread, which unfolds four ways with a cupcake on every page, she invites readers to decorate frosting any way they like. Charming and irresistible, Cupcakes! is a delicious-looking project -- without any mess!
Guido's Great Coloring and Drawing Book, created by Guido Van Genechten, Clavis, $14.95, ages 9-12, 176 pages, ages 7 and up, 2010. Get ready, get set, draw! In this whimsical activity book from Holland, children receive coloring assignments designed to tickle their imaginations. In some, they're asked to finish drawings, such as color sweaters onto fish, draw a face around a pair of glasses or draw a line around a grid of d
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Varon, Sara. 2011. Bake Sale. New York: First Second. (Advance Copy supplied by publisher)
Sara Varon, author of the acclaimed, Robot Dreams,has returned with Bake Sale, a story featuring Manhattan bakery owner, Cupcake, his best friend, Eggplant, and themes of friendship, determination, and self-determination.
With humor (imagine Cupcake and Eggplant in the Turkish Bath with Celery and Kosher Salt),
Whoa! Your wrapper is starting to peel!
Oh my gosh! That's so embarrassing! We'd better get going!
and with heartfelt expressiveness (Cupcake wistfully watches the band pass by, with Avocado taking his place on drums)
Sara Varon has given us another honest tale of friendship, though one with a cautionary note. We cannot have it all, and through our priorities, we determine what we will have.
Following the story is an illustrated chapter containing "Cupcake's Repertoire," and a delicious repertoire it is! Raspberry Squares, Brownies, Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting, Marzipan, Dog treats, and Peppermint Brownies.
(And oh, yeah, the illustrations of Madison Square Garden are spot on!)
I think I may be forming a favorable bias towards anything published by :01 (First Second). Their offerings are top-notch!
*spoiler alert* I should point out that both of my teenage girls enjoyed this book but expressed disappointment in not knowing the outcome of the Exotic Baked Goods Contest. As for me, I
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Due to popular demand, we held another one of our ever-popularCupcakes and Crafts classes last week. We had a great turnout and the kids had a wonderful time decorating a pig cupcake as well as a bakery box to take it home in!
Check out their adorable cupcakes:
A special thanks to all our teen volunteers who helped the kids with their decorating!
We will be having more cupcake decorating fun this summer. Keep an eye on our summer newsletter for more details.
My friends, Alexia and Missy, decorated Halloween cupcakes and used the leftover muffin cups as inspiration for an unusual costume. Both will join us on Saturday night for some trick-or-treating and handing out candy.
Last year, Alexia made good use out of my karaoke machine by turning up the echo and making ghost sounds for visitors. After the trick-or-treaters went home, we dug into the candy, loaded some CD's and sang Elvis songs for each other.
Looking forward to another sugar-fueled Elvis-a-thon this year, too. Hey, I think we have holiday tradition in the making!
This week I got to run into Seattle with POBL friend and awesome artist Rebecca Bush for some 'culture'-
We started off at the Roq la Rue gallery - mostly to see the mini show of Eric Fortune (which was unsurprisingly breath-taking. The guy can paint like nobody's business! Click his name above to see these pieces close up.)
Featured at this show was Glenn Barr - although I must say I was more impressed with his painting-on-wood-with-funky-frames than the actual paintings......
Rebecca is also a docent for the Seattle Art Museums and took me to see the Asian Museum, in the very lovely Volunteer Park... (if you look closely, you can see the Space Needle through the hole in the giant Asian donut sculpture. :-))
A smattering from inside:
Super cool Indian relief sculpture... (East Indian angels? Pig gods and Ganesh!)
Dragon riding anyone? (See the fabulous dragon claws in the close-up)
Vanilla Cupcake is born after ingredients are mixed together and he is baked in a toasty warm oven. He is decorated with plain vanilla frosting and then meets all of the other cupcakes that have been decorated in a much more fancy way. By the end of the day, he is the only cupcake that remains and hasn’t sold. He bursts into tears and a candle nearby hears him crying. Cupcake explains what has happened and the plain green candle understands because he has very fancy siblings of his own. Then Candle has a great idea and hops off to find exactly the right thing to decorate Cupcake. They try all sorts of things from pickles to pancakes and even a squirrel! But nothing is quite right. Just when readers think that Candle and Cupcake will finally figure it all out, there is a delicious twist that will have everyone laughing out loud.
This book is a hoot! I had worried with its sparkly cover and sweet subject that it might get a bit too syrupy, but just when you think that might happen the humor kicks in and takes the book in a different direction. Harper’s writing is simple, adding to the humor by its straight-forward tone. Her art is also simple and graphically strong with its black outlines and pastel colors.
A book that captures the cupcake craze with a sweet tone and plenty of giggles, share this one at any sweet storytime you may be planning. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
We’re putting the finishing touches on our presentations for the Keystone State Reading Association Conference, which begins today. We’re looking for the fall literacy conference season to begin! (We’ll be presenting at Literacy for All in Providence, RI and the NCTE Annual Convention in Orlando, FL next month.) NOTE: Cupcakes are from Sweets in the [...]
Does the title of this week's blog sound like a scene from 'Highlanders'? (That excellent movie from the 80's ..) well it might. I started a little group of illustrators and writers on Facebook that gathers in an imaginary snug bar in a Highland Tavern and sits and chats about this and that. So far we are having fun! Never would I have thought that FB could have given me so much pleasure when I joined with such misgivings earlier this year. I have found old friends and made new. It has brought me new business contacts (and work). It has introduced my illustration to folks I would never have normally reached. It picks me up when I am down and even gives me inspiration through my connections with like minded people. It is, in short, a great place to gather. And I for one, in what is sometimes a lonesome occupation, say cheers mate!
Been scribbling away this week ... I did work on the pastel of the HORSE ... here it is ...
I had some great input from, amongst other people, Emma Dryden, who suggested I make the limbs and body of the girl smaller and give her a less cartoony face. I can totally see that, so will be working on those changes. I have more or less completed the whole layout now. I won a free critique at the Virginia City, NV conference with Cheryl Klein, Sen. Ed. at Arthur A Levine (lucky, lucky me!) and I am going to send this to her. Can't quite believe that for sure.
I have an assignment from my mentor to identify and create mail outs for specific publisher .. which is great, because it is exactly what I need to be doing! I have been doing mass postcards, but targeting specific styles is the way to go.
Also been working on sketches for the Canadian Author ... here are a few samples ... the boy is getting there, but he needs to be more cutesy, so I will work on him when I do the inking.
Author Mindy Klasky is testing a “reader-supported serialized novel” model with her new book, Fright Court. The author will publish her novel by chapters online, asking for PayPal donations at the end of each post.
Donors will receive a variety of gifts, ranging from a magnet to a personalized signed poster of the Fright Court book cover. Klasky has already published several books through traditional channels.
Here’s more about the book: “Sarah Anderson has found her dream job: Clerk of Court for the District of Columbia Night Court. Dream job, that is, until she’s attacked in the open courtroom by a vampire defendant. And until she’s forced to take self-defense lessons from her boss, the enigmatic vampire James Morton. And until she learns that she can’t share the truth about any of that with her best friend, Allison Ward – even over delectable cupcakes from the Cake Walk bakery.”
I heard today that the folks behind the Accio 2005 Harry Potter Conference that was held in Reading 2 years ago are planning a new conference next year in Oxford, England - dear gods, I might actually be able to attend this one !
The conference, From Quidditch Flyers to Dreaming Spires: Exploring the Worldwide Influence of the Harry Potter Novels will be held at Magdalen College from 25 - 27 July 2008.
Here's what they say in the Call For Papers:
Accio 2008 will bring together academics and adult fans to discuss the Harry Potter series in the Hogwarts-like setting of the University of Oxford. The conference will be held at the beautiful Magdalen College, which still preserves its 15th century pronunciation of 'Maudele'n' and which boasts such alumni as C S Lewis and Oscar Wilde.
During the last ten years, the Harry Potter novels have made many changes to our world, including increasing reading (particularly among boys), creating a much larger interest in fan sites and fan fiction, adding words (such as 'Muggle') to the dictionary and increasing interest in science that looks like magic.
The Programming Committee is inviting proposals for paper presentations, roundtables, moderated panels, debates and workshops to evoke a lively, interesting and thoughtful discussion on the changes the Harry Potter novels have already made to our world, and on the potential for the novels to have a lasting influence.
Suggested Topics Presentations on any topic relating to the Harry Potter phenomenon are welcome and topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:
Chemistry Computer Science Economics Education History Linguistics Literature Physics Psychology Publishing Sociology the Fandom
Proposal Submissions - Deadline: 4 January 2008
You can find more information on the Accio 2008 website and there's a FAQ page as well. As usual, this conference is an unofficial event and is not endorsed or sanctioned by Warner Bros., the Harry Potter book publishers, or J K Rowling and her representatives. Note that attendees must be aged 18 or over.
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April 23rd: Celebrate World Book and Copyright Day...
My IT professional brother emailed me this morning to tell me that today is World Book and Copyright Day according to UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (Maybe I should have brought cupcakes to work. Every celebration need cupcakes.)
The UNESCO website says that on this date in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. April 23rd is also the birthday or death date of other noted authors like Maurice Druon, K. Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.
The purpose of World Book and Copyright Day, says UNESCO, is "to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright." Sound good to this editor.
P.S. The theme of Bob Dylan's radio show today: birds--all songs about birds.
P.P.S. My brother just emailed me again to say that it's also National Jelly Bean Day and National Cherry Cheesecake Day. (When is National Cupcake Day?) Apparently my brother is not very busy at work.
"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." ~ Buttercup Bake Shop
If you think you've been seeing cupcakes everywhere, you're definitely not imagining things. Ever since Carrie and Miranda ate those famous Magnolia Bakery cupcakes on "Sex and the City" back in 2000, everyone has gone cupcake crazy.
Actually, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes had been oh-so-cool as far back as 1996, when co-owners Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey began to specialize in cupcakes after they made a batch from leftover cake batter and noticed how quickly they were snatched up. "Sex and the City" then turned the Greenwich Village bakery into a tourist shrine, and cupcake specialty shops have been sprouting up across the country ever since.
Today's gourmet cupcake is a far crumb from the ones we ate in childhood. They've gone deliciously upscale, made of the finest, freshest ingredients, like Valrhona chocolate, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, and European sweet cream. Flavors like lava fudge, ginger lemon, passion fruit poppy seed, and chai latte beg for your attention alongside the traditional vanilla and chocolate. Some are filled with luscious, flavored creams, others adorned with coconut or colorful sprinkles. What do you say to a chocolate liquer cupcake filled with raspberry Chambord cream, topped with white chocolate meringue frosting?
Oo-lah-lah. I'd love to peel off your paper.
Molly's Cupcakes in Chicago offers Cookies 'n Cream, Boston Cream Pie, and Chocolate Decadence (photo by FriendlyJoe).
So, why are seemingly sensible, professional, sophisticated adults willing to stand in long lines at any time of the day for a cupcake fix? It's mostly about nostalgia. We want a reminder of safer, happier, simpler days -- school birthday parties, picnics, church bake sales, cupcakes specially decorated for Halloween, Easter, or St. Patrick's Day. One of my happiest grade school memories is when my mom was Room Mother, and she ordered cupcakes for our class. No matter that they came from a bakery and that she never baked cupcakes herself -- those cupcakes symbolized everything that was right in my world.
photo of Georgetown Cupcake in Washington,D.C., by M.V.Jantzen
And who can resist them? They're small, cute, perfect, and portable. You get one all to yourself. There are no quibbles about somebody else getting a bigger piece of cake, and there's far less guilt over eating just one little cupcake. They can be decorated in an infinite number of ways to suit any occasion, all celebrations. Bakers, amateur or professional, can go wild experimenting with new flavor combinations. Even in these tough economic times, people are willing to shell out $2 to $4 for a little taste of heaven.
Kara's Cupcakes, Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco (photo by Steve Rhodes).
Have you ever wondered how cupcakes got their name?
Two theories, both supported by historic evidence, have emerged. First, that in the early 19th century, there was a shift from measuring ingredients by weight to measuring by cups to save time in the kitchen. Cupcakes were sometimes called "number" cakes in those early days, because numbered ingredients made the recipe easy to remember: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, etc.
The second theory harkens back to small cakes actually baked in earthenware teacups or small clay baking pans, so they would bake faster in hearth ovens. Individual cakes date back to the 18th century; a good example is the Queen's Cake from England, a rich, creamy blend containing currants, lemon zest, and chopped almonds.
Cupcake mania shows no signs of slowing down, either. While other businesses have been struggling, cupcake shops seem to bustle with business, providing a happy, charming, homey atmosphere, where eager customers walk in smiling, in anticipation of that first bite. And the internet has become that much sweeter with the proliferation of blogs devoted solely to everything cupcake. They feature recipes, taste tests, news about store openings, cookbooks and related merchandise, and offer a forum for cupcake aficionados all over the world to gather and simply talk cupcake.
According to Publisher's Weekly, cupcake mania has translated into ever-emerging batches of cookbooks that seem to fly off the shelves before they've had time to cool. Sellers do not feel the market is yet saturated; in some cases, the mere image of cupcakes on a cover has attracted buyers, even though the book's focus is not on cupcakes.
Like apple pie and hotdogs, cupcakes are classic Americana, a beloved comfort food. And we all know you shouldn't mess with that. Back in December 2006, a federally-mandated healthy foods plan was enacted in school cafeterias across the country in an attempt to curb childhood obesity. But when the principal at George Mason Elementary here in Virginia tried to ban cupcakes for classroom birthday parties, parents (moreso than kids) were outraged. Cupcakes symbolized the very essence of childhood innocence, and were a traditional and economic way to celebrate. Needless to say, the ban was half-baked and cupcakes gained even greater respect.
These days, Jennifer Appel, who claims to have ignited the current cupcake craze, is no longer affiliated with Magnolia Bakery. In 1999, she split from her partner and opened the Buttercup Bake Shop in midtown Manhattan. Her old fashioned American desserts have been such a hit, that she opened a second shop in the Upper West Side, and is now selling franchises across the country. Cupcakes may be small, but somehow they have a magical way of multiplying.
Some of Buttercup's gourmet offerings (photo by robobby).
I can see that a "research" trip to Georgetown Cupcake is in order. Their Chocolate Ganache recently won the Washington Post Cupcake Wars, and has been rapturously described in magazines and on TV. I'll let you know, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I'm curious. What's your favorite cupcake? And how do you eat them -- lick off frosting first, just bite in, nibble around the edges?
At First Book, we tend to notice (and love) all things that are children’s book-related. So it’s really no surprise that one of my co-workers came across this great blog post from Lyndsey at Coco Cake cupcakes in Vancouver, BC.
Tasked with creating refreshments for a Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed 1st birthday party, Lyndsey created the caterpillar himself out of cupcakes! Check out the Coco Cake blog to see all of the photos of the making of the caterpillar party train.
And if you’re near Vancouver, be sure to check out how to order all sorts of unique and delicious-looking cupcakes!
Photo courtesy of : http://www.cococakecupcakes.blogspot.com/
I simply can't believe it, I just realized that it's been nearly 2 MONTHS since my last blog post! I knew it had been a while but truly, really, I had no idea it had been that long! The Summer has simply slipped by like syrup sliding off a spoon....my studio is piled with finished paintings, and drawings for something hugely exciting that I've wanted to do for absolute ever...even though I have, as always, that feeling that I'm simply not getting enough accomplished.
The light is thinning just a bit... some afternoons, like today, the light, the air looks/feels as though it's whole milk rather than cream, on it's journey to the thin, blue skim milk light of Winter....the occasional yellowed leaf, even a crimson one tucked amidst the others like a rare and precious ruby...it's coming. More raccoons at dusk, and lately when I'm still up at 3 am, I see them out and about. They're hungry and I've been putting out free, just past the sell by date, donuts! And this afternoon, a pie! Raccoons are mad for pie! Who knew? Watching their elegant slender fingered hands...paws? search about, seeking out the best bits....while gazing about, ever vigilant, is great entertainment. This evening the Mamma Raccoon and her three children, a male who shows up frequently and several new black masked visitors feasted on cherry pie.There's an apple pie for tomorrow!
So....the new blog, it's called The Occasional Cupcake....... I am not a cupcake connoisseur, hardly, nor an expert baker or eater of pies, cakes or cookies but I love painting them.....the fanciful decoration, the luscious swirl and curve of frosting, the sweet and indulgent promise of pleasure and / or comfort. I am painting a collection of small sweet indulgences, there are great plans for them and I am offering them, as well, for sale or license. Please inquire. Right now there is one, Rosebud Cupcake Number One. Hopefully there will be another soon. very soon.......I wanted to call the blog The Daily Cupcake and like those admirable artists, paint a pretty cupcake, or a shimmering slice of pie, everyday. I knew however that immediately I'd miss my self imposed deadline as other deadlines clamor and cajole, so I opted for "occasional".
Please visit The Occasional Cupcake, and once there, you can even subscribe to see new posts and new paintings as they come! Thank you so very much, your support and kind attention are well and truly appreciated!