Thursday, October 13, 2011

Take the Cake

Each day, Quasimodo is becoming a more and more distant cousin as our resemblance fades. But because of my self-imposed exile in my dark tower, I've been cooking up things to do. Actually, I've been working myself crazy on my new webstore but once in awhile I've got to get off my butt and do something else.

Thus, this week became Cupcake Week. I never make cupcakes. I never have. But I now have a cupcake castle with 2 floors and a handle and it needs to be used. Check this thing out. My friend Victoria brought it to me from the states when I was told here that these things don't exist in France. It's collapsible. For one layer or two. They should have named this contraption "This Takes the Cake".

I searched all over the internet to find a recipe and find one I did. As well as a rockin' recipe for chocolate frosting. So I proceeded to do my thing in the kitchen (man, I make a mess!). I produced 2 batches of the best cupcakes ever and then sat in front of them...looking at them. I hadn't been invited anywhere, I wasn't having a party (I'm in exile), and I was supposed to start a diet on Monday. The cupcakes and I needed to part ways...pronto! I took a couple down to the concierge and gave some away to friends, but yesterday the first floor of my two story cupcake palace was still almost fully occupied.

My friend Doreen stopped by on her way to her first-time visit to my neighborhood beauty shop and I decided to go along and catch up on some beauty shop chatter. And to find a home for my creations. I donned my dark glasses to hide my still swollen visage, put the lid on the chocolate beauties and off we went, my cupcake valise in hand.

I passed out cupcakes to the ladies in the shop and as more came in to chat (it's that kind of shop and I love it) I continued to give them away. I explained the concept of a simply peel off the paper and eat it with your fingers. This approach did not seem to work with The Ladies of the Salon. They tried as per my instructions...but it just wasn't going to fly. They all asked for a spoon.

The French seem to eat everything with utensils. Even pizza. When I was home last December, and my sister and her husband and I were grabbing a quick take-out pizza, I dug in....with a knife and fork. My sister looked at me quizzically as she took a bite out of the slice she was holding in her hand. I realized what I was doing...being all French about it....and I quickly picked up the slice and devoured it like a true American.

The ladies adored the "little cakes". Not too sweet, so moist, trés fondant... yada. yada, yada. And for some reason, watching  them delicately holding this little cake wrapped in bright paper in the palm of their hands and slowly eating it with a spoon made my cupcakes seem so...special.  More like a grand dessert than a picnic food.

By the time Doreen was shampooed, coiffed, and welcomed into the folds of The Ladies of the Salon, I still had a few left. Off we went to Hublot, the neighborhood bar/cafe that my friend Fehti owns. I passed the rest of them out to all the guys stopping by for their afternoon coffee/pastis/whiskey/beer. Once again, I gave them instructions. But, within seconds they too were asking Fehti for spoons. Come on guys, man up! This is a cupcake we're talking about! Still it was really sort of adorable. Several did, however, point out that they looked a little like les crottes des chiens (we're experts here in Aix on piles of dog doo because we're constantly stepping in it or working to avoid it). So in effect, they were a little more masculine about the whole thing!

So now, I'm going to share the recipe because people have been asking for it. The cupcakes are an old recipe from World War II, developed by some ingenius soul who couldn't easily get her hands on eggs, milk, butter or sugar. So, in fact, they're vegan and lactose free. And in spite of that... absolutely delicious. The best. I found the recipe on but it's an old recipe and can be found everywhere.

Wacky Cupcakes
1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 C. cocoa powder
1/2 C. oil
1 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. vinegar

Mix these ingredients until moist and well blended, fill the cupcake cups about 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

The frosting rocks as well. Light, creamy, not too sweet and it doesn't make you feel as if you're eating piles of sugary fat. It's made with flour and is cooked so it takes a little more time. But it's the best I've ever tried and I'm not a great fan of frosting.  I got the recipe on Kelsey's site but I'll rewrite it for you here.

Best Chocolate Frosting
2/3 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. flour
3 T. cocoa powder
1 C. milk
1 C. butter
1 C. chopped semi sweet chocolate or chocolate chips.

Cook the flour, sugar, cocoa and and milk over low heat, whisking as you go and as it thickens. When it gets to the consistency of a thin pudding (dunk the back of a spoon in it. If your finger leaves a path as you sweep it across the spoon, it's done). Let this cool or put it in the fridge. It cannot be warm for the next step.

Some time later....after the chocolate mixture has cooled... melt the chocolate in the microwave. Don't overheat, it will get grainy. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer and then add the cooled cooked chocolate mixture. Whip that up and add the melted chocolate. Whip again. "Whip it good". If you'd like, add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the mix. Num!

Now, my advice is to eat les petit gateaux with a spoon (after all, this is a blog from France and it IS the French way). They will taste even better!

Bon Appétit!



  1. My goodness, how many cupcakes does that contraption make? Sounds like you were handing them out all afternoon!

    I never make them normally either, and don't possess cupcake cups. Still, they sound tasty, so I may keep my eye out.

  2. I've never made cupcakes...which I vaguely remember being called something else in England...but the lady who mucks us out once a week loves baking new things so I'll pass her the recipe.
    Ayak's Turkish cake is going the rounds meet it I bet the cupcakes will do likewise.
    I must ask a friend to bring me the cake carrier, though...trying to take a pud to a party on the back roads of Costa Rica calls for a balance of gymnastic skills and keen reactions which I do not always possess.
    Whoever thought I'd take up juggling postres in my old age!

    Look forward to your visit next year...we hope to have the house in San Jose up and running by then...

  3. Now if you had only made these about two weeks ago I could have helped diminish at least one layer! I love the idea of eating them the spoon... maybe then I wouldn't be as tempted to finish the frosting first!

  4. What a riot! I can just picture you passing out the cupcakes at the salon. Your post always reminds me of things that I felt were so strange when I first moved overseas, but now I totally overlook. Alas, I've become so Frenchified, I eat pizza with a knife & fork even on the other side of the Atlantic!

  5. I remember the first time I saw a French person eating a peach with a knife and fork. I thought what the heck? Those cupcakes look scrumptious, but then again, I'm really hungry right now. Hope your reaction continues to get better.

  6. I'm smiling at the image of these French ladies eating cup-cakes with spoons delicately poised!! How French and how very elegant.
    I'm going to try your recipe Delana - sounds delightful!
    Have a wonderful week.

  7. Yum! What did you use to frost -bag?
    Jeanmarie xoxo

  8. Delana, I hope that you are collecting all these posts and soon going to publish a book. I can see those ladies in the salon at various stages of having their heads done and delicately eating the cup cakes with their spoons: so funny (and so French)!

  9. You need to start baking more cupcakes! They look awesome! There's a cupcake fad in Paris right now and while the cupcakes here are good, I prefer the more basic, simple batches--yours look like just the right kind!

  10. Looks like I know what Ma Fille and I will be doing later...
    Cupcakes are sweeping the globe, one American at a time.
    ps Littlest got a sting next to his left eye and he looks the same as you.
    aidan xo

  11. Nice to see you're writing more after the summer! The cupcake recipe sounds a bit like my 6 minute chocolate cake recipe. (I did see the crottes de chien similarity in the photo also)
    Here in New Hampshire everything is autumn gold as we are in peak foliage season.
    Your blog gives me a visit to France fix, I don't know if I will ever see it again but I loved Provence.


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