“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them” (Anonymous)
I’ve always felt a bit… dubious, I guess… about Martha Stewart. Having grown up overseas (without access to the cable channels I so desperately craved as a member of the MTV generation), I wasn’t fed on daily episodes of Martha and I’ve never read Living. I remember being vaguely aware of her stealthy build towards world domination, but Martha really only came into focus for me when she swapped fame for infamy as news of the ImClone scandal broke. For a long time, this association reigned and I didn’t bother to disentangle images of prison stripes from gingham prints when references to the home ec. guru cropped up. But I’ve become aware of a shift in the past few years – Martha-bashing has fallen out of fashion and recently I started to wonder why I’ve never tried any of the lauded MS recipes. To be fair, I got the impression that Martha (actually ‘Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’) is a bit like marmite – whether you’re a lover or a hater, she’s a trademarked tradition that you’ve got to try. (Or so my boyfriend keeps insisting, in the case of marmite).
So I’m trying! I splashed out and bought Cupcakes in a spend-happy moment, and promptly signed myself up to the brilliant new MSC baking group – brainchild of the stunningly talented Betty of EAT MY CUPCAKE.
…and I’ve been giddy with excitement about our inaugural bake since Betty announced that we’d be kicking off with Chocolate Salted-Caramel Cupcakes! See, I recently experienced a gastronomic ephiphany while on holiday in France – On our last night, we stopped by the most charming ice cream parlor ever in a little town called Maussane (near St Remy and within throwing distance of Nimes). Naturally, I went for a king size cone with heaps of Nutella ice cream, but my Uncle also convinced us to try a scoop of their Salted caramel flavour too.. and thank god he did.
I know salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of chocolate, and although I haven’t yet got round to chucking salted peanuts in my peanut-butter blondies as Dorie advises, I was willing to believe that the combo might work… But now.. after that phenomenal scoop.. I am a genuine believer.
So armed with newfound evangelical fervor, I dove into Martha’s recipe with high hopes.
Unfortunately, things went a bit pear-shaped..
I made the full recipe and although it’s technically titled ‘mini-cupcakes’, I decided to make 12 standard sized cupcakes to take to a friend’s birthday, which left enough batter for about 20 mini-cupcakes… or so I thought.. In retrospect, given the overflows, maybe I should have reigned in the pouring, eh? My boyfriend described these as looking “like smurfs… in high wind”.
I do wonder though why the extreme lopsided-ness often seems to arise when I make chocolate cupcakes.. I admit I have a bit of a freehand and I do overfill my cups, but the overflows usually seem more balanced with vanilla and carrot cupcakes, for example… mysterious, no? hmmm
Anyway, back to the recipe ..
Mixing these babies up was a dream – the cake recipe was a simple, straightforward one-bowl wonder.. hallelujah, no extra dishes! My taster tried a naked minicupcake and described it as a bit dry – Personally, I found them moist and rich enough – but not quite as good as my usual GO2 (post on this later). When it came to the caramel though, disaster struck.. and then struck again..
I made 2 batches and managed to bugger them both up . The first one tasted a bit undercooked – the flavour and colour were far too light, as you can probably tell from the picture.. Then the second batch tasted way too overcooked – I basically ended up burning the bottom layer of sugar before the temp actually reached 360.. My caramalizing skills leave a LOT to be desired.
The frosting though, was amazing – incredibly rich and silky. In fact, I’ve just had several spoonfuls sans cake, and unfortuantely, I’m still going back for more despite how sick it’s made me feel.. It had a beautiful sheen when I first mixed it up, but after an overnight refrigeration and second beating, things dulled a bit.. still tasted great though!
All in all, I’d say the cupcake recipe is worth trying and the frosting is a new personal favourite for sure. I’m also gonna keep trying with the caramel because I’m sure the problems I had were more to do with my skills/anxieties/concentration difficulties than Martha’s recipe.
Thanks SO much to Betty for selecting such a brilliant, unique cupcake to kick things off with!! Please take peek a what everyone else has concocted too! (You can find the blogroll on Betty’s lovely site.)
I’m really looking forward to baking up another batch next month, see you all then!