Big fat confession: Last year Cap’n Awesome totally forgot my birthday for the first time since we were 15 years old. His brain was operating in a vapor-state called stupor-world. His job had vanished just a couple of days before when the start-up company he worked for closed their doors without notice. I’d say in the scheme of all things birthday, he gets a pass.
I actually made it until late afternoon before asking him to check his calendar. Looking at his phone, he replied that it was the 10th. Then the penny dropped. He was instantly pained (because he is a nice guy) and sorry (probably because I was kind of teary). He promised to make it up to me. The fact that he landed a good job before long and we weren’t having to live in our car pretty much made up for missing my birthday.
But that was not a typical birthday celebration B.E.B. That would be Before the Economy Busted.
Since we were teenagers, our tradition was to take the day and hang out with each other. Later on, between the starving student years and before the economy-circling-the-drain years we used to try to make the day ridiculously outrageous by thinking up crazy schemes – dinner at Joël Robuchon in Paris, or The French Laundry in Wine Country. For many years during that silly era, we even added the challenge of shopping for the perfect gift on that day. Think Hallmark moment brought to you by Stephen Colbert.
But hey, we got older, wiser and way more frugal. This year turned out to be the best birthday ever. First, I was ever so grateful to wake up breathing – with my family history, that is always a plus. Then I was eternally grateful for the coffee that appeared next to me before I’d finished waking up. And apparently there was one more surprise that will forever be etched in my brain filed under spectacular moments in a hundred years of being married.
Cap’n Awesome baked. For the first time ever. He made me unbelievable GF chocolate cupcakes using not a recipe, but a ratio. He baked with weights (except for the butter-cream).
He added all sorts of interesting flavors including slugs of various liqueurs to make the cupcakes stagger a bit. There was butter-cream frosting that contained something from the drunken simple syrup and my favorite India Tree Chocolate Sprinkles.
They were better than anything I’ve tasted in a long time and the butter cream would make even Cakespy spin with cake-glee. Think subtle hints of vanilla with reduced Luxardo Cherry, Kaluha and Crème de cacao liqueurs surrounded by deep dark chocolate flavor.
I thought dinner at Joël Robuchon was a birthday memory that I might never top, but the sight of Cap’n Awesome piping butter-cream while humming Arcade Fire beats that one. By an ocean.
I am one happy birthday girl. But a challenge looms ahead. His birthday is in a few weeks.
|Drunken Chocolate Cupcakes, Gluten Free: For Lisa’s Birthday||
- 8 oz. sugar
- 2 oz. unsweetened cocoa
- 7 oz. GF flour (a mix of GF Oat, Potato Starch, superfine brown rice)
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- pinch kosher salt
- 8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted
- 8 scant oz. buttermilk or sour cream
- 4 large eggs (almost 8 oz.)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 heaping teaspoon brewed coffee
- 2 teaspoons each of liqueurs (cherry, crème de cacao, kaluha)
- 6 oz. mini chocolate chips (optional)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup liqueur (use a mix of cherry, crème de cacao, kaluha)
- 8 oz. unsalted butter, very soft room temperature
- 3 cups (yes, volume measure) powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- The reduced drunken simple syrup
- 1-4 tablespoons water, if needed
- Preheat oven to 350. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan(s) (about 18-20).
- In a one large bowl weigh sugar, cocoa, flours and add baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk mixture to incorporate.
- Weigh butter in a microwave-safe glass bowl and melt (35 seconds). Cool slightly.
- Weigh buttermilk into same glass bowl and add eggs, coffee, flavorings (liqueurs) and mix well.
- Add liquid ingredients to dry. Whisk until no lumps remain. Add optional chocolate chips and stir.
- Fill each cupcake liner about ⅔ full. Rap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
- Bake about 10 minutes and rotate. Bake 5-6 minutes more just until a toothpick comes out easily with few crumbs.
- Remove cupcakes to rack and cool.
- Bring sugar and liqueurs to a slow simmer. Stir for a few minutes until slightly reduced and thick.
- In a small bowl, whip butter and sifted powdered sugar until well blended.
- Add simple syrup reduction and vanilla and whip again.
- Depending on thickness desired, add water by teaspoonfuls until thick, but spreadable.
- Pipe to frost cupcakes or use a small offset spatula or spoon. Add sprinkles before the frosting sets.