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Allons enfants de la patrie! Le jour de gloire est arrivée!

July 14, 2009
La Cupcake. And France.

Les Cupcakes. And France.

Well, since I was in Texas and otherwise busy for the fourth of July (and since I have an exciting event coming up which I wanted to practice baking for…more on that in a future post), I decided to make use of my leftover baking-related patriotism and donate it to the baking of these very patriotic cupcakes! Patriotic to whom, you might ask? To the French, of course!

Le quatorze juillet, or July 14th, is the French national holiday, also known as Bastille Day. For those of you in need of a refresher, see the Wikipedia article here (By the way…the map featured in the picture above is from a very cool mapshop I referenced in my Oxford postings – it’s from the 1800s and has outlines for all the departments).

The title of this blog post, in honor of today’s date, is the opening two lines from La Marseillaise, which is the French national anthem. Bastille Day, like the Fourth of July, is a great time to remember your roots, understand where your country comes from, and the greater importance of liberty and freedom for all.*

…and, of course, it’s a great time for cupcakes. These little babies come from a recipe for rainbow cupcakes stolen from Monica at Lick the Bowl Good, who, in turn, stole them from someone else (see her recipe).

Mixin' it up.

Mixin' it up.

I basically followed her recipe, with the exception of the “triple vanilla” bit. I don’t have any vanilla beans (and I’m not convinced the ones I’ve seen at the store are worth the effort – too shriveled), and the vanilla bean leftover from the Randolph Mansion party from which I had intended to make vanilla sugar died a sad death at the hands of a broken vanilla bean bottle (I knocked it out off the counter onto our granite countertop), so instead of vanilla sugar and vanilla beans, I used vanilla extract and…vanilla extract!

The vanilla itself wasn’t the focal point of my attempt, so I didn’t really mind leaving it out. The focal point, instead, was the distinctive “Blue-white-red” effect of the final coloring. I should warn you: this cupcake recipe is not for the faint of heart. It is painstaking, and not good for perfectionists, as you’re basically destined to mess up.

Basically the way you achieve the tri-color look is the following:

Separate the batter into three bowls.** Then, put as much food coloring as desired into separate bowls. The red in these cupcakes took aaaaaaages – lots and lots of food coloring.*** The blue not so much.

Bowls of batter.

Bowls of batter.

Once you’ve got the batter mixed up really well, you’re ready to…put it in ziploc baggies. I did this via a spoon, but if anyone has any brilliant ideas, please let me know.**** The three baggies are below:

Baggies of Batter.

Baggies of Batter.

Snip the tips of each, taking CARE not to set them down on the counter – I used an empty bowl as my holder for when the baggies were not in use. Then comes the tricky part.

You want to take your muffin tin full of paper cups, and selecting one color (in this case, I started with blue), arch the stream of batter along the left edge of the cup. I basically dribbled a steady stream around the left edge, and then went back over the top, so there were 2 layers of streamed batter of the same color.

For efficiency, I did all the blue edges first. Next, you take the middle color, and do the same thing but along the center of the paper cups. Finally, you take the other edge color, put the tip of the baggie down inside the cup and squeeze the batter out in the same manner. The end result will be this:

Tri-color batter cups.

Tri-color batter cups.

Then you pop them in the hot oven, following directions (mine cooked for 18 minutes on the dot) and then set them to cool. The finished effect is thus:

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

And a side view…you’ll notice that the cups should be white, so that you can see the colors through the edge.

Side view!

Side view!

I then followed the recipe’s instructions per the vanilla cream cheese icing. The result was nice, not as tart as the Georgetown recipe I prepared for the Randolph Mansion party, but still delicious.

I piped the icing onto the cupcakes with the same system used for piping the cupcakes themselves (ziplooocs!) but because I wanted a fluffy icing, I had to beat the icing more than the recipe called for. To ensure the right consistency, I stuck the icing (once baggie-d) into the freezer for a few minutes, so it wouldn’t melt in my hands as I tried to put it on the cupcakes.

I also experimented with a new icing technique – rather than starting on the outside edge and working toward the middle, I put the tip of the icing bag in the center of the cupcake and worked outward. The result was cool:

New icing technique: success!

New icing technique: success!

The final touch? Blue and red sprinkles, bien sur! I am quite proud of these little babies, and hope they taste as good as they look. I’ll be sure to report back what the workies think!

Bonne Fête!

Bonne Fête!

And for the feline lovers, here is my assistant for the evening:

Snuggles McGee (AKA Ally)

Snuggles McGee (AKA Ally)

Bonne fête, mes amis! And if you’re looking for some Bastille Day fun in D.C., take a gander at the Washington Post. (Scroll down to Tuesday July 14th).

*Admittedly, the French don’t approach le quatorze juillet like we approach the Fourth of July – you don’t really call someone up and wish them a happy Bastille Day. It’s a great day to party and watch fireworks, and feel good about where you come from, though.

** Thanks to Rob for pointing this one out – adding food coloring to batter takes extra time and mixing, which can cause the batter to overmix, and your cupcakes to fall flat. In my case, I was nervous about it, so I took the batter out of the mixer before it was totally finished (so that my mixing the food coloring in would basically finish it off).

***I used gel paste from a cannister, which is typically used for coloring icings and fondants. Rob gave another helpful suggestion, in recommending that I use the kind that comes in a tube, because it’s more concentrated and will keep you from spending ages adding coloring. Thanks, Rob!

****When putting batter, icing, or whatever into a Ziploc for piping, be sure to roll the outer edges of the bag inside out, so that the baggie will stay open without your holding it (and so that you don’t get any batter/icing on the zipper part).

TIP OF THE DAY:Room Temperature Eggs

As if this recipe wasn’t enough, I neglected to put this recommendation in the previous posting, so I’m giving it a paragraph all its own. Rob, whom I have now mentioned a million times in this posting, is a friend of mine from the GWU E.R. where I used to volunteer (until my sorry excuse for an immune system totally shut down and made it impossible). He is a writer, traveler, baker, runner, optimist, and genuine people-pleaser, in the sense that he makes everyone he meets just a little bit happier. But, that’s besides the point. The point is: he gave me an awesome tip for the next time you need to get room-temperature eggs.

Room temperature eggs are essential for baking things like cupcakes or muffins that must rise in the oven. I’m going to copy and paste his instructions below, so I’m sure to get them correct:

“I’m a little freakish about leaving eggs out, so I generally do this – take a bowl, fill with hot (but not too hot – just a little hotter than you’d tolerate in the shower, about 110 degrees) water, submerge eggs for two minutes. It works every time, not to mention that it saves and keeps me from worrying about spreading unsafe-egg-related maladies.”

Thanks, Rob, for the support and help! You’re a rock star. 🙂

And as a shameless plug, here’s a link to Rob’s book, Chappaqua: A Novel, for you to all purchase, read, and adore. It’s the perfect beachgoing companion.

Funny: the cupcakes’ pants, when removed, look like this:

Pepsicola, anyone?

Pepsicola, anyone?

or  this:

Yes we cupcake.

Yes we cupcake.

Thanks, Melissa, for the Obama catch. 🙂

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    July 16, 2009 7:40 pm

    before i even read it, i love that your titles are in french (even if i’m not completely sure what it says) :))))))

  2. Victoria permalink
    July 16, 2009 8:00 pm

    so now that i’ve read it – so cute! will you write a book one day, please?

    • lisam permalink
      July 17, 2009 1:51 pm

      Haha, thank you Victoria! I’m pretty sure no one but you and my parents would read it (well, OK, maybe Rob), but I appreciate the support.

      You know who DID write a book though? Rob! (Shameless Plug #2) 🙂 Hehe, I know, I know, but seriously, if you’re interested, go check him out.

      Thanks so much for keeping up with my blog, girlie!!!

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