Nan-nan’s cupcakes

Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.

I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.


Cup Cakes

From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.

Additional notes

Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.

The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.

She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.

The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.

Cinnamon blondies

These blondies are sort of inspired by horchata. I wanted something that was dense and fudge-y, that could be cut small and still be a satisfying treat. A friend said they taste a lot like the gooey centre of a stroopwafel, which is pretty accurate. To get these closer to horchata it might be good to use a lighter sugar, and maybe use pepitas instead of pecans in the topping.


Cinnamon blondies

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) and line a 20×20cm (8×8″) tray with parchment paper.

In a small pot, gently heat 250 g (1¼ c) light brown sugar, 113 g (½ c, 1 stick) butter, and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) until the sugar is just dissolved. Let cool about 10 minutes.

While the sugar mixture is cooling, in a large bowl blend 95 g (¾ c) plain flour, 45 g (¼ c + 1 T) rice flour, and 2 t cinnamon.

Once the sugar mix has cooled, beat in 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, blending just until incorporated.

Pour in to the prepared tin, then make the topping. In a small bowl, combine a small handful of pecans, crushed in to crumbs, a pinch of flakey sea salt, and a few tablespoons of Demerara sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the batter to cover.

Bake about 30 minutes at 175C (350F) until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool mostly in the tin, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Cut in to roughly 2.5cm (1″) squares. Good with vanilla ice cream.

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It’s impossible to watch GBBO without wanting something sweet… Cocoa powder brownies fill the void. Baking takes a bit of time (25 min), but the prep is very quick since there’s no fiddly chocolate melting. These lie in the fudge-y end of the brownie spectrum, very dark and dense. In fact, I’ve made this in a cake format before since it’s almost like flourless chocolate cake. Bake in a round tin and spoon fresh whipped cream and berries over the top. Finally, this takes substitutions pretty well. I’ve made these vegan and gluten free before (coconut oil not butter, blitzed and gelled chia seeds not eggs, GF flour). Comes out great, though they’re a bit gooier and have to cook a little longer.

Simple cocoa brownies

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 cm (8″) square tin. In a pot large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients, melt 150 g (1 1/3 c) butter. In a small bowl, combine 250 g (1 1/4 c) sugar and 90 g (heaping 3/4 c) cocoa powder. Beat this in to the butter. Once the mix is sufficiently cool, beat in 2 eggs and a tiny splash of vanilla extract or orange flower water (optional). The mixture will come together firmly, it will be almost taffy-esque. Gently stir in 64 g (1/2 c) flour just until combined. Pour in to the lined square tin, spread it in to the corners, and bake 25 minutes. The top should be glossy when done, possibly with a few cracks. Let it cool in the tin on a rack until nearly set but still warm.

Edit 23 May 2019
Just came across Prof. Maxwell’s recipe for Churchill Brownies on his faculty page! They’re cocoa powder-based as well, so will need to give his a try. His recipe seems to make the same quantity but with (much) less butter, less cocoa powder, and more sugar. I imagine his are more traditionally brownie-esque as opposed to the nearly cake-like texture of the recipe above, we’ll see!

Grandma Piper’s Sugar Cookies

The best & easy
Bake @ 375°F (190°C) 8 min

Cream:

  • 1 c (226 g) butter
  • 1 c (200 g) granulated sugar

Beat in:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ t vanilla

Add:

  • ½ t baking powder
  • 1 c (120 g) wheat flour
  • 1 ½ c (188 g) white flour

Use 3 trays. Make a fat rope. Pinch off pieces on to trays. Flatten each 3x by dipping ⅓c measure into sugar in ½c measure. Cool cookies on newspaper.


The recipe above was written by hand in to a community cookbook she gave me in 2001. It retains her original wording and formatting, though I have added gram and Celsius conversions.

We miss you so much.