Here I am, batter smeared and slumped over the kitchen counter staring at the gooey mess before me. I followed the instructions, measured all of the ingredients and even greased the pan. What did I do wrong?
Have you ever been disappointed after trying out a new recipe? Sadly, many people assume that it is their fault when it may have been a flawed recipe to begin with. Even worse, after a few kitchen mishaps some new cooks become dejected, and give up cooking altogether. How can you be confident that the recipe delivers on its promise? When you need to impress your future in-laws, you call a friend for a fool-proof recipe. But what if none of your friends are interested in cooking or all of them are spending the weekend in Las Vegas practicing for the World Series of Poker?
Enter the blogger, our modern day pen pal, with whom we develop a relationship with each successive post. I remember filling out the international pen pals form, carefully filling in the circles with a number two pencil and specifying my preference for a 10-year old girl just like me. I was thrilled when my first letter from Austria arrived (email was not yet available to the masses, and beepers were still a novelty). Gerhild told me in swirly script about her school and hobbies, and I devoured each word. Over the years, reading about her family and what it was like growing up in another country was immensely more interesting than comic books or the latest issue of Tiger Beat. Her letters were fascinating because even though we were thousands of miles apart, she was a 10-year-old girl just like me. And therein lays the power of the blogger.
Our favorite bloggers are our trusted friends because they are just like us, underscoring our similarities with each story they write. Bloggers are inherently evangelistic, wanting to share their passion with everyone…so that all of us can experience the same joy from a moist muffin, the latest gadget or the most adorable pair of gloves.
I consider myself lucky to be able to collaborate with 17 other bloggers who are using the power of their words and reach to help those in need. Last week, I met a number of these bloggers and designers as we prepared for the upcoming Fashion Is Never Bottomless charity benefit for Bottomless Closet NYC. Desiree Frieson of Desi’s Random Thoughts is the perfect organizer for the event because her blog helps businesses and individuals learn how to use and leverage social media tools. Tiffani Rogers has a beautifully designed blog at Accidental Chic, and shared with me the secret to her smooth skin (cut out sugar, caffeine, and red meat from your diet). I was quite jealous of Christie Neptune from Under the Mush. With her knit cap perched slightly askew above her delicate features, she is one of those women you see on the sidewalks of New York—the ones who look like they just threw something on yet look pulled together and fashionably trendy. I was inspired by Yvonne Lee, who moved here from Colorado seven years ago. She is now more “in the know” than the rest of us New Yorkers by covering all of the culture, music and entertainment events as an editor of Socially Superlative. Lacee Swan wore a fabulously quirky outfit. The kind that looks amazing in the pages of a magazine, but one that I could never in a million years pull off with the same panache as she did.
As each of us waited our turn to be measured, I could not help but stare at the chic Asian woman across the room. To be more specific, I was suffering from scarf envy. I just love accessories, with two boxes of necklaces, dozens of scarves and over 40 pairs of shoes to my name (and that is after I gave away 30 pairs of shoes in the past four years…twice!). It turns out that Jenne Engelhardt of Hare + Hart designed the suede cowling scarf herself. She and Emily Harrison (the “Hare” of the pair) are among the designers donating their time and designs to the fashion show.
One of the designers I will be walking for is Astrophel + Stella by Kristin Klonoski. Her elegant cocktail dresses exude the perfect balance of femininity and subdued allure. These are styles I would snatch off the racks when shopping for myself! I will also wear pieces that the PR team at Tracy Reese has graciously loaned for this charity event.
I felt a bit awkward as the only food blogger among the lifestyle and fashion bloggers who will walk the runway, so I brought along some Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes to our first meeting—kind of like breaking the ice with the new neighbors by giving them a steamy noodle casserole or a batch of grandma’s famous brownies. And in the spirit of the power of bloggers, what better recipe to use than one that I found on the What Megan’s Making blog, which she in turn read about on the My Kitchen Cafe blog. I do not normally scour Paula Deen recipes, but if two bloggers felt it was good enough to write about that was a good enough recommendation for me!
Rather than making the plain cream cheese frosting called for in the original recipe, I paired the dense, moist pumpkin cupcakes with a ginger frosting. I usually think about opposing tastes to balance out the final dish, but this time I opted for complements. The warm sweetness of the pumpkin provides the perfect backdrop for the warm spiciness of the ginger. This was also an opportunity to experiment, and try Magnolia’s Creamy Vanilla Frosting as a base. I have made all kinds of frostings, including buttercream, cream cheese and merengue, but have never made one that used a cooked slurry of water and milk as a thickening agent. It worked well, but needs to be used immediately—which the recipe clearly warns. Never one to blindly accept what I am told, I saved the leftover frosting anyway to see what would happen when I tried to revive it the next day. Unfortunately, the suspended fat separated when I re-mixed it with the beater blade, and it turned into a watery mess. I managed to salvage it by adding confectioner’s sugar, corn starch and cream cheese. However, at that point you might as well create a new batch of frosting from scratch.
The pumpkin ginger cupcakes were a hit, with one blogger commenting that she may no longer be a size six after eating it. And now I have another tried and true recipe to add to my collection, thanks to the recommendations of two new virtual pen pals.
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
Paula’s Home Cooking
by Paula Deen
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, on the medium high-speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla, ginger and cinnamon and beat well.
Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high-speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). Use immediately.
Adapted from More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia’s Home Kitchen
by Allysa Torey
For cupcakes, bake for 12 – 14 minutes at 350 degrees.
Fashion Is Never Bottomless Charity Event
On December 13th Desi’s Random Thoughts and RedRoverStyle.com are hosting the “Bloggers Soiree Presents: Fashion Is Never Bottomless” charity benefit for Bottomless Closet NYC. Purchase tickets online.
Bottomless Closet is a non-profit organization providing clothing, resume writing services, workshops, financial management, and professional development services to disadvantaged women in New York City.
The event will feature designs by Gwen Beloti, Viva Aviva, Astrophel + Stella by Kristin Klonoski, Caycee Black, Hare + Hart and sample loans by Tracy Reese, and was made possible by the following sponsors: Touch of Fabulous, Good Girl PR, The Independent Handbag Designer Awards, Social Exposure Media and Her Journey Magazine.