Why is it that birthdays are always the event that causes one to stop and take stock of life? To put one in a contemplative mood, a reflective headspace. Today I reached the big two-oh mark. Two decades. If that’s not damn scary then I don’t know what is. Maybe you don’t freak out on birthdays. You simply acknowledge them and go on your merry way. Some people, however, aren’t quite so calm and collected – you’re looking at the girl who had a breakdown the day she turned sixteen after listening to Taylor Swift’s ‘Fifteen’ and realising she would never be fifteen again. Gosh, that’s not one, but two confessions I’d like to retract…birthdays also tend to prompt some people (I wonder who that could be?) to become brutally honest. But before such musings spill out in what is likely to be a serious case of word vomit, we need to acknowledge something important. That cannot be ignored. What’s that? Birthday’s need cake. And if not cake, then cupcakes. You see, it aint a birthday if there’s not some sort of sweet indulgence to be had. Unless you’re one of those people – choosing savoury over sweet? Humph.
Like cake on birthdays the next phrase is incredibly cliché, but it’s gotta be said…I’m a different person to this time last year. Cooking consumed the majority of hours in my day, yet food and I weren’t the best of buddies. It was an unhealthy relationship. We might talk more about that at a later date. Speaking of relationships, loneliness is bleak. 99.95% of my friends were either on the other side of the country, or the world. Despite the wonders of the Internet, nothing compares to ‘proper’ interactions. Always remember that. Distance may make the heart grow fonder but it simultaneously makes it shrivel up like an old prune. And body hate? That’s real. Poisonous.
We’re painting a real rosy picture, aren’t we? It wasn’t all bad – far from it. However, when reflecting on a year gone by it’s far easier to pick out the ‘big’ things and I find it’s often the negatives that jump out at you first.
That is incredibly sad is it not? It’s easy to forget that it’s the small things that give life depth, enrich it. The bite of cold air on your cheeks as you stroll through the park, the colours of dusk (or dawn if you’re an early bird), the smell of rain, licking the bowl after you’ve made these cupcakes and not thinking for one moment about how much is smeared over your face. Just being in the moment. Not looking forward – “geez I’m twenty, now I actually have to do things with my life” – and not looking back “where did the last year go?!?!? Eeeeeek.”. Simply being.
This time next year I’m determined to reflect in a different manner. Reflecting in itself is fine (as long as it’s not with a negative filter), but it’s gotta be said that of course you’re going to be a different person to that of twelve months ago. There’s no one single point in which you learn how to ‘life’. It’s inevitable that mistakes will be made – the learning process is constant. I don’t know if that’s scary or refreshing. Perhaps both. There’s also a point at which one needs to stop spouting philosophical, cliche lines. Just be. Eat a cupcake. Or two. Enjoy them (by the way, food and I are more or less friends now).
Now all of that’s taken up quite a lot of text which could have been used to rave about these Chocolate Swirl Vanilla Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream. Here’s two words for you – bake them. Not just for birthdays these vanilla infused, moist, cinnamon-chocolate spiked cupcakes are for any occasion. Because every day is special (note to self – stop with the cheesiness!) And the buttercream? We’re so going there. It’s a “where-did-all-the-buttercream-go-surely-I-didn’t eat-it-all” kind of must.
Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl and Mocha Frosting
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup milk (skim)
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt or greek yoghurt
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 egg whites
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 scant tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups icing sugar plus 1 tbsp extra
1 scant tbsp milk
2 scant tsp fine instant coffee powder/plunger coffee
2 heaped tsp cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease (and line with patty cases if you wish) 10x ½ cup capacity muffin holes.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together the melted butter with the milk, sugar, yoghurt, vanilla essence and egg whites.
In a third, smaller bowl whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
Tip the butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir gently until well combined and no traces of flour remain. A few small lumps are okay.
Place one tablespoonful of the mixture into each of the prepared muffin holes (a cake-ball scoop is handy here!) Sprinkle with a heaped ¼ tsp of the chocolate-cinnamon sugar mixture. Top with another tablespoon of cupcake batter.
Bake for 16 minutes or until risen, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Set the muffin pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the tin and leave to cool completely.
Beat the butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Slowly incorporate the icing sugar, about a ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition until no lumps remain. Carefully stir in the milk. Add a little more if the buttercream appears too thick.
Transfer half of the vanilla buttercream to a second bowl and beat in the coffee powder and cocoa until smooth. Beat the extra tablespoon of icing sugar into the remaining vanilla mixture.
Pipe/spread the cooled cupcakes with the mocha buttercream and top with the vanilla.
Best eaten the day they are made, yet will keep for 2 days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Source: Adapted from Bakergirl.