I don’t know what it is about food in disguise, or objects disguised as food, but I always get giddy when I see something cleverly crafted as either. For example, sushi soap:
…and then there’s food disguised as other food. When a friend brought my attention to the book Hello Cupcake, I ran over to the library and checked it out. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but let’s just say there are some amazing cupcakes in there! The book is written by a food stylist, so, naturally, there are some great designs…and a lot of what I’d call ‘cheats’ – corn syrup-laden candy repurposed for toppings and a preference to sugary, store-bought frosting, which can be unfortunate, taste-wise. Luckily, most people are so in awe of how the cupcakes look that they aren’t too concerned about taste. The cupcake recipes result in 24 cupcakes…too many for a household as small as ours. Luckily, I had a potluck to go to and was super excited for an excuse to make these. What did I make? Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes. I modified the recipe a bit to accommodate to what I had on hand, like so:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup organic soy milk
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 cup evaporated sugar cane juice
- 3 eggs
- 2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla frosting
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 drops yellow food coloring
- 24 unwrapped Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates (2 packs of 12)
- 1 jar organic strawberry spread, no added sugar (10 oz.)
- 1/3 bar of grated white chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk all the dry cupcake ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine milk, oil, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. In large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and milk mixture in small alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just blended. Fill each paper liner 2/3 full, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until fork inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from muffin pans and allow to cool on a wire rack (such as the one in your toaster oven or microwave).
While cupcakes are cooling, mix the vanilla frosting with cocoa powder and yellow food coloring in a medium bowl until uniform in color. In another medium bowl, gently toss to coat all the hazelnut chocolates with the strawberry spread. Arrange cupcakes on several plates so they are all touching. Scoop all the vanilla frosting into a ziplock freezer bag, reinforced with 6 layers of scotch tape at the tip, then cut a 1/8″ hole at the tip. Do some arm stretches and warm-up exercises, then begin piping the frosting into spaghetti threads all over the cupcakes. Be sure to overlap on the edges a bit to really give it that messy spaghetti-look. Spoon a bit of strawberry spread onto each cupcake, then place a hazelnut chocolate on top. Grate the white chocolate over all the cupcakes.
About the oil: I normally use grapeseed oil, but didn’t have enough. I was a bit wary of using olive oil, but it was either that or canola oil. I had a horrible brownie-mix experience with canola oil once, so am scared to use it in baking. Once the cupcakes were done baking, I tried one and could taste the olive oil quite a bit. That made me feel better about using ultra sugary store-bought frosting, because it’d mask the olive oil flavor quite a bit.
A couple people at the potluck grabbed a a ‘meatball,’ not realizing it was chocolate. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention when either of these tastings took place. Needless to say, each of them was pretty surprised by the texture and flavor of the ‘meatballs!’ I’m still looking for an excuse to make more cupcakes…