Tuesday, June 13, 2006


BA has been awashed with celeste y blanca (sky blue and white - the national colours) for quite some time now. We see people in silly blue and white arlequin (harlequin) hats everywhere. Everytime I turned on the television, I heard "Vamos Argentina!" in almost all the ads. Men were preoccupied with team selection as if it were their own affairs.
The first Argentine match on Saturday, when the team played Ivory Coast, was el mas importante. So important, in fact, the streets were empty! Grocery shopping that morning was almost pleasurable and definitely stress-free. I was later told by a friend that during half time, shops and supermarkets were completely crowded with shoppers pressed for time.
When Guillermo told me he was going to watch the match with the boys, I had a lightbulb moment - why not have them as unsuspecting guinea pigs for my cupcakes!! I immediately went to work, um, I thought to myself, not anything with dulce de leche or chocolate because they would love them anyway...something more challenging for the Argentine palate... something foreign...
I looked into my fridge and found a jar of low fat lemon curd I had made the week before, Guillermo had complained that it was too tart; he dipped sweet biscuits into the curd. With that as the starting point, I settled on plain cupcakes with lemon curd filling and buttercream icing on top.
I simply am incapable of following a recipe without tweaking it ever so slightly. So instead of making the Magnolia Bakery's plain vanilla cupcakes (cupcakes of Sex and the City fame), I did the following:
240g softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp zest

Beat butter until soft and then add sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each. This is important because the mixture may curdle if you add the eggs too fast.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and zest in a separate bowl. Measure out milk. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about one third of the milk and beat until combined. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
Scoop into cupcake papercases about half to three-quarters full. If you like your cupcakes to have a flat top, fill up to half full; otherwise you end up with a doomed top. I use an ice cream scoop for this so I don't have to think about whether I have evenly distributed the batter among the cases. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.
When they are cool, I cut a circle in each cupcake with a paring knife (sharp small knife). The idea is to get a "cone" of cake out so there is a cavity. You can try with a melon-baller (I don't own one because I think carving fruits is really naff! Those amazing Thai carvings excluded). Cut off the "cake" bit of the cones and leave the tops for later. Into these newly created cavities, you now spoon some lemon curd. Then you put the tops back on. You have now hidden a surprise in these babies.
4 eggs
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup lemon juice
strips of lemon peel

Beat eggs lightly then add juice of lemon. Whisk over a saucepan of simmering water until thickened. If you can't be bothered with simmering water, etc. just whisk manically over a very low flame and then pour the thickened mixture through a sieve to get rid of any offending eggwhite solids and the strips of peel. Pour into a sterilised jar - again, if you are going to polish it all off in less than a couple of weeks, just make sure the jar is clean (ideally straight from the dishwasher). Make 1 1/2 cup and remember to store it in the fridge.

Now, whether you make a buttercream icing or a cream cheese icing is really up to you. I made a lemon buttercream icing for the boys because I know they are fearless of fat and sugar. If you decide to make a cream cheese icing, may I just say I still haven't figured out why all the recipes out there suggest mixing butter into the cream cheese - I am getting a heartburn just writing about it! My cream cheese icing is very simple: cream cheese (low fat version if you prefer it), icing sugar, and lemon zest. Keep mixing and adding icing sugar until you get the taste and consistency you need. If it is too thick, add a few drops of lemon juice, though I doubt you would need it.

I am sure I don't have to instruct you to substitue lemon with lime, grapefruit, orange; or if you feel like being extravagant, use tarrochi (Italian blood oranges). Yum, yum.

Oh, the verdict: my cupcakes performed like the Argentine team :)

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