FINALLY! A break from all those Victorian novel reviews. And this one is going to be a LONG one, because I couldn’t in good conscience review this bad boy without having done a helluvalot of baking. But there will be an exceptionally high photo-to-text ratio. Lauren, baby, that’s for you.
Ok. CUPCAKES!!! Let’s dish. I brought this to my parents house so that my sister and I could make something. She chose White Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. *wah wah* I know, so boring! But never underestimate the deliciousness of a good white cake. It’s like a sugar cookie – so awesomely ordinary. H’anyvays, the fluffy frosting was not so much ‘fluffy’ as it was ‘incredibly dense,’ but it did pipe out crisply.
I have a shitty point-and-shoot and can never get it to focus on things close up, but check out the piping on that far cake-lette.
So from Exceptionally Basic I thought I’d switch to Unbelievably Complicated. Hey presto, Boston Cream Cupcakes!
I didn’t get to eat them on the first day, because I started them at, like, 8:00 at night and they have three different components, ALL of which require the use of a small saucepan (of which I only have the one) and therefore cannot be done simultaneously, and one-third of which need to be chilled before use, AND the whole thingers need to be chilled for half an hour after assembly, at which point I thought, This is dumb, and went to bed. And they were sort of a disappointment on the second day, which is why they even lasted to the third day, at which point perhaps my expectations were lowered or I was hungrier, because they were AMAZING!! So, points for these too.
But these bad boys were the killer. Rhubarb! Glaze! Sweet, tart things!!
My mother has taken to buying only coarse salt, which is both endearing and weird, and makes my sister’s baking incrementally more difficult. This recipe actually calls for coarse salt, which…I would not do again. Salted caramel = delicious; salted everything else = uncomfortable. But these were so awesome that I accidentally ate all of them in less than 24 hours and then felt fat about myself and swore off of cupcakes altogether.
But then there was a party, and so I thumbed through to see which ones I had to try, and came up with four. FOUR! But I reduced each recipe to however little the eggs let me (3 eggs = thirding the recipe, 7 eggs = 7thing the recipe, which…shoot. What’s 1/7 of 3/4 cup?) which had the added benefit of letting me use my 1/8 tsp. Come on, when else do you use that guy?
Also, I minified them.
These wee Cookies-and-Cream-Cheesecakes were azmazing.
These Peanut-Butter-and-Chocolate nuggets overflowed and collapsed in the oven. Poor little gargoyles.
These lemon things were light and fabulous, but Martha’s recipe for lemon curd called for 7 egg yolks (what the hale am I going to do with all those whites? Make an enormous skinny omelette?) so I used my own, which uses two whole eggs has the added benefit of being entirely makeable in my food-whizzer.
And then I made some chocolate cupcakes with Junior Mints in the center that I meant to both photograph AND ice, but it was getting late in the day and the party was approaching and it was also a zillion degrees and baking in the heat? Wretched.
Anyways, the quadrafecta of deliciousness.
I whipped up some chocolate ganache to cover up the divets in the choco-peanut-butterers, which leads me to the actual review.
Thing the awesome: Martha = organized. The cakes are sorted by categories like ‘Ice These Ones’ or ‘Eat These Ones Plain’ or ‘Fill These Ones with Other Things’ (except more Martha-esque). Most of the sauces and icings and whatall are listed in the back so that if your choco-peanut-butterers collapse, you can scan through for something that’ll cover them. It’s like having a second cookbook attached to your first one.
Sadmently, not all of the dippers and swirlers featured in the book can be found at the back, and I had to scan through individual recipes to find a glaze for the rhubarbers.
Thing the awesome: this cookbook is hella helpful. I have always been teh suck at filling pastry bags because I didn’t know you should fold down the top while you’re filling, thusly:
I know! So obvious. And there are tons of helpful hints like this.
Sadmently, because this is Martha, everything is hella complicated. I’m not a great whisker-of-dry-ingredients or bringer-of-eggs-to-room-temperature (partially because I don’t plan ahead, and partially because why?) and usually it doesn’t seem to matter, but I really did try this time to follow the directions. Even the ridiculous ones, like for the ‘fluffy icing’ which had us adding the sugar by half-cups and then increasing the speed after each two additions for thirty seconds, which resulted in nothing so much as sugar H’EVERYWHERE!
So while on the one hand Martha is pandering to novices who don’t know how to fill a piping bag, on the other hand SHE IS TOTALLY NOT! At least a quarter of the recipes are elaborately decorated things for parties, like ladybugs or fake wood or topped with mushrooms made of merangue (hey! All those egg whites!) and seem more for show than for tasty eating.
I’m not totally sure how to grade this. Nine very hungry caterpillars for scrumptiousness, four for ease of recipes, eight for helpfulness. Average of 7?
PS Thanks to my sister for being in these photos.
Also thanks to the Random House for the book.