Although MacchaMe is known for being the baker in our group, I’ve also been known to bake from time to time in my adult life, especially since I now have the internet and a husband and friends to bake for.

I grew up with a dislike of home baked goods.  Growing up my mother NEVER baked for two reasons:   1. The oven was always on the fritz so accurate baking aside from heating up a lasagna was not possible, and 2. She always said that it was pointless to bake something at home when Entemanns could do it better.  When I was in school, I regularly refused homemade baked goods offered to me because of the view of my mother, and for the most part she was right.  Unless someone is a good baker, boxed cake mixes and canned frosting just are not appealing to me.  I do have one fond memory of being very little, watching American Bandstand on a rainy Saturday morning and making Star Wars sugar cookies with R2D2 cookie cutters with my sister in the kitchen.  All other baking experiences at home were few, far between and disastrous.   My mother indulged me from time to time (i.e., less than once a year) while I experimented with boxed cake mixes and every time I did it was awful.  I remember one time using too much non-stick cooking spray on a cake pan and watching the frosting sadly slide off the cake I baked because the cake came out too greasy.  Everyone else laughed but I cried.  Of course.

Fast forward about 20 years to when Hubbo (then fiancé) and I shacked up and I made him a chocolate chocolate birthday cake FROM SCRATCH using a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook.  Wow – why did I do that?!?!  Based on my previous baking experiences, you would think I would not even attempt such a thing.  But I did and I remember it being delicious!  The only downside was that I ran out of powdered sugar for the frosting so I used regular sugar instead.  Boy, that frosting was grainy . . . but good.  I still have the photo too!  This encouraged me to start baking more regularly and I enjoy it.

Mmmmmmm, that cake was good. So many layers and so much work! I think if you look closely, you can actually see the sugar grains in the frosting.

Despite my mother’s two reasons NOT to bake, I have two reasons why I DO bake:  1. Through baking (and cooking in general) I enjoy making others happy.  I like when people enjoy what I feed them.  Maybe it’s some inner desire to be loved and accepted but I still love it nonetheless.  Baked goods = comfort food.  In another life, I probably would have been a professional chef, but I do admit my results are not always consistent, and 2. I’m fascinated by the science of baking.  Science was never my subject but for some reason, the idea that mixing flour and sugar and eggs together can make something wonderful blows my mind.  Lately, I’ve really been into substituting ingredients in my cooking and baking to make healthier options for Hubbo.  This seems to work better in cooking; substituting in baking is tough.  I went on a Splenda kick for a while in my baking, only to decide that it’s better to stick to natural ingredients.  I then got into vegan baking from an article in the New York Times a couple of years back with a recipe for the most unbelievably good vegan chocolate cupcakes.  Although I love me a good vegan creation, I still go back to traditional (but still natural) ingredients for baking.

The popularity of cooking websites and television networks has definitely opened my eyes and made me a more adventurous and confident cook (Hello Food Network – I’m still stalking you for a job!).  Despite my mother’s dislike of home baking, she did cook dinner every night growing up and always said, “If you can read, you can cook.”  I do believe that is true.

So what is the point of this?  I have not baked since Christmas and I missed it so much that I decided to make some cupcakes for my fellow Spices in honor of Boogaloo’s Skype baby shower.  Skype shower?  Huh?  Yes, we had a Skype shower.  When most of us live in the US and one of us lives in the UK, you improvise and this suggestion from Hencha was an excellent one.  Flights to London are getting pricey due to that Royal Wedding coming up, and since some of us have kids and other things we need to take of at home, flying to London this time was just not possible.  But we picked a time and a place to meet and conspired with Boogaloo’s hubbo to ship over some gifts for her to open, and ooh and aah remotely while we all watched on a computer screen.  I’d like to think it was just as good as being there in person, but I know it wasn’t.  It actually took all my might not to bawl like a baby yesterday through the entire shower since I just wanted to hug my dear friend and her beautiful baby belly.

I keep going off on tangents . . . back to the baking!  Boogaloo’s hubbo told us he was going to get her a red velvet cupcake, and since we were trying to simulate being there in person, I decided to make red velvet cupcakes to bring to the shower for the gang.  I’ve made red velvet whoopee pies before but not cupcakes so I foodgawked to find the right recipe.  In my searches, I came upon two recipes that substituted the usual cream cheese frosting with a vanilla frosting made with mascarpone cheese traditionally used in tiramisu.  I don’t care for cheese but I do eat mascarpone in desserts.  I was intrigued to try it so I picked one of the recipes and ran to the market Friday night to pick some up.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting

I did not substitute any of the ingredients, but I did use powdered buttermilk instead of liquid buttermilk.  I don’t see the point of keeping liquid buttermilk in the house when I barely use it.

Although I think the cake part was a touch dry, the mascarpone frosting was SO GOOD.  I’m so glad l made the switch!  I think everyone loved it.  I daresay I may never go back to cream cheese frosting again.

Yummy!

And a quick note for Maccha, since I told her I’d let her know about it – I used this awesome pastry decorating thingie and it worked great!  Piping bags are messy and snipping the corner of a Ziploc bag to pipe frosting just does not work well.  This thing was quick, easy and completely unscrewed for easy cleaning!  Best $12 I ever spent.

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