Friday, March 6, 2009

Meatballs and Spaghetti - for dessert

I am not a baker. I can bake, don't get me wrong but I am not a baker. I think a true baker is someone who can effortlessly whip up beautiful looking desserts that get oohs and ahhas as they hit the table. This is not me. My accolades, if they come, only are once the first bite is taken- my talents lie much more with taste than looks. Baking is really 50% visual, don't you think?
I have more baking cookbooks than I care to admit but I am always afraid to tackle those recipes which rely so much on the visual apperance of the recipe. I truly envy those bakers who have the time and patience to make their creations look so appetizing (dessertizing? that should be a word).

So(I do have a point here) last October, my 2 best friends and I went to the Gourmet Institute in New York. I won't go into a full review of the conference here, but basically, the highlight of the experience (other than hanging with my 2 best friends doing what we do best - eating) was the cupcake class we took. The class was taught by the author of Hello! Cupcake, the most adorable cupcake book you have ever seen. This is NOT a book with cupcake recipes, but rather cupcake decorating recipes. We sat down in the class and in front of each of us was- a plain, already cooked vanilla cupcake, a Ferrero Rocher chocolate in its wrapper, a little cup of strawberry jam and a ziplock with some frosting inside. When the class was completed- we had learned how to turn those ingredients into the cutest spaghetti and meatball cupcake you have ever seen.

It was really the first time I felt that the "outside" of something I had made could be just as good (and in this case even better) then the inside! I was so giddy with excitement to go home and practice my newfound decorating talents.

My first real-life attempt was a failure. Poor Maddie, she was my guinea pig. For her 6th birthday, after flipping thru the Hello Cupcake cookbook, she decided she wanted this colorful, tall cupcake cake for her party. After already one "spaghetti and meatball cupcake" under my belt, I figured "no problem! "

Well, the special liners cost me 35.00, I couldnt find strawberry stick cookies, the cupcakes all toppled when I put stacked them as the book explained. The frosting melted all over the place and the rainbow candies that were to outline each cupcake took hours to apply. The cupcakes tasted delicious but the cake looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

So that brings me to this recipe...I figured the only cupcakes I would attempt again with confidence was the original Spaghetti and Meatball ones I learned at the Gourmet Insitute. Since our friends hold an annual Balls N Sauce party this was the PERFECT dessert to bring along.

I can proudly say that it was not the total disaster Maddie's cake was- but not a total success either. The frosting didn't stay "spaghetti" looking for too long so it ended up looking like meatballs on a cupcake but nonetheless, they were cute and heck and tasty too.

So here is to stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something new. And here is a second toast to knowing when to give up and what your true talents are. For me, Ill leave the fancy decorating to Publix bakery.

"Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes" - Hello Cupcake by Karen Tack

1 recipe of your favorite Vanilla cupcakes
(I used the yellow cake from Buttercup Bakeshop Cookbook)
1 can (16 ounces) vanilla frosting ( I made swiss buttercream from scratch but yes, you can use the can if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 drops yellow food coloring
11 hazelnut chocolates (Ferrero Rocher), unwrapped
3/4 cup low-sugar strawberry preserves (low-sugar has the best color)
2 tablespoons grated white chocolate, plus an additional chunk for garnish

1. Tint the vanilla frosting with the cocoa powder and yellow food coloring and spread a thin layer on top of the cupcakes. Arrange the cupcakes on a serving platter so that they are touching.

2. Spoon the remaining frosting into a ziplock bag. Press out the excess air and seal the bag. Snip a 1/8-inch corner from the bag. Pipe the frosting all over the cupcakes to make the spaghetti, piling it high and allowing some of the spaghetti to hang over the edges.

3. Place the hazelnut chocolates and the strawberry preserves in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Spoon some of the preserves on top of the cupcakes. Place 1 hazelnut chocolate on each cupcake and 1 on the platter. Top the cupcakes with the remaining strawberry preserves. Sprinkle with the grated white chocolate. Place the chunk of white chocolate on a separate plate with a small hand grater and bring to the table with the platter of spaghetti.

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