THIS SCRUMPTIOUS CUPCAKE SCORES BIG ON BONDING FRIENDSHIPS AND FLAVORS (OF THE SWEET, SAVORY AND SALTY KIND!)
A recent cook-off competition confirmed two things: food blog communities are thriving, and cupcakes are only getting better. Eat, Write, Retreat—held in Washington, DC, and founded by social media marketing innovator, Casey Benedict, and award-winning nutritionist, teacher and cookbook author, Robyn Webb—is an intensive learning weekend that focuses on strengthening connections within the food blog community. Along with cooking, writing and photography workshops, motivational sessions and educational seminars, there’s also ample opportunity for communal bonding through the joys of discovering unique culinary experiences—from raw vegan food tastings and whisky pairings—to friendly cook-off competitions. There’s also plenty of “swag,” that includes cool new kitchen gadgets—in this case, an avocado tool that should be in stores by July—but, most importantly, it affords an annual time to gather with food friends that reside all over the US.
While the OXO Kitchen Challenge—held at DC’s CulinAerie Cooking School—was all in fun, it did compel the nine teams to think outside the box, such as whether to use required ingredients (bonus points), or not. In the case of Team Nine—Stephanie Manley (copykat.com, from Humble, TX), Stephanie Nuccitelli (52kitchenadventures.com, from Davis, CA) and Jennifer Farley (savorysimple.net, a DC local, residing in Rockville, MD)—strategy, culling food memories, playing to strength (all love to bake) and organization were key to the win.
According to Jennifer, “We initially discussed a few savory options for the challenge, but the constraints of the secret ingredients—watermelon, mushrooms and cheese—were holding us back. In the end, we wanted to push the envelope with creativity and everyone agreed Jarlsberg was the most versatile secret ingredient. We also agreed that incorporating traditionally savory ingredients into dessert, the idea of bacon, beer and cheese, seemed unique and playful. Cupcakes were perfect for the challenge, because the steps are clear and everyone always had something to work on.”
As luck would have it, they were the only team to create a dessert, and Stephanie Manley had actually tried a similar cupcake a few years ago. “I thought they were incredibly good, but felt they could use something to take them over the edge. We all wanted something that would showcase our talents and spotlight one of the required ingredients.”
Stephanie (Nuccitelli) was then tasked to recipe test. “The idea of a sweet, salty, savory cupcake sounded intriguing. I tested the recipe several times using the cheeses and different beers and found the combination worked very well. Testing also allowed us to divide the recipe into three sections for each of us to tackle. We all went to work as soon as the competition started and got everything done quickly and efficiently by remaining focused and working together as a team.”
While Team Nine were blown away by the ingenuity and beautiful presentations of their competitors, from jicama tacos to spicy watermelon “chimol” and gado gado summer rolls, the judges—which included Bonnie Benwick, Deputy Food Editor of the Washington Post and popular food blogger Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen—felt their cupcakes hit every mark, and more.
Beer, Bacon & Cheese Mini Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcake Project
Yields around 2 dozen mini cupcakes
6 strips bacon
1/2 cup Märzen beer
4.5 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated Jarlsberg
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 + 1/8 cup sour cream
1 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350o. Cook bacon until crispy, then remove from oven and finely chop. Coat a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray. Heat beer and butter in a large saucepan on medium-high heat until butter is melted. Add Jarlsberg and cheddar. Remove from heat, and whisk in the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk the sour cream with the egg. Mix the sour cream mixture into the beer mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Fold flour mixture into the batter. Stir in 1/2 cup of finely chopped bacon. Fill cups in prepared tin almost full. Bake for 12 minutes, or until inserted cake tester comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/8 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
Finely grated Jarlsberg, for garnish
Grated sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish
Chopped bacon, for garnish
Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Spread onto cooled cupcakes, then garnish with finely grated Jarlsberg and cheddar, and chopped bacon.
Please visit each team member’s write-up on their win at Eat Write Retreat:
Jennifer Farley: http://savorysimple.net/2012/05/23/eat-write-retreat-2012/
Stephanie Nuccitelli: http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/2012/05/23/mancakes-beer-bacon-cheese-cupcakes/
Stephanie Manley: http://www.copykat.com/2012/05/23/bacon-beer-and-cheese-cupcakes/