Kindred Kitchen: Non-Conforming Cupcakes

If baking was a beauty contest and the participants were cupcakes, mine would fall somewhere near the bottom tier. Their frosting isn’t piled high like a luscious bouffant and they opt to go sans accessories. The golden oven coloring is a bit uneven, like they got a beautician-in-training to apply the fake tan because it came at a discounted price (no, I’m not drawing from personal experience). Instead, my cupcakes have traded the cutesy names and add-ons for some homemade realism.

These vanilla cupcakes served a sweet purpose, making their way into both my grandma’s and mom’s school lunches. Grandma once described her lunch pail as basically an old tool box, small in size but made of heavy metal. She lugged all sorts of rustic samplings to country school, varying from sandwiches on homemade bread to soups in the winter. The kids would bring potatoes, putting them on the single stove that kept the one-room school house and its occupants warm. Hmmm, country chic and a far cry from today’s cardboard pizza.

In 1945 and at just 17 years old, Grandma went from the student to the master, getting a temporary license to teach country school. After turning 18, she qualified as an educator for kindergarten through the 8th grade (so, teens, what have you done lately?). After getting married in 1953, Grandma stacked and packed homemade meals for her growing family. For several decades, making lunch boxes was a daily task and one my grandma took very seriously (a trait passed to my mom). And if these cupcakes made the cut, you know they’re good.

The 4 Minute Cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 1/3 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)

2/3 cup milk

Using a mixer, combine the above ingredients in a bowl, beating for two minutes. Then add…

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/3 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat for another two minutes until creamy. Using the care and steady hands of a brain surgeon, transfer your batter into a paper cup-lined muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full. I squeezed 19 cupcakes out of this recipe. It’s worth noting Grandma says NOT to double the recipe (reason unknown… world destruction possibly?).¬†Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until golden like a co-worker who scraped together enough PTO to go on vacation to Miami.

Homemade Frosting

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons of butter (not margarine)
1 to 2 cups of powdered sugar. Start with 1 1/2 cups and go from there, depending on consistency. You might need more, but we’re playing this whole thing by ear.
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Half and half cream
Directions:
Using a mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla and a small bit of half and half. If you want a larger amount of frosting, then add some more of the sugar and enough half and half to make it creamy in consistency. Not too runny and not too stiff. You just have to do a little bit and a little bit, pretending your Goldilocks in the kitchen. You want it just right.
Add food coloring too for some pizzazz. If you end up with extra leftover, it freezes just fine.Easily fooled, I thought the title “4 minute cupcakes” meant these desserts would push along quickly. The recipe was simple, but prep and cook time took about an hour and a half for both the cupcakes and frosting. Was it worth the extra effort to do the homemade frosting vs that in a can? Yes. Did they taste as delicious as they would if they had two more tablespoons of frosting and three extra flavors? I’d say so.
There’s a beauty in simplicity and the rich flavor of a family tradition that made it’s way from many lunch boxes to this blog.
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