Thursday, November 25, 2010

November's Cupcake of the Month: Marshmallow Turkey Cupcakes

As the flames licked the underside of my kitchen cabinets I thought, "This is going to be the most exciting Cupcake of the Month post I have ever written."

The One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes which form the bodies of the turkeys are the chocolate equivalent of October's Cupcake of the Month: Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes. They baked up with beautiful, even, dome tops. They aren't so amazing that you'd eat them without frosting. They're pretty much like a store bought box chocolate cake mix, which isn't a bad thing. I'll probably end up making these cupcakes again and again because they're a safe bet especially for younger pallets.

The assembly instructions state, "Press 5 gummy fish into each cupcake to make tail feathers." This is a lie. Gummy fish pressed into a cupcake will fall over almost instantly. Five gummy fish pressed into one edge of a cupcake will rip that cupcake apart as they fall over almost instantly. The only way to get a gummy fish to stand up on a cupcake and not destroy it is to carefully insert a toothpick into the tail of the gummy fish as shown below.

The full feathered turkeys are pretty huge and constitute a choking hazard. Only Martha Stewart would decorate a cupcake in a way that primarily appeals to an age group that is most likely to suffer injuries from the toothpicks necessary to hold said decorations in place. I left the tail feathers off half of my turkeys, making turkey hens. I also ran out of turkey heads (see discussion of turkey heads below), so the remainder just got chocolate sprinkles.

The recipe in the book and the title of this post uses marshmallows. More specifically, you're supposed to use Kraft Jet-Puffed Toasted Coconut Marshmallows to make the turkey heads. I am more than capable of tracking down food-quality, organic lavender, but I'll be damned if I can find Kraft Jet-Puffed Toasted Coconut Marshmallows. I tried dusting regular marshmallows with cocoa powder, but they were way too big relative to the size of the cupcake. I feel like the ideal proportions for a turkey are a funny little head on a great big bird.

Moreover, the original instructions indicate that the gummy fish head beak could be attached simply by pushing it into the marshmallow. I tried that and the gummy fish head beaks did not stay attached to the marshmallow heads. The only way I could affix the gummy fish head beaks to the marshmallow heads was to score the marshmallow where the beak was to be applied, dip the gummy fish head beak into melted cooled chocolate, and then stick the chocolate coated gummy fish head beak onto the scored area of the marshmallow head. And even after all that, the marshmallow head was just disproportionately huge relative to the cupcake body. So I substituted the elusive Kraft Jet-Puffed Toasted Coconut Marshmallows with Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets from the bulk candy section of Henry's. I attached the gummy fish head beaks by dipping them in melted cooled chocolate and resting them on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets. I had to balance the candies beak-up to cool, but that was the least of my troubles.

Which gets us back to the fire. Turkey feathers. 12 oz. (4 C) sweetened shredded coconut, . . lightly toasted. Now, I knew that toasting coconut was not something I should try while watching my baby by myself. I knew that. In fact, I planned my day around that very fact. A friend was coming over to watch my baby while I did some tasks around the house and errands. On my list of tasks: toast coconut. And I did. I spread a thin layer of coconut over a cookie sheet and popped it under the broiler, started talking to my friend, and then smelled smoke. "Fire!" I hear you cry. But no. Just charred coconut. So I scrapped that batch and tried again. This time cracking the oven door and ignoring my friend while I watched the coconut like a hawk. As soon as it showed the slightest sign of toastedness I took it out of the oven. The area directly under the broiler was beautifully golden. But when I poured it into my clear bowl, it all looked too white still. But my friend wasn't feeling well, so I bid her adieu and put my coconut away . . . .

Until later that evening, when I thought, "That coconut is just not toasted enough." The baby seemed contented playing on the kitchen floor while I was cleaning up after dinner. So I thought, "I'll just spread some on the toaster oven tray and toast it a little more to see how it turns out." Not heating up the whole oven, so not endangering my baby, right? RIGHT?!? As I depressed the broken toaster lever which never ever pops up like normal toaster levers, I thought "This is the sort of thing that could burn the house to the ground if I forget about it." Then I proceeded to strain raw milk and boil it to make yogurt.

Yes, I make my own yogurt from raw milk that my friend brings me when she's not making cheese with it. Yes, she has a cow share. She milks Guinevere, that's the cow, every Tuesday evening and every other Friday evening. I know, isn't that cool? Don't you want to become an artisanal cheesemaker with your own goat farm? Me too! Yogurt is so easy. It's easy to sort of check on it every once in awhile while you're doing other things, like, say, watching Tina Fey: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize on PBS. Don't you just love Tina Fey?

And that's when I smelled smoke. "Damn!" I thought as I put the baby in the pack 'n' play, flung open the kitchen door, and saw the thick, thick smoke, "I knew I'd forget this coconut in the toaster oven. I bet the coconut is totally charred." Then I turned and saw the toaster oven . . . on fire. Not the coconut inside the toaster oven. No. The entire toaster oven in flames. Knowing this could go from bad to worse quickly, I pulled the power cord out of the outlet and opened the cabinet where the fire extinguisher is . . . still in its unopened box.

Cut to close up of fire extinguisher box.

Cut to close up of my face completely devoid of knowledge of how to operate a fire extinguisher.

Cut to close up of flames licking the bottom of my kitchen cabinet.

Cut to medium shot of me slamming the cabinet shut and running for the big box o' baking soda.

Baking soda saved my life. Or at least my kitchen cabinets. It put out the flames sufficiently that I could use potholders to get the toaster oven closer to the sink. Then I used the detachable faucet sprayer of my fantastic Grohe faucet to spray the inside of the toaster that I couldn't reach with the baking soda . . . at which point the glass front and handle of the toaster oven exploded. It was a minor explosion and without spreading flames, so I was undeterred. Once the sooty water started spreading over the counter and onto the floor I decided the risk of water damage had become equal to or greater than the risk that the toaster would flame up again, so I put the toaster in the sink and continued running water over it while I used all of my dish towels to stem the tide of sooty water. Once I was sure the fire was out (because the toaster was submerged in my sink) and the flood waters were receding, I listened for the cries of my baby. But there were no cries. WTF? I go out to the living room and there she is, giggling away at Tina Fey.

So this Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, Grohe faucets, and Tina Fey.

You're a Turkey Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat

Technically, the recipe calls for 24 One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, but the recipe for One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes only yields 18. I wasn't about to multiply the One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcake recipe by, what, 1 1/3 to get 24 cupcakes. My flock is only 18 turkeys.


  • 18 One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes (see recipe below)
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see recipe in June's Cupcake of the Month: Flock of Sheep Cupcakes)
  • 5 T semi-sweet chocolate chip, melted and cooled
  • 18 turkey-head shaped chocolate candies, such as Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets from the bulk candy section of Henry's
  • 1 lb. gummy fish
  • Toothpicks
  • 12 oz. (4 C) sweetened shredded coconut, LIGHTLY toasted

1. Using a flexible spatula, fold melted and cooled chocolate into buttercream. Use an offset spatula to spread buttercream over cupcakes in a smooth layer.

2. Cut the heads off of 18 orange gummy fish. Attached the gummy fish head beaks by dipping them in melted cooled chocolate and resting them on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets. Balance the candies beak-up to cool. Press candy heads onto cupcakes.

3. Gently insert toothpicks into the tails of sixty gummy fish. Press 5 gummy fish into each cupcake to make tail feathers. Sprinkle LIGHTLY toasted coconut over cupcakes to cover completely. Decorated cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature in airtight containers.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C buttermilk
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C warm water

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and water; beat until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

2. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.

Previous Cupcakes of the Month:
January's Cupcake of the Month: Streusel Cupcakes
February's Cupcake of the Month: Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes
March's Cupcake of the Month: Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes
April's Cupcake of the Month: Tres Leches Cupcakes
May's Cupcake of the Month: Strawberry Cupcakes
June's Cupcake of the Month: Flock of Sheep Cupcakes
July's Cupcake of the Month: Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes
August's Cupcake of the Month: Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
September's Cupcake of the Month: Devil's Food Cupcakes
October's Cupcake of the Month: Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes

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Anonymous said...

Eye yey yie! Bad toaster oven!

Bob said...

Normally I read things like `...I thought, "This is going to be the most exciting Cupcake of the Month post I have ever written."' and I think, "Bah! Pathetic hyperbole in the naive hope that I'll read your supposedly `exciting' post!" But once in a blue moon I am deliciously wrong.

I think you have hit the optimal note of your new genre, which I was calling "harried snarky recipes" but now I believe is more properly termed "catastrophe cooking at home" or, more optimistically, "adventure cooking at home." The "at home" modifier is included to discount those poncey shows about "innovative" people making food with frozen nitrogen or vacuum bags or similarly ridiculous things.

The brilliance of your genre is that it brings the excitement of the cooking experience right into the everyday experience of the reader. This is not a description of a recipe followed by some mad foodie in their improbably well-appointed kitchen (or their improbably well-appointed campfire or hut, in the case of the "survival cooking" subgenre). This is a description of the catastrophes -- excuse me, "adventures" - that normal people might be having if they tried to bake cupcakes in their own kitchens right now. That immediacy and realism has elevated this blog into a new literary form that I think is destined for greatness.

We should consider getting you some representation, with the aim of getting a production team on board. You're obviously too busy (almost by definition of the genre) to produce a video version yourself, but I'm thinking Amy Adams should be looking for something to rehabilitate her culinary image after "Julie & Julia".

All of the accolades above will, I hope, soften this blow: there appears to be a typo in your One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes recipe, since "1 1/1 C all-purpose flour" seems redundant.

Sarah said...

Thank you for the sympathy, lavish praise, and proof reading (I've updated the recipe to correctly read 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour). This is going to be a costly enterprise if I have to buy a new kitchen appliance for every Catastrophe Cooking at Home post. Any suggestions for removing soot from a painted backsplash would be greatly appreciated.

Rebecca said...

Despite the drama (or maybe because of it) the cupcakes turned out amazing. Such cute turkeys. I'm definitely never tackling them, but I admire your fortitude.

Thalia said...

Adventure cooking at home indeed, Bob.

I am fascinated but also terrified to try the turkey cupcakes. Between having a baby, and job and commuting madness, I can scarcely remember day-to-day things. Usually I remember to put pants on myself. I'm sure I would have set the toaster oven on fire and then forgotten about the baking soda. And run out of the house with baby and possibly forgotten my shoes.

I'm glad you and the babe are both fine, too.