The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the demise [read: the snap, crackle, POP] of the über trendy cupcake shop bubble. I posted the article on the Kailley’s Kitchen Facebook page and Twitter feed, but in case you missed it, here it is. Read it and inform yourselves.
It’s not exactly big news, but it’s certainly useful dirt for two demographics: current/prospective investors and cupcake enthusiasts (I’m still trying to come up with a good, succinct euphemism for “those who love cupcakes”… crack lovers are “crackheads”, car lovers are “gearheads”… I’m at a loss and accepting suggestions. If I deem yours worthy, I’ll gladly credit you as the originator of the newly-coined term).
The cupcake shop business plan is brilliant: bake cupcakes at minimal cost, wrap them up in a glittery little package, and sell them off for $4.oo a pop. As our collective waistline expands, our collective wallet slowly drains out until its more skeletal than an anorexic hooked up to a feeding tube. I’m not here to condemn these places, nor am I in a position to even if I wanted to; they’ve been making bank since the craze hit about a half-decade ago and I’ve long envied their seemingly overnight celebrity status in the bakery world.
However… it’s not a sustainable model. Like pink terrycloth track suits, trucker hats, and platform sneakers from the Spice Girl era, cupcakes just aren’t that sexy anymore. At least, paying $4.oo for one that’s aesthetically pleasing but devoid of drool-inducing flavor isn’t.
On a mission to bring sexy back (cliché, but apropos), I spiked the following recipe with all the lust-worthy sensuousness a batch of cupcakes could possibly handle: they’re pretty, delicious, and smell realllll nahhhhce. I guess if you’re into the whole tactile thing, they’re perfectly spongey and silky, too. You can’t hear the ocean if you hold one of ‘em up to your ear, but hey, capitalizing on four outta’ the five senses ain’t bad.
Sense of smell is the most under-appreciated and underrepresented facet of the experience of food consumption. Usually, about 70% of the appeal lies in the taste, and the other ~30% on visual gratification. With a hit of rose water in both the cake batter and the icing, these cupcakes manage to please your nostrils in a way that most foods can’t. Except bacon, perhaps.
Unlike Sprinkles and Crumbs and Cupcake Wars, this recipe is timeless. Sell a girl a cupcake, she eats for a night. Give a girl a great recipe, she eats (and bakes) for a lifetime. And if you give a moose a muffin…
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 4 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon rose water (I used Ziyad brand from Whole Foods)
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)
- 2 teaspoon rose water
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream (or more for desired consistency)
- Raw sugar and vanilla powder (I used India Tree brand from Whole Foods-- expensive, but worth it!) to sprinkle on top
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin pan with liners
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between each
- Add flour, baking powder, salt, and extract and mix until just combined (don’t overmix!)
- Slice vanilla bean length-wise, scrape seeds into batter and mix until there aren't visible clumps of vanilla bean
- Add milk, vegetable oil, and splash of rosewater and mix until just combined
- Spoon batter into cupcake liners and fill each 2/3 full
- Bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly golden, then allow to cool on a wire rack.
- While cupcakes are cooling, add butter for icing in a medium mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy with handheld beaters
- Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well between each
- Add vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and rose water and mix
- Slowly add heavy cream until desired consistency is reached
- Use a piping bag to pipe icing onto cool cupcakes, top with a sprinkle of vanilla powder and raw sugar