Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sweet surrender...

I have this fantasy version of myself. In it, I can run effortlessly, cook beautifully and healthfuly, host dinner parties at the slightest notice without freaking out, sprinkle literary quotes into my conversation, have a house that is stunning and almost zen-like in its minimal elegance, and am a woman of grace, full of confidence and serenity.

Maybe next lifetime. If I am good in this one. Like, really, really good.

In the meantime, there is one thing I can always count on to make me feel like I have it together. And that is making rum cake.

I have loved rum cakes since Mike and I discovered them on our honeymoon (ten years ago!) in the Caribbean; the perfect little Tortuga ones, should you get your hands on them, are fabulous. Recently, I had a rum cake epiphany.
It happened like this: I had made my rum cake (a skill of which I am inordinately proud but shouldn't be as they are embarassingly easy) to take to a BBQ and snorkeling party at the beach beneath palm trees.

Yes, life can be hard sometimes, but somehow we find the strength to persist and endure. Let's move on, shall we?

Anyway, our houseguests, who had also generously been invited to the get-together, got slim chance to try out the rum cake as, even with the variety of desserts available, the partygoers pounced, devoured, and left nary a crumb behind of said cake.

Now, that same week I needed to make cupcakes for Thomas' birthday, which I intended to frost green and arrange into a Very Hungry Caterpillar surrounded by (yes) one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, and five oranges.*

Lest you give me credit for creativity, confession: the idea in fact belongs to this fantastic baker in Vancouver who makes such cute cupcakes I may have to make a pilgrimage to track her down and shake her sugar-dusted hand. Her cupcakes are picture perfect. She probably hosts dinner parties too. Sigh.
*Those of you who have not read Eric Carle's classic story, what on earth have you been doing? Get a copy -it's a great gift- acquire a small child, (many are available for loan by their parents, trust me,) and prepare for delight as you share this wonderful little book.

Soooo, needed a cupcake recipe...the guests wanted to try more rum cake....I am always up for rum cake...see where this is going?

I experimented and the result was chocolate rum cake cupcakes, substituting a basic and decadent buttercream for the usual rum glaze. Tasty? Oh my friends, yes, yes YES!
The original had face and antennae and feet that I made out of white chocolate melted, colored, and shaped, but once again humidity won that battle (humidity always wins!) and I ended up scrapping that gooey multicolored mess into a bowl which I then hid, resorting to a last minute cut-from paper kindergarten level fix. Fortunately, Thomas loved the result and was none the wiser.

And because I love you so much, here is the recipe for those naughty but oh-so-delicious cakes:
measuring up to the Burj Khalifa

Thomas' Rum Cake Cupcakes
Blend together:
1 (18.25 oz) box of yellow cake mix.
1 (3.4 oz) box of instant pudding mix. I've tried vanilla and chocolate and banana and they are all delicious in this recipe. This time was chocolate.
4 eggs (loosen that waistband at this point)
1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vegetable oil.
1/2 cup rum (I like to use Bacardi Gold, choose according to taste. Spiced rum makes an interesting one too, especially nice for the holidays)
Now that these are all swirled together, put them into lined cupcake tins, about 3/4 full depending on how much of a crown you like, and cook at 350 F (180 C) about 20 minutes, checking until a toothpick comes out clean. FYI: the alcohol bakes out during the cooking, no worries for the 4 year old. He will merely be hopped up on sugar. As will the rest of the household.
Let the cupcakes cool completely while you whip up your favorite buttercream frosting. I made one with real butter and homemade vanilla (got the beans at the Spice Souk...can't get any more groovily exotic than that) and what here is called icing sugar and I call powdered sugar, and didn't bother adding any milk to it.
Few things more satisfying as how darned easy it is to make buttercream icing. Never, ever buy those rotten little containers of premade frosting gunk. Promise me.
You can probably sneak one still-warm cupcake with gooey slipping-off icing that you slapped on because you couldn't stand it and no one is watching. Their own fault for not offering to help. (Like you'd need help making these.)
Snarf it down whilst standing in the kitchen and growl like a lion tearing away at a downed gazelle on the Serengeti at anyone who dares come near.
Once that bit of primal insanity is satisfied, you can frost your cupcakes as prettily as you like. Stand back. Go oooh! Serve them and be adored.
Go for a run the next morning. Except that all the cupcakes will be gone by then, life should be pretty darned good by that point.


AKBrady said...

Oh dear God I am going to make that this weekend. And I don't care about the waistband. Let it expand. That looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

No wonder Thomas was impressed! Great job Natalie! Yes I'm going to have to make some, too.
Love ya!

Jean said...

Natalie, you can come home now. I just spotted a sign on Front St., saying a cupcake shop would be opening soon. You could be their chief baker, or you could just hang out and pig out. Your choice.

Cindy Napier said...

I love the caterpillar cupcake idea! Adorable! And-- I will attest-- you make a wicked rum cake! :)

Gremliness said...

Hi Natalie =)

I'm bloghopping and found your site a learning opportunity for me from others I'm not usually exposed to. If you dont mind, I'd please add you to my blog list. Thanks a lot =)

Natalie said...

Let me know how the cupcakes turn out, everyone! Jean, happy birthday!!! And Gremliness, Mabuhay!

cupcake on,

Friendly Neighborhood Librarian said...

Natalie, You are one of the most amazing women I know!
You do such very cool things with your kids and husband; you take chances by moving to the other side of the world; you,even when most of us would be buried in some air-conditioned hideaway; you make me smile when I read your blog because it's so entertaining and your words are so craftily put together.
I admire you so much!
Be kind to yourself ok?
And thanks for the recipe too :)

Mom2ABJ said...

your cake is totally posh!!
so ... not allowed to have alcohol in the house. any wise substitutes for the rum? I know it wouldn't be the same. I'll have to attempt it back in the states at my parents' house. In the meantime, I'll send the recipe to them, have them make cupcakes and bring one to me when they come to visit.
BTW, the only time I've had rum cake in my life was made with a drizzle of uncooked rum on top. I got drunk. like Asian-intolerant-to-alcohol drunk. you should see me with tiramisu. good times. :)

*Paula* said...

Tommy came home from school telling me how he learned about Eric Carle and how he made those "beautiful things, you know, collages". It just made my heart melt to hear my 5 year old talk about art like that! It's funny how you just made an Eric Carle inspired cake the same week! Ok, maybe I'm just looking for coincidences but I thought that was pretty cool!

Natalie said...

Y'all make me happy. Life is good. Thanks everyone for spreading the goodness.