Cape Resh Cupcakes
I am naturally an unconscionably nosy individual. I just can’t help myself. If I see you carrying a bag I WILL ask you what’s inside. It’s just what I do. And if you say “Six baby kittens” I’ll probably still just go, “Ohhh, okay” and wander away. Honest to god, it’s not about what the answer is, but about the fact that I have to ask the question. My very good friends know this about me, and they understand that if they leave a makeup bag on the counter I will riffle through it. A shopping bag? Guaranteed. They know that making comments like, “Oh, there was something that I wanted to tell you…..no, never mind.” will actually drive me to insanity. Try not to look shocked, but I’m also not good with secrets and surprises….
About three years ago my good friends Lisa and Resh went on vacation for three weeks and asked me if I could housesit and watch their cat. At the time I was living in my slummy tenement style apartment, so of course I agreed without hesitation. I mean, IMAGINE spending three whole weeks in a HOUSE which never lost electricity and didn’t have puddles of urine in the hallway! Awesome. So I packed my bags and away I eagerly went, armed with a house key, directions on where to pick up the mail, and about three pages of instructions on how to care for the cat.
Within five minutes I was settled comfortably on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand and the remote control in the other, when I decided to go heat up the snack that I had brought. Toddling into the kitchen I caught a sight of a sign out of the corner of my eye. Taped onto one of the far kitchen drawers, on a large, lined piece of paper, I read:
“TINA – PLEASE DO NOT OPEN UP THIS DRAWER. THANK YOU.”
I may be nosy, but I am respectful. I did not open up the drawer, I just heated my food and went back to watching tv. But I kept thinking about it. The sign. The drawer. What was in the drawer? I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT WAS IN THE DRAWER!!!! WHAAAAAAT IS IIIIIIIIN THE DRAAAAAAAWER?!!!! I tried to watch tv, but found myself glowering in the general direction of the drawer. I created (and discarded) 55 scenarios on how something could fall and ‘accidentally’ knock the drawer open, or what if it was an emergency and there was a fire and that was the….fire extinguisher drawer…..and my only hope for saving the cat and the house would be to open it, right? Then it would be okay, wouldn’t it?
What could possibly be in the drawer that they didn’t want me seeing? Maybe it was full of crazy sex toys. No, it’s a kitchen drawer and Lisa is far too hygienic for that. Private paperwork perhaps? Oh god, what if it happened to be notices from the government saying that due to financial recourse Lisa and Resh are going to lose the house, and that’s why they went away on ‘vacation’, never to return, and if I only knew maybe I could do something to help them! No, no. Lisa is too fiscally responsible to let that happen. WHAT COULD IT BE?
By day five I was so upset that I covered the note with a big piece of tinfoil so that I couldn’t read it. But even so, I knew what was under that little piece of foil.
“TINA – PLEASE DO NOT OPEN UP THIS DRAWER. THANK YOU.”
By the time that they returned I was positively beside myself. The flight was set to land in Pearson International at 2:45 pm and by 2:15 pm I was pacing back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. At 4:00 pm, when the door opened up, I went leaping towards it. “Hi Resh, hi Lisa, how was the trip, hope it was good and the flight back was okay, I imagine that you’re tired, I drank your wine but there’s a new bottle chilling in the fridge, WHAT IS IN THE DRAWER?! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S IN THE DRAWER!! WHAT’S-IN-THE-DRAWER?!!!”
Lisa looked bewildered but Resh cracked a Chesire Cat and started chortling. It was a good five minutes (of agony) as he huffed and laughed before he could finally bring himself to say, “Nothing. There’s some elastic bands, a few tin foil balls for the cat, and a bunch of other junk. It’s a junk drawer.”
Now I was confused. If it was just a junk drawer, why on earth did he leave a note asking me not to go in there?
“Because I knew that it would drive you BAT SHIT. That’s why.”
Eventually I was able to see the humor in the situation. That’s what Resh does. We worked together for years, and I truly consider him to be one of my best friends in this great big world of ours. He has the innate ability to make me laugh no matter what the situation is. Whether it’s through a scathing muttered commentary about our colorful locals, politically incorrect song lyrics, or the ability to find the perfect pun, Resh brings out the giggles that I didn’t know I had. I guess that being born on the Ides of March could be a factor in his irreverent humor, but I’m not complaining.
For Resh’s birthday I wanted to make something that was all about him….but that turned out to be hard to do. I knew what candies and chocolates he used to buy, but I never saw him eating them….they were always the favorites of whoever he was working with that night. Twix for John, white chocolate for Sue, dark chocolate thins and sour Skittles for me….but what did RESH like? Well, other than cocktails. Resh and I have a shared love for cocktails. Resh’s regular drink is a Cape Cod (vodka and cranberry) with soda water and a heavy squeeze of lime, and it got so much airtime over the years that we dubbed it the ‘Cape Resh’. It eventually became so infamous that certain customers will go as far as to ask for a Cape Resh for themselves. Now that’s a personal impact, when you have cocktails named in your honor….
So now, in honor of my good friend Resh’s birthday last weekend, there are officially both cocktails and cupcakes to bear his moniker.
Happy birthday, my friend. You know that we adore you. I hope you enjoyed the cupcakes
Cape Resh Cupcakes
Makes 2.5 dozen (30) cupcakes *
- 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup dried cranberries **
- 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
- 3 tbsp vodka
- 1.5 tsp lime zest (about 1/2 lime)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 cups icing sugar
- 2/3 cup cranberry sauce ***
*Craisins work delightfully.
** Our cranberry sauce is already a little bit spiked, but that’s alright. You want a cranberry sauce which is made with whole cranberries that are rather broken down. A jellied cranberry sauce won’t give you the same lovely texture in the icing, and canned jellied cranberry sauce never has nearly as much flavor as you’re hoping for…even though I do eat it with a spoon when nobody is looking. Because, well, I have some bad habits to break in addition to being chronically invasive.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF with your racks in the center.
I use a stand mixer to make the cupcakes, but a good old-fashioned wooden spoon and mixing bowl will do the trick just fine. Begin by creaming together the butter and sugar for your cupcake base. When it is well creamed and slightly fluffy beat in the two eggs. Zest the whole lime (a rasp works beautifully for this) and add it to the mix. There should be about 1 tbsp of lime zest going in.
Squeeze in the juice of your lime and add the milk, yoghurt and vodka. Mix this together thoroughly – it will be loose and rather soupy, but a delightful vodka-lime infused batter soup. MMMMmmmm.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Now I’m not going to lie to you – I usually don’t sift. I loathe and despise sifting. However, in the interest of friend-destined cupcakes I will make a concession. Add the sifted flour (et al) to the liquids and stir it JUST until everything is combined. If you get overzealous when you’re mixing the batter for cakes and cupcakes, you face the risk of actually starting to work the gluten in the flour. That’s great for a nice and chewy bread, but leads to a dense and heavy cupcake. Have a light hand, mix gently, and stop as soon as the flour is mixed in.
Okay, one more quick stir – add in the cranberries.
Line two and a half muffin tins with paper liners and dollop a nice scoop of the batter into each one. A few notes on this process:
- The batter is quite thick and sticky, so it doesn’t look pretty when you scoop it out. You may start to worry that your cupcakes will be ridiculously deformed deep-sea-baking-monsters with hunchbacks and buck teeth. But don’t worry, they will sort themselves out in the oven.
- Be sure not to fill the liners too full because the cupcakes rise quite a bit. Aim for slightly more than 1/2 but less than 3/4 full. 2/3? Sure.
Bake the cupcakes in the center of your hot oven for 20 – 22 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester (read: toothpick or thin skewer) can be inserted and comes out clean.
And now on to my favorite part: The icing. Using an electric beater cream the butter, lime zest and salt until it’s light and soft. Add in the icing sugar and vodka, and stir on low speed until a thick paste-like icing starts to come together.
Pulse the cranberry sauce in a blender or small food processor (the Magic Bullet works beautifully for this) until it is almost completely pureed. Small flecks of ruby red cranberry skin are pretty. Giant gobs of half digested cranberries are not. Add the cranberry sauce to the icing and beat on medium speed for about a minute until it is fully incorporated. Let the icing chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before use.
Maybe it’s a good thing that there are so few pictures for this post and none were taking during the making of the cupcakes. You see, having a stand mixer and a blender that can crush bones does not necessarily mean that I’m completely kitchen equipped, and I had to resort to that most ghetto of kitchen tricks: I used a Ziplock bag to ice these puppies. Not only did I squeeze icing out of a disposable plastic bag, but I had no piping bag tip…so I cut the hole in the shape of a small ‘W’. Man. A cheapo piping bag with a set of tips (and I likely would buy a dirt cheap one because I decorate cakes once per Presidency) costs all of about $10, and yet I still persevere with my Detroit-esque maneuvers.
If you like, garnish each cupcake with a thin half sliver of lime in traditional cocktail style.
Don’t the limes look pretty and cocktail like? I KNOW! But…um…how do I say this delicately: it’s just a garnish. Please don’t eat the lime peel unless you’ve candied it first. And if you DID candy it…can I have some? Please? I love candied peel….
Vodka, cranberry, lime and baked goods. It’s almost like the planets have aligned.
And apparently I ate all of the cranberries from this cupcake in my first bite, but this is the inside. It’s a cupcake. Life is good.
PSSSSST…..you may have been wondering about the lack of pictorial documentation here. It could be that I forgot someone removed the memory card from the camera and then started baking. Again. It could also be that there is at least one more photo-free post coming your way, because that same someone doesn’t learn from her mistakes. It could be. That’s all I’m saying.