Our 2013 Burns Night Supper was a rousing success. It was a great reminder of what a wonderful, loyal, hilarious group of friends we have. The Chef and I spent months assembling every piece of the puzzle: the menu, music, guest list, drinks, poetry, toasts. Finally, on 25th January, everything locked into place: we had an amazing time. Once our friends started arriving, I more or less put my camera down for the night. Good photos are in short supply, but I plan on posting a video of the winning toast soon. To make up for lack of photographic evidence that the party, indeed, took place, I have decided to share my famous cupcake recipe. These cupcakes are, to be honest if a bit immodest, scrumptious. After concocting this dessert, I spent 2+ years refining the method and ingredients. Now you, dear readers, can benefit from my diligence. A few words of warning, however: one taste, and your friends and family will pounce on your cupcakes like a pack of wild beasties, leaving behind nothing but shreds of cupcake liners, pools of drool, and their dignity. The Burns Night revelers would tell you as much
VANILLA-BLUEBERRY-BACON CUPCAKES WITH CARAMEL ICING AND BLUEBERRY COMPOTE* (Makes 24 cupcakes)
Fear not: although this recipe is comprised of three components, with each one made entirely from scratch, it is easy. Trust me. Because of setting time, we’re going to cook backwards and assemble forwards.
- 2 cups of frozen blueberries, reserving the rest of the blueberries in the package for later
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
In a small sauce pan, combine 1 cup of blueberries and all of the water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Add the second cup of blueberries and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the burner, transfer to a heat-proof dish, cover, and cool. I put it in the fridge once it has sufficiently cooled and let it set for 3 or 4 hours.
MY GREAT-GREAT AUNT CLARA’S CARAMEL ICING
- 1/2 cup of margarine
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of milk
- Confectioner’s sugar
Using a large sauce pan, combine and cook the margarine and brown sugar for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. This usually takes a couple of hours. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add Confectioner’s sugar until the icing has reached a spreading consistency. Cover, and refrigerate to set. Be sure to pull it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before spreading on cupcakes, so that it is not too stiff. FUN TIP: Because this stuff is more potent than some street drugs, I always make a double batch. It goes great with slices of apple and pear (you will never use store-bought caramel apple dip again) and, as I witness guests at every party do, it can also be eaten straight with a spoon.
TATTLETAIL’S VANILLA CUPCAKES (AMY SEDARIS’ RECIPE)
Although any homemade vanilla cupcake recipe will do as the base, I always use Amy Sedaris’. Not only is it easy and delicious, it is Amy Freaking Sedaris’. What more do you need to know? That I am not a fan girl, but a FAN GIRL? She is my wacky poster lady of ridiculously sublime awesomeness. If you don’t love her, you’ll at least love this recipe.
- 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 1/2 cups of flour
- 1 1/4 cups of milk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium until it is smooth. Add sugar, and beat well. Add the eggs, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla, baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Beat until it becomes smooth and creamy. The steps will look something like this:
This is where the magic begins: blueberries and bacon and caramel, oh my! I use thick-cut bacon. 10-12 slices will do, depending on how meaty you want your cupcakes. Cook them to your preferred specifications and set aside.
A funny side note: I was veg for a decade and now make desserts with bacon. Didn’t see that one coming…However, I still hate the smell of bacon, and have The Chef prepare it for me. Weird, I know. Let’s add the blueberries. Stir in half of the blueberry compote, using a spoon. Take the reserved blueberries left over from the compote, and dump them in, too. This may seem odd, but I think the combination of compote and plain blueberries is the best flavour-wise.
Assembly time! Line your cupcake pan with pretty papers. Fill each cup about half-way with batter; I’ve found that using 2 measuring spoon tablespoons is ideal. Tear the bacon into bite-size pieces and stick into each cup. I use 2-3 pieces. Cover with one more tablespoon of batter, smoothing the tops evenly so no bacon shows. Like this:
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Be sure to take the Caramel Icing out of the fridge to let it become pliant enough to use. Decorate each cupcake with icing, and finish them off with a dollop of Blueberry Compote and a piece of bacon. PRACTICAL TIP: It is best to drain off the compote before using it to decorate the cupcakes.
It was worth the wait, right?
*A LITTLE BACKGROUND INFO ON THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS RECIPE: The Vanilla-Blueberry-Bacon Cupcakes with Caramel Icing and Blueberry Compote recipe is my version of blueberry waffles with a side of bacon. I chose the vanilla base for its mildness and adaptability; the Caramel Icing is a stand-in for maple syrup. It really captures the flavour of the inspiration in surprising ways. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. If you make the recipe, be sure to come back here and let me know what you think.