The night before Hurricane Sandy arrived, the transit workers started shutting off the subway system in the city and the commuter rail lines. That's when I started to take this a little more seriously. That night, I was finishing up left over blog posts on pumpkins and making cupcakes. One thing that you should know about me if you don't already, I make cupcakes whenever I'm nervous or stressed. I find it calming.
Since it was the weekend before Halloween it seemed appropriate to make Halloween-themed cupcakes. And as we had just been to a pumpkin patch the week before, I decided to make pumpkin patch themed cupcakes.
I had lying around some miniature silicone pot-shaped containers, each about the size of a mini muffin, which were oven safe. So I figured, why not make mini-cupcakes in these pots, and then decorate them as pumpkin plants. Who wouldn't like to receive their own personal tiny pot filled with a chocolate mini cupcake, hazelnut crumbs, and a buttercream pumpkin plant on top?
So this is what I was doing before the storm. Then Monday came and everything was shut down, but nothing was happening weather-wise, the hurricane was still hundreds of miles away. Then, towards the evening, the wind started to pick up and that's when things got scary. We watched the news showing water levels rising, aided in part by the pull of the full moon. Then we lost power, as did most of everyone else in New Jersey and New York. We didn't regain it until late last night (just over 48 hours, which is extremely fortunate given that there are still thousands of people out of power).
For many work and school was cancelled. We got a few days off from technology as well and were forced to entertain ourselves without availment of the luxuries provided by electricity. So in case you're in need of any ideas of how to entertain yourself during a black-out, here is a recipe.
Stock up on items with a long shelf life, like beans and wine. Efficient flashlights can double as a light source when the sunlight starts receding and you realize how ineffective ten enormous candles can be in comparison to a single forty watt lightbulb. Then, come up with a list of activities. Ours were, in no particular order: a capella karaoke, reading a play out loud with funny accents and gender roles reversed, trying to make gourmet meals exclusively out of foods with shelf-life of one year or longer while holding a flash light, and charades.
Also, stuffing our faces with the mini cupcakes to prevent them from spoiling during said activities.
And so the blackout, while we made the most of it, swallowed Halloween whole. But it wasn't cancelled. Instead, Halloween got officially postponed. I am absolutely enamored by our governor, because on top of dealing with one of the state's worst disasters, instead of canceling Halloween altogether, he signed an executive order officially making Halloween this Monday, November 5th.
So folks, whether you've been affected by the hurricane or not, there is still time to make these cupcakes. Because cupcakes are bound to make things brighter, power or not.
Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes
(makes 12 regular or 24 mini-cupcakes)
Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup soy or regular milk
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 12 muffin pan, or two 12 mini-muffin pans with fluted liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl beat together butter and sugar until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low, add flour and milk in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined. Fold in the nuts. Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
3. Bake the cupcakes 25-30 minutes (20-25 minutes for mini cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
2 sticks butter, slightly softened
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1. Beat together butter, confectioner's sugar and vanilla until creamy and stiff, about 3 minutes. Divide the frosting evenly among 3 bowls. Add orange food coloring to one, add greed food coloring to the second, and leave the third white. Cover each bowl with a moist paper towel (to prevent from drying) and plastic wrap until ready to frost.
2. In a food processor, process hazelnuts into crumbs.
3. To decorate the cupcakes, spread a bit of the white frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle with hazelnut crumbs to cover the cupcake. Then pipe the orange frosting using a large rounded tip to form a small ball on top of each cupcake. With a tooth pick, draw lines to resemble segments of a pumpkin. Pipe leaves using the green frosting with a leaf tip. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!