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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Edible Imagination: Alice in Wonderland - Wacky Cupcakes + September's Book!


Sorry for the delay in when I thought I would get this posted! Cole and Kayla have been sick this week as well as about a million and one other things that all seemed to converge on us at once.  We finished the Alice in Wonderland book several days ago for our first round of the Edible Imagination, but Aidan couldn't decide what he wanted to make inspired by the story.  By the time he did, the kids were sick and thus the delay.

Before I get to much more into our review though, if you joined in the fun with Alice in Wonderland, please be sure to leave a comment with a link to your review post in the comments of this post - I can't wait to see what you came up with!

Also, if you would like to join in with us for September, this month we have decided to read The Little Prince - I really hope you'll join in the fun! We will make something and post it toward the end of September/beginning of October so there is still plenty of time to read along.

Back to Alice...

Our discussions about what to make that the book inspired us with went from the simple to the complicated and creative, but with how the rest of this week shook out we decided to keep it simple.

There were plenty of ideas to choose from though that we had a lot of fun thinking of ways to go.  Tea cakes, tarts, and of course we could have gone the tea party route, but for some reason my totally boyish boy wasn't so in to that idea.  :)

We did consider tarts for the Queen of Hearts, but the boys wanted to make cake.  Cupcakes to be exact.
We decided, that since there was so much nonsense and wackiness in Alice in Wonderland that we would try making Wacky Cake (see an explanation of Wacky Cake below, by the recipe).  Originally we wanted to make a small rectangle cake with poured fondant and put a little note on it that said, "Eat Me" in honor of the book.  To be honest, I just couldn't get my act together enough to ever get the cake made and deal with trying to make the poured fondant.

Rather than keep waiting, we decided to just make the Wacky Cake into Wacky Cupcakes that could be served at a tea party and that are about the simplest, easiest and most fun cake that a kid could make almost entirely by themselves.

We frosted the cupcakes with a simple Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream which ended up being insanely delicious, due in no small part I'm sure to the use of my Caramel Topping from Le Caramel.  I've never been enough of a fan of frosting to say I could just eat a frosting shot, but let me tell you, this frosting could change my mind!

As for our thoughts on the book, here is the run down from the boys and myself.


What Aidan (7YO) had to say:
Favorite Part: I liked that fake turtle and the dance. That was funny. (Referring to the Mock Turtle and the Griffin and the Lobster Quadrille toward the end).
Favorite Character: The Mad Hatter (said with an maniacal laugh - I really ought to video these reviews, it is quite funny)
Overall Opinion: It was weird. Good weird. I liked it. 

What Cole (almost 3YO) had to say - sort of:
Favorite Part:  All he focused on the entire book was when I made piggy snorting and squealing noises when Alice had the pig baby she took from the Duchess's house.  As soon as we would start reading every night Cole would just climb all over me and say, "Piggy says SNORT SNORT"  - I really should record this because it wasn't actually him saying 'snort' so much as him trying to snort over and over.  It is ridiculously cute and funny.

What Holly (aka Mommy) had to say:
Favorite Part:  I think I actually liked the trial at the end the best.  It kind of tied together the entire bits of nonsense through the book for me.
Favorite Character: Alice herself. She was actually an interesting and clever girl in a crazy situation with a lot of imagination.
Overall Opinion:  Overall, I liked the whole book.  I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it at all.  I never liked the Disney movie - I always thought it was weird and creepy, and not in a good way.  I never enjoyed it for the nonsense it was because I could never get past all the craziness.  I don't know if I'm just able to enjoy the nonsense more for what it is now or if I'm just old enough to see the nonsense in the Queen of Heart's constant threats. I always felt like the story was too crazy for me.  


The boys mixed the cupcake batter almost entirely by themselves.  I collected the ingredients and helped with some of the measuring while we talked about it.  They used a scoop to measure and scoop the batter in the cupcake liners.  They were also able to put all the ingredients for the frosting into the mixing bowl with very little help.  We just scooped the frosting into a big ziptop plastic bag with a plain round tip and squeezed it straight onto the cupcakes.  The boys helped with the scooping and I helped guide with the squeezing.  We didn't really feel like getting crazy with the decorating, but you could add more to gussy these cupcakes up pretty easily.

Here is what the Food Timeline has to say about the origins of Wacky Cake.

Wacky cake is an interesting study in culinary chemistry. What sets modern Wacky Cake apart from other chocolate cakes? Vinegar and method. WWI-era Dump Cakes likely provided inspiration. They do not, however, include vinegar. Depression-era Crazy cakes feature cocoa, baking soda & baking powder. No vinegar. In sum, recipes with these names vary greatly according to place and period. The connecting culinary threads are innovation, efficiency, and deliciousness.
It is interesting to note that two popular 20th century American food history books (Jean Anderson's American Century Cookbook and Sylvia Lovegren's Fashionable Food) place this recipe in the 1970s. Culinary evidence confirms this recipe existed in the 1940s. Wacky cake is but one example of the tradition of "make do" cakes that were popular during times of short supply. Contrary to popular opinion, eggless, butterless cakes were not invented at that time, they were revived from WWI days (which were revived from pioneer days). Dump Cake is another descendant of Wacky Cake in method.

Wacky Cupcakes

Adapted from recipe by Nancy Shay and Cook’s Country

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
3/4     cup sugar
1/4     cup natural cocoa powder
3/4     teaspoon baking soda
1/2     teaspoon table salt
5     tablespoons vegetable oil
1     tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1     teaspoon vanilla extract
1     cup water

Center the rack in your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line one muffin tin with cupcake liners or grease the pan or use paper souffle cups, also lightly sprayed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  

Push 1 large crater and 2 smaller craters into the dry ingredients to make holes to pour in the wet ingredients - the kids loved this part.  

Add the oil to the largest crater, then the vinegar and vanilla separately to the smaller craters. Pour the water into the bowl, and using a spoon or spatula (or whisk gently) mix the ingredients until just a few streaks of flour remain and it is mostly smooth. 

Fill the cupcakes just 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes 16 to 18 minutes until they are set and a toothpick comes out mostly clean.  The recipe makes about 12 cupcakes.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from PheMOMenon

8 oz cream cheese, softened slightly
1 stick (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup good caramel topping (I used Le Caramel)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl or stand mixer and beat, start on low so that you don't have sugar flying everywhere then turn up the speed and beat well until light and fluffy.  Pipe or scoop a large dollop of frosting on each cupcake.  Keep cupcakes refrigerated in an airtight container.  They are great cold as well as at room temperature.



Amanda said...

How fun is that?? Love it!

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Beautiful cupcakes. I've always been meaning to try out a version of those wacky cakes!

Gourmified said...

Holly! We read a version of Alice in Wonderland and had our cookie of choice picked out...the almond biscotti. Allison really wanted to have a Tea Party like the mad Hatter. Alas, all but me have had some sort of pneumonia over the last 3 weeks. It's been really tough to do any baking when NO ONE wants to eat. I've already put the Little Prince on hold at the Library and we'll definitely be participating this next month. Can't wait!!!!

Paula said...

looks absolutely fluffy!

Nance said...

I didn't find your blog until after Alice in Wonderland, but we started The Little Prince tonight and are excited to see what you bake up.

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