Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes and Creative Writing for Mike's Pastry

Part of an application I filled out yesterday asked me to describe my favorite Boston restaurant in 600 words or less. I had a lot of fun writing it, so you get to read it, and then about a fantastic red velvet recipe from Warren Brown's United Cakes of America. 
I kind of felt like I was being herded like cattle. Except there was no burly cowboy riding bareback in the distance. Instead, a woman who I had pinned for a saintly grandmotherly type was elbowing her way through the crowd shouting almost-profanities. A baby was crying. A husband was barking orders from his wife on his cell phone. It was complete chaos. And no, I wasn’t at a crime scene, an Eagles game or a riot. I was fighting my way to the countertops of Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End, in hopes of a famous pastry taunting me from inside the glass. 

As a native Virginian, I guess one might call me a Southern Belle, but I was biting and scratching like the rest of the crowd. Before my first Mike’s experience, I wondered if it was worth it to brave the crowd. A cookie is a cookie right? But let me tell you what is in the little white boxes that makes people go bananas. Pride. Pride and pastry.

One foot in the door and I was sucked in by the undertow of the crowd. Fighting my way to the surface I bumped into many a stranger, none thrilled by my incoordination. After weaving in and out of the people, I managed to finally see my destination. I was at a counter! Success!

“What would you like?” she asked, chewing lime green gum on the side of her mouth. I stared blankly.

Nothing came to my mind. Wait, no. Everything came to my mind. I wanted a cupcake, a cookie, a piece of pie. My mouth gaped open and I could feel the eyes of other customers burning holes through my head. Make a decision I thought to myself. Anything.

After what felt like an eternity I managed to squeak out an answer. Oreo cheesecake was the verdict. But why order just one thing? I quickly added a peanut butter cookie and a red velvet cupcake. After all, when in Boston…

As if she knew what I was ordering beforehand, she wrapped all three desserts into one of those symbolic Mike’s boxes. The thread she tied it with literally draped from the sky. In under a minute, I was shuffled out the door and back on to the busy streets of the North End.

Though there were a few tables inside, they were eyeballed by the nearby hawk-like Bostonians looking to take out the legs of some poor tourist to get a seat. Not exactly where I wanted to indulge.

I walked all the way to the Boston Harbor to get a seat away from the crowd and noise. Overlooking the water, I unwrapped my little white box and realized for the first time that I definitely did not need all three desserts. Peer pressure will always get you.

With the sun setting, I removed each from the box and laid them on the table. Desserts had never been so desired. I never fought for a pastry, but that night was a night that would go down in history. Nearby teens gossiped about summer plans but quickly their voices were drowned out by my sighs of relief. I had survived my first Mike’s experience. Alone, but feeling accomplished, I overlooked the Boston Harbor, and gave in to the best desserts on this side of the Mississippi. Mike’s Pastry is where it’s at, so next time you are wandering Hanover Street, check it out. It will be the one that looks like a mob scene, but believe me, it is worth your time.

That red velvet cupcake was divine, but I think I've one upped it. You can find my (new favorite) recipe below. It is perfect for a casual fete, but can be fancied up as red velvet often is. I really like the frosting recipe I used, and it isn't a traditional one. Definitely try this one out! Well, I'm off to my graduation... ta ta!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Sweet Milk Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
10 oz Cake Flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
8 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
12 oz superfine granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 oz red food coloring (or try food gel, much less used)
Canned Milk Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 335 and place the rack in the middle position. Spray a cupcake pan with non-stick oil and line with paper liners.
2. Measure dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda) and wet ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar) into two separate bowls and whisk each to combine.
3. Measure butter and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixture and cream together for about 5 minutes (don't rush this process).
4. Add eggs one at a time until combined. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time. Beat in the dye.
5. Pour batter into cupcake tins and bake for 20-24 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes and allow them to cool to room temperature before frosting them.

Sweet Milk Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
3 oz unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
12 oz powedered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup evaporated milk
Pinch of Salt
1 tbsp orange juice

1. Whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat at high speed for three minutes.
2. Add milk, salt and orange juice. Beat thoroughly for 2-3 minutes. Frost or pipe onto cupcakes.


Monet said...

Jessie...what a great post! I want one of your cupcakes right now. Thanks for sharing your creativity with me tonight. I hope you have a beautiful day tomorrow. The weekend is almost here! Hugs from Austin.

The Chocolate Priestess said...

I'm not sure exactly what the job application was for but it read well. And lovely photos as always with your recipe.

Hali said...

Is the taste/texture of your sweet milk cream cheese frosting similar to the frosting on Mike's Pastry's red velvet cupcake. I've been dying to find something similar or recreate it!!

Top Alaska Brown Bear Hunts said...

These cupcakes look amazing and perfect for occasion – the deliciousness of flavours is perfectly topped by the wonderful presentation :D
Happy to have found your blog!

Marlene Detierro said...

That's a crowd pleaser if ever I heard one - it would definitely please me. Perfect for birthdays, with a little champagne alongside maybe.

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