When someone asks me to bring the dessert, I get giddy. I imagine fudgy chocolate cakes, creamy panna cotta, or chewy chocolate chip cookies flecked with rosemary and sea salt (thank you Bakeri for that one!).

You see, I live with someone who has whatever the opposite of a sweet tooth is (salt tooth?). I don’t get to bake as much as I like because I will be the only person interested in eating it. So one of the only times I make dessert is if someone asks. Lately I’ve been dying to try all sorts of recipes (lemon olive oil cake or strawberry rhubarb mousse anyone?), so I’ve resorted to inviting myself to parties or hosting them myself just to try something new.

A friend was having a birthday party recently and asked me to bring something sweet. Being Saturday, I was feeling inspired to put some time and thought into preparing something. I cracked open my Essential New York Times cookbook, a lovely gift from my step-mother for Christmas this year. I won’t admit how long I pored over the four, yes four, different dessert chapters. Let’s just say I started on Friday.

I decided on the decidedly grown-up sounding Molasses Cup Cakes with Lemon Icing, originally published in 1948. Despite the fact I still don’t have a microplane for zesting, I soldiered on. It was worth it.

For the Cupcakes

2 c sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c vegetable shortening
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
Grated zest of 1 lemon

For the Icing

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I cut this amount in half to just over 1 c)
2 tsp whole milk or cream
3/4 tsp lemon extract

1. Heat oven to 350, line 12 cupcake molds. Sift the first five dry ingredients together.
2. Melt the shortening and let cool.
3. Add the sugar, molasses, and egg to the shortening, and beat well. Gradually add the milk, alternating with the flour mixture. Add the lemon zest. Fill the cupcake papers with the batter 3/4 full.
4. Bake about 16 mins. or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool.
5. For the icing, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beating well. Add enough milk so it’s the right consistency for spreading, and ice the cupcakes once they’re cooled.

Add beeswax birthday candles. Can be found here.

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