blogging with friends and secret-ingredient cupcakes

We’re shaking things up a bit here at food for fun today as I’ve invited a friend to drop by. Amb is an awesome and amazing blogger and though I’ve yet to determine exactly what her blog is about, I do know I enjoy reading it every weekday morning and it never fails to make me smile.

Amb recently asked me to help her with a project after we found we work quite well together. You’ll need background, so will send you over to her blog for that. Please do come back here to finish the story, but no rush. I’ll wait. If you’ve already been to amb’s, feel free to visit the following link to review the foods of the 1970s while you wait. (Don’t be confused–it’ll all make sense after everyone has been to amb’s.)

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Everyone back? Ready to finish our tale? Hungry? I’m sure amb will be here shortly. Did you enjoy her superfluous blog? As mentioned earlier, it always makes me smile 🙂

Speaking of smiling, I’ll warn you that amb can get a little, um, excitable. But her heart’s in the right place and if you just let her be amb, you’ll learn a thing or two about what really matters in life. She even posts the occasional food piece! Oh, here she comes now…

amb: *sound of door slamming, feet pounding* Hi Liz! I’m so excited to be here!! I’m here, and I’m starving. All this talk about how Argo gave audiences thrills in the movie theatres this year is making me thrill for a little snack of my own. I brought some friends over from Words Become Superfluous. Can they have a snack too? *amb pauses for breath* Sorry Liz, I think I regressed to my 10-year-old self for a minute there. Your young daughters would not be impressed with me! What I meant was, thanks so much for inviting us over. You have a lovely blog. May I please have something to drink with my snack? Do you have any of your famous fruit-infused water?

Liz: I do indeed have something to share. Our earlier discussion (thanks again for the invite to WBS, btw–had a blast) gave me a great idea for an Argo-licious snack. Ta-da!

the Argo-licious snack

the Argo-licious snack

amb: uhh, Liz? I can’t believe I’m questioning anything to do with free chocolate, but …. what’s the connection to Argo?

Liz: You’re the one that got me thinking on this. Argo had layers–we saw Ben in his brown shirt with its pointy collar, but he was more than just Ben in an outdated polyester suit. He was CIA. We saw what looked to be a group of Hollywood movie folk scouting for location, but digging deeper you find U.S. embassy staff running from the enemy. These people all had secrets. These cupcakes have secrets, too.

cupcakes with secrets

cupcakes with secrets

amb: *looks around a bit uncertainly* Um, I know you mean well, Liz. And I just love your blog with all the crazy-fun food, really I do. But this one leans a little more to crazy than it does fun. *voice down to a hushed whisper* I brought people with me and you want me to tell them that your cupcakes have Secrets? This is a bit wackadoo, even for me.

Liz: Sorry, amb. *shrugs and smiles* Sorry folks. I could have been clearer. These fudgy chocolate cupcakes have a secret ingredient. Crazy as it may seem, these cupcakes contain condensed tomato soup! I remember enjoying these sweet treats years ago, but couldn’t find the original recipe, so even its origins are of a mysterious and top-secret nature. But one thing that’s not top-secret is that they’re really very good and no one would identify the tomato soup without having been told first.

amb: Alright! I get it! So the perfect snack to have while you’re watching Argo is …

Liz:  Classified Top-Secret Ingredient Cupcakes 🙂 Recipe follows and I hope you enjoy. Many thanks to amb and friends for coming over. And congrats again to Mimi. (If you’re unsure who Mimi is, start over and follow the link back to amb’s. 😉 ) I’d love to have you over again, amb. We should do this again.

amb: Sounds like a plan, Liz! We’ll have to cook up another project again soon! Bye, food for fun readers! Bye, Liz!

Liz: So there you have it: My fun friend amb and a recipe for chocolate cupcakes. Am glad you dropped by for this Special Edition of food for fun and look forward to seeing you again.

Classified and Top-Secret

Classified and Top-Secret

Classified Top-Secret Ingredient Cupcakes

Icing is optional, but if you do go that route, these pair well with cinnamon-spiked cream cheese frosting.

  • 1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In medium bowl, stir together soup and baking soda.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. In mixing bowl, beat together butter and granulated and brown sugars with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Alternately beat in soup and flour mixtures just until flour is incorporated. Stir in chips just until mixed. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake cupcakes 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean and tops spring back when touched. Remove from pans to wire rack to cool. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Makes 18 cupcakes.

bacon birthday cupcakes

It’s been a crazy busy week. The girls have had end-of-school events during the day and in the evenings. I’ve had a slew of business meetings and even managed to sneak in two nights (!) of going out with friends. Tonight, we continued our busy-ness by celebrating my husband’s birthday with dinner out and a magic show. Good time had by all.

Of course his birthday also meant cake. With very little unscheduled time during the week, it would have been understandable to either buy a cake or mix one up from a box. (This is what normal people do.) But I couldn’t do either. It’s partly a matter of pride, but more so that I enjoy baking too much to give the pleasure of making a family birthday cake to someone else. And bottom line: from-scratch cakes taste too good to have anything but.

Inspiration for a birthday cake was easy to find: One of my outings this past week involved an amazing meal at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant. It finished with a wedge of chocolate-cola cake drizzled with a bourbon caramel sauce and sprinkled with candied bacon crumbles. The sauce and bacon took a decent piece of cake completely over the top and I wanted to create the same magic for my husband’s birthday. But this week, I just couldn’t make the time to bake and frost an entire cake, make a sauce, and caramelize bacon for crumbling.

In my search for a cupcake recipe for my daughter’s late-June birthday bash, I had found a chocolate doozy I wanted to try. It made sense to give the recipe a trial run and set four ‘cakes aside for my husband’s celebration. I also wanted to personalize it for him, so dropped a few peanut butter chips into the batter for those four cupcakes. (He’s a huge fan of peanut butter cups.)

A half-full can of chocolate frosting in my daughters’ baking supplies (yes, they have their own supplies) tempted me, but I really really really like homemade better. Rather than take the time to find and follow a recipe, I beat together a chunk of softened butter, handful of baking cocoa, larger handful of powdered sugar, touch of half-and-half, and dash of vanilla. Thick, rich, and yum. Remembering the amazing chocolate cake at Dakota, I crumbled a half-slice of re-crisped leftover bacon over each cupcake. This was decadence: chocolate, peanut butter chips, and bacon.

I encourage anyone who needs to pull a birthday cake (or cupcakes) off to give homemade a go. It can be done, even when you’re busy. I set ingredients out for Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling (from America’s Test Kitchen magazine, though I skipped the ganache) one night and mixed and baked in a few spare moments the next morning. Two days later, they were quickly frosted and topped. (I only had four to work with and froze the others for another day.) They were indeed “ultimate” and adding peanut butter chips and bacon made them even more so. My husband would have been fine with a storebought cake or one made from a mix. But I needed to go the extra baking mile. It was fun and satisfying and the results were amazingly delicious, more than worth any extra time it took.

from-scratch chocolate cupcake for the birthday boy

bacon on chocolate