Back in early spring, when I bought a ticket to my first food blogging conference, I did so knowing that I would be going solo. Meaning, while I recognized some names of people on twitter who’d be going, in addition to some of the big wigs, I didn’t actually know a soul who would be there. Which, I discovered, can make finding a roommate to split the $150/night hotel a bit of a challenge.
The conference website had a page where you could post wants such as these, but I was reticent. I’m old, I’m crotchety, I’m an introvert. What if I landed a super-chatty roommate, or a party-er, or an insomniac who spent all night watching Lifetime movies?* I hemmed and hawed, tried to find roommates indirectly through friends-of-friends — but in the end I just had to bite the bullet and present myself vulnerable on the equivalent of a want-ads page.
I first wrote a girl who didn’t respond (insert feelings of paranoia) — but then my second attempt landed an immediate response from Christianna. A media producer from L.A., I tried to reign in my fears: in her photo she looked not a day older than 19. What in the world would I have in common with a 19-year old? Would she even have a category for the fact that I sleep with earplugs and white noise?
My anxieties completely unfounded, she was a delightful roommate. While her photo was a bit deceiving, in person she still barely looked 30, much less just two years my junior — and while she was probably a bit more
normal social than I (translation: actually stayed up past 11 o’clock each night), she never once performed a keg-stand in our hotel room (or anywhere, as far as I know). As a bonus, she didn’t even turn on the television.
On her blog, Burwell General Store, she hosts a wonderful blog hop each month: The Recipe Swap. Christianna found a vintage cookbook at a thrift store, and from it selects a recipe to be reinvented — updated to modern tastes, while still honoring the original spirit of the book, one that encouraged community and fellowship. I’ve been wanting to participate in this swap for months — ever since our first email exchanges. Once, I actually got around to making something — but it was a resounding failure, and I was so deflated I didn’t even have the energy to record the mess.
This month’s recipe was for Sorgham Molasses Cookies: a basic cookie recipe sweetened with molasses, spiced with cinnamon and ginger, spiked with cold coffee. The week I was churning this recipe, it just so happened I was invited to a Cupcake Swap held spontaneously by a friend in town — and since these days I can usually manage to only tackle projects that inherently kill two birds with one stone, and those cookie flavors lend themselves so well to cupcakes, I plunged ahead.
Like eating gingerbread with a cup of coffee, they were successful enough to make the cut. My only caveat being — since they are full of all those fall flavors, it felt a bit jarring enjoying them on a sweltering hot August evening. The cake looks deceptively like chocolate, and since fall spices were the last thing a taster was expecting, the reaction was always one of surprise.
Kind of like me, being surprised by Christianna. Looking at her picture, and filling in my own story of what it might be like to room with her, I was putting her into a box of a season. How glad I was that I was wrong, and how I hope my lesson was learned.
* Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Recipe: Spiced Molasses Cupcakes with Mocha Buttercream
: makes one dozen
Sucanat is an unrefined dried cane juice sweetener, available in health food stores (also marketed under brand Rapadura) — it retains much molasses flavor, so supports the liquid molasses in the recipe. You can substitute brown sugar if sucanat is not available.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup sucanat (see note)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350º, and line a standard muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- Add the butter, molasses, egg, and milk. Beat at medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix by hand until no flour pockets remain.
- Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a center muffin comes out clean. Remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before icing (recipe following).
Recipe: Mocha Buttercream
: makes about 2 cups, or enough to ice 12 cupcakes
- 4 tsp instant coffee or espresso
- 4 tsp warm water
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- pinch table salt
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, each stick cut into quarters
- 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
- In a small cup, dissolve the coffee in the warm water. Set aside.
- Combine eggs, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the mixture to 160º on an instant-read thermometer.
- Beat eggs on medium-high using the whisk attachment until light and airy and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time. The mixture will curdle at first but will become smooth during final mixing.
- After all butter is added, add the dissolved coffee. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute, until smooth and all ingredients are well-mixed.
- Stop the mixer and add the cooled chocolate. Return again to high speed and mix until fully combined.
- Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.