You’d like. You’ve dozed off, and in the world of dreams people communicate with a few basic words: unfortunately, if only, because, I’d like. That’s how the party starts, the traffic jam in the streets. The dust. The rain. The firefly hunt.
-Amanda Michalopoulou (I’d Like)
If I remember correctly, on some form of online communication I made a bold statement that, when my chapter was finally done (if such a dream were ever to occur), it would rain cupcakes. And I’m happy to report, at long last, that my cupcake cloud has burst!! Granted, the storm was a little early–earlier than expected–and preceded the completion of the chapter, but, you know, you just can’t predict the weather these days. Storms arrive early, sometimes never occur at all and, often when you least expect it, the sun shines and delivers a seemingly as if ordered-by-mail kind of day. Those days are my favorites. And when they are accompanied by cupcakes–chocolate pistachio or lemon blueberry with cream cheese frosting–it’s all the better.
Best of all is that I finished the chapter on the eve of the Greek’s birthday, which meant that we could well and truly enjoy the day, free of pesky obligations and nagging concerns. We had a lovely brunch at the Mixing Bowl, an old haunt of mine where I used to go to study on Sunday afternoons…I’ve always liked both their coffee and their food; the bread pudding french toast has made me think that I need to reinstate my old Sunday habit. You know, at least occasionally.
And then we went to the beach or, more accurately, the lake. Lake Temescal is both beautiful and peaceful, surrounded by a park, picnic area and a large swath of sand where lake-goers can camp out and pretend they’re at the beach. Swimming is also a possibility if you, unlike me, aren’t afraid of chilly water or the nippy breeze that would greet you upon returning to your towel. Naturally, while the Greek swam (you can’t keep a Mediterranean out of the water), I took pictures and read both my book and the New York Times, which, after their recent switch to limiting you to 20 articles a month, I decided I could subscribe to–at least on Sundays.
And, after roasting on the beach (I kid you not when I say that the backs of my legs are now scarlet, while the front is still milky white; so much for proper tanning/burning know-how. Sunscreen would have been smart, but the dissertation had stolen all of my brain power), we returned to my apartment to make a pretty tasty dinner–the kind of thing that one just wants to eat after a day of lolling in the sun: yummy, yummy steak, cooked to a perfect medium, and, for both flavor and health, spiced coconut spinach, courtesy of 101 Cookbooks. Needless to say, Heidi was onto something with this recipe: I slightly modified it since I had only brown mustard seeds, no shallots and safflower, instead of sunflower, oil, but, you know what, it was still the perfect side. Popeye would have been over the moon. Definitely beats the canned stuff!
And then it was dessert time: while it’s a true fact that I had originally baked these cupcakes for an end-of-semester, “I just finished writing my whole dissertation, graduated and some of my friends took exams and passed them, too” garden party, hosted by a dear friend who beautifully writes about cellos, music and literary pursuits here (they were even her pick; she has remembered them fondly ever since they made their debut back in the summer of 2007), they were also the Greek’s birthday cake (don’t worry! He is not being cheated in any way; his real cake will be made this weekend). What extra batter didn’t fit into the cupcake pans, I put in a bread pan and then made them into mini cake bites, kind of like whoopie pies, but without the roundness of the whoopie.
But who cares about shape and size when you’re talking about a light and airy lemon cake, pleasantly dotted with fresh blueberries and topped with cream cheese, powdered sugar goodness? Welcome to the taste of summer! It just so happens that it’s finger-lickin’ good.
Yields 24 delightful cupcakes + batter for a few more, or for cake bites
Again inspired by Chockylit
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon (be sure to wash it before zesting!)
about 1 cup blueberries
-Preheat oven to 375.
-Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
-Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
-Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
-Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
-Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and beat to combine.
-Then, add about a half of the milk and beat to combine.
-Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
-Add the lemon juice and lemon zest, beat to combine.
-Add blueberries and carefully fold into the batter with a spatula.
-Scoop into cupcake papers about half full.
-Place cupcakes in the oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 packages cream cheese (16 oz)
about 2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. lemon extract
-Cream the butter in a large bowl.
-Add the cream cheese and beat it until incorporated.
-Add the lemon extract and about half the powdered sugar and mix.
-Mix in the remaining powdered sugar.
-Frost the cupcakes and then, according to your tastes, you can either sprinkle some more powdered sugar on top and top it all off with a blueberry or consider your work done and the fun about to begin!