Whenever I get the chance, I try and make a trip back home to Badger, Minn. commonly known as the mallard capital of the world.
As one of many college students, home to many of us is a place where we can bring our piles of dirty laundry, eat a few home-cooked meals, and spend time, like the old days, with our family and friends. Home to me also involves helping my parents out at their small-town hardware store, Northern Ace Hardware, located in Greenbush, Minn.
Hardware genes have been in my family for many years. My grandpa owned the store for over 40 years and my parents, the past 25.
This past Saturday, in-between helping customers and stocking shelves, my mom and I were busy preparing for an appliance sale beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. As much as we both enjoy working there, when 2 p.m. rolled around, we were both ready to get home.
But, relaxing to my mom and I is not sitting back and putting our feet up in a reclining chair. Relaxing is opening up a cookbook, preheating the oven, and stirring up something tasty.
Last Saturday, we were both craving chocolate cupcakes.
Since we didn’t have the time to make cupcakes from scratch, mom opened up her fully-stocked pantry, and carefully chose from an array of options. When I say an array of options, I literally mean as in walking into a grocery store. You name it, she has it.
After some time of listening to pots and pans clanging and hearing an occasional canned good plummeting onto the hardwood floor, I started to wonder if my mom would come out alive.
Miraculously, she did. (A few extra words may have been said in-between.)
And so the baking begins.
Out comes the stainless steel bowl, a whisk (we would normally use a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer), but a whisk is what the recipe called for), cupcake tins, and the rest of the ingredients.
Into the stainless steel bowl goes four farm-fresh large brown eggs. Every week, my mom receives a phone call or more often gets a little blonde haired visitor peeking around the corner of her office asking her how many dozen eggs she would like.
“Nothing can compare to these eggs. When I use them to bake with, everything just gets fluffier,” said mom.
The water and oil get poured into the bowl and I begin whisking; after what seemed like 20 minutes (it was more like 30 seconds), my arm starts feeling like a slowly dying hand-held mixer.
With a frothy mixture before our eyes, we then add in the chocolate cake mix and whisk until a smooth and creamy chocolate mixture appears.
Something seemed like it was missing. The recipe said it was optional to use miniature chocolate chips or chopped nuts. An ingredient was optional? I thought, chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles? Why not add some more chocolate? Is there such a thing as too much goodness? In went a cup of Nestle Toll House semi-sweet miniature morsels.
My mom started filling the rich looking (and rich tasting) batter into the bold and festive paper liners, filling them effortlessly but yet so perfectly making sure one would not be fuller than another.
As I opened the oven door, a wave of 350°F heat bellowed around my face. What followed for the next 18 to 22 minutes, seemed like eternity.
Beep, Beep, Beep. As the convection oven timer goes off, my taste buds start to water. I look into the oven to see perfectly baked chocolate cupcakes, lined with vibrant red and white Valentines papers.
We let them cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, to later finish cooling on a wire cooling rack. Temptation hit us, and soon we couldn’t tease our senses anymore. We gave in.
As my mom takes a bite out of an unfrosted, warm cupcake, I hear from my mom, Mmmm (silence). That’s (more silence), that’s heavenly.
And of course, I have to take a bite too.
Once the decadent chocolate cupcakes were completely cooled, we used a KitchenAid Hand Mixer to whip the good stuff (shortening and butter) into a smooth, creamy mixture. Then we added the contents of the frosting mix, milk, and vanilla and beat again until a light and fluffy frosting formed. (We added a little extra milk because the frosting was a little stiff).
I could feel temptation beginning again. I told my mom, “We can’t just frost the cupcakes without at least trying the frosting first. What if the frosting is not good? Then the frosting would ruin all the cupcakes.”
So I tasted it. Melting in my mouth was an irresistible rich frosting, not too overly sweet. It was heaven.
This tool works wonders. We have used it for piping frosting on desserts, as well as for many other things such as deviled eggs or twice baked potatoes. The decorator comes with six different tips making decorating artistically simple, and a cap to store leftover icing conveniently in the refrigerator.
We finished these cupcakes off with a light sprinkling of Cupids Curse.
For a special treat, mothers and daughters ca take part in a King Arthur Flour baking classes held across the country.
Valentine’s Day Chocolate Cupcakes
You will need:
4 large eggs
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1 1/3 c. water
Contents of cake mix
1 c. miniature chocolate chips or 1 c. chopped nuts, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place Red Heart Cupcake Papers into cupcake tins.
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, and water. Add the mix and stir until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and/or nuts if you are using them. Fill each paper liner 2/3 full with batter.
- Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until cupcakes test done. Remove cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes; then remove from pan(s) and cool completely on a rack.
½ c. butter, softened
½ c. shortening
½ c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Contents of frosting mix
- In a mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening until fluffy.
- Add frosting mix, milk, and vanilla and beat again.
- Fill Easy Accent Decorator, made by Pampered Chef, with chocolate frosting.
- Pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.
- Sprinkle with Cupids Curse Sprinkles.
About King Arthur FlourÂ®
According to the King Arthur Flour website, King Arthur’s primary focus since 1790 has been producing America’s purest, finest flour. They are headquartered in Norwich, Vermont with a staff of over 160 employees. King Arthur Flour, America’s oldest flour company, is one-of-a-kind because it is flour that has never been bleached or bromated.
King Arthur’s mission is to support and seek to expand all aspects of baking by being the highest quality product, information, and education resource for, and inspiration to, bakers worldwide. Our foundation is our good King Arthur flours, and our commitment is to the highest standards of excellence, value, and integrity in everything we do.