In October 2010, I came across a recipe for pumpkin pie cupcakes — as in, tiny pumpkin pies baked into cupcakes. It came from Bake It in a Cake, a cupcake blog then only a couple months old, and my friend Amanda and I decided we needed to try make them ASAP. We did it, and they were magical. The blog is run by Megan Seling, who has spent the last year and a half baking all kinds of candies and baked goods into cupcakes: baklava, peanut butter cups, Cadbury eggs, Whatchamacallit bars (pictured above, courtesy of Seling), the list goes on.
Her day job, though, is at Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, where she’s been working since 2000. Seling began as an intern and a columnist, covering the city’s all-ages music scene; now she still covers music, as well as other local cultural happenings. I chatted with her about what she’s been listening to, the crazy things people have made inspired by Bake It in a Cake, and the latest news about her forthcoming cookbook.
Funfetti cupcakes with water, grass and frogs
THE INSPIRATION M83‘s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was, not surprisingly, one of my favorite albums last year. In part it sort of fills the void LCD Soundsystem left when they broke up — not so much in the sound itself, but in the huge, euphoric feeling I get when I listen to them. While I love the big hits on that album, the song that’s the most memorable to me is “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” (which translates to “Tell me a story”) — it’s a little kid (a girl, I think) telling the story of a magic frog that, if you touch it, distorts your senses and eventually turns you into a frog, too. She says, “We can be a whole group of friends, a whole group of frogs” and at the end, “The biggest group of friends the world has ever seen, jumping and laughing forever. It would be great, right?” There’s also a line about how the world looks like “a giant cupcake.” The song makes me think of my group of friends, who I’ve mentioned many, many times here, but I think of how even though we’re “adults,” some of our best times involve ridiculous giggle fits and acting like kids, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.
I made these cupcakes to take to a party to celebrate a few friends who recently started new jobs (pretty badass new jobs, I should add) — in terms of “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” I thought they were appropriate for a group of friends who can act like 10-year-olds and do great things professionally. Also, the whole album is about a brother and sister and their dreams, and my friends are taking new steps in following their own dreams and goals, and making some pretty damn-good progress for mid-20somethings. In the song “Steve McQueen,” Anthony Gonzalez sings, “There’s a magic inside/ Just waiting to burst out” and “Nothing can hurt today”; and perhaps the most fitting, in “New Map” he sings, “There’s a hole in your heart, begging for adventure/ Play yourself a new track, set traps for the future.” Lastly, the rainbow colors and purple swirls on the inside are both for the way the magic frog changes your perception, and also for the album’s cover.
Vegan blood orange cupcakes with blood orange champagne buttercream
This one’s pretty simple! Blood Orange is the prolific Dev Hynes (who’s also performed as Lightspeed Champion, and has written and/or produced songs for Solange Knowles, Florence & the Machine and Theophilus London), and last year he put out an awesome dance-rock album Coastal Grooves (think TV on the Radio, Holy Ghost!, ’80s pop). The last song on the record is called “Champagne Coast,” so these cupcakes — which I made for the ETB party last week — are flavored with blood oranges, and the frosting has champagne in it. The actual cupcakes certainly could have champagne in them, too — in fact, the only reason they don’t is because I spaced out and totally forgot about it… (Maybe it was that whole “OMG I have to make a few hundred cupcakes” thing that made me forget…) So, both versions are below.
Well, you guys are AWESOME. The first-anniversary party on Tuesday night was absolutely perfect. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out — I’m still glowing and totally overwhelmed by all your support, not just this week but for the last year. I especially would like to thank Heather and JeffPine Box Rock Shop for letting a total stranger throw a party in their bar; Jocelyn, Jeremy and Emily from Pearl and the Beard for picking the tunes (come hang with me at their show on Feb. 16!); my friend Tony for helping me make 300 tiny cupcakes and keeping me sane; and the amazing Missy Kayko for lending her badass design talents to the event poster. Check out a few photos from the party below, and find the rest on ETB’s Facebook page. (All photos here by Evan Daniels except for top photo and the first two after the cut). The bar recreated Jocelyn’s Good Winter cocktail and it was amazing; and you guys made a pretty decent dent in those cupcakes… but I don’t think the eMusic office was complaining about the leftovers on Wednesday!
I’m also sharing the recipe for the vegan red wine chocolate cinnamon cupcakes I made; recipe at the bottom! (Blood orange cupcake recipe coming later…)
Pumpkin-coffee cupcakes with mocha frosting, “dirt” and bugs (recipe here)
One of my favorite records that came out this year was the self-titled debut from Brooklyn act Widowspeak, and Halloween was a perfect excuse to use it on here: Their music is full of eerie, smoky (and gorgeous) vocals, and there’s a song called “Nightcrawlers,” in which frontwoman Molly Hamilton sings, “Nightcrawlers stay up late, nightcrawlers take the blame.” I made the classic little-kid cupcakes with cookie “dirt” and bugs (specifically, gummy centipedes from Economy Candy and Willy Wonka Sluggles — possibly the cutest name I’ve ever heard for bugs), and for the lyric about staying up late I thought of caffeine (and, of course, the sugar highs kids get from their Halloween candy) and made the cupcakes pumpkin coffee-flavored with mocha frosting. Happy Halloween!
On Saturday I went to a ’90s-themed birthday party, and with the RSVP I had to include a favorite ’90s song, which made up the playlist (perhaps it’s worth noting that the party was for two music writers?). I have many favorites, but for this my pick was No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” from their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom. Just to give you the context of my personal 1990s: It was more or less my entire childhood (I was born in the late ’80s). I started watching MTV in about 1997 when Tragic Kingdom was at the height of its popularity, and the video for “Don’t Speak” won an MTV Video Music Award (it was also the year of Fiona Apple’s famous “the world is bullshit” speech; my 10-year-old self was mad that she beat Hanson for Best New Artist). So, I made cupcakes vaguely inspired by No Doubt, as well as the my ’90s in general.
“Just A Girl” is about Gwen Stefani being fed up with stereotypes of women — that we’re bad drivers, men are always gawking at us, we are all the same, and we’re supposed to be “pretty and petite.” I figured cupcakes — especially cupcakes that are, well, pretty and petite — were about the most stereotypically girly treat I could make. (And I have to say, these are probably the cutest cupcakes I’ve ever made.) I decided on orange for a couple of reasons: The cover of Tragic Kingdom has an orange tree on it, and there’s also one in the video for “Don’t Speak,” but also when I think of treats I consumed in the ’90s — particularly right after I got my tonsils removed at age 8 — I think of creamsicles. At the party, it was brought to my attention that, “Geez, Laura, creamsicles are so ’80s, too!” (and then I learned that they were actually invented long before that) — but the ’90s were when I ate them. So there! Anyway, these were a hit (enthusiastically named Best New Cupcake by an editor at Pitchfork), as was my T-shirt from my grandpa’s 75th birthday in 1995 and my Angela Chase bottlecap ring (photos below…).
Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, coated in sugar sprinkles and gold stars (recipe links at bottom of post)
THE STYLE INSPIRATION
In the past couple years, Florence and the Machine’s Florence Welch has gone from barely-known British singer to international pop powerhouse. Her debut LP Lungs got her nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy Award, and she also performed in the awards ceremony’s Aretha Franklin tribute alongside the likes of Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera. Her style is as dynamic as her music; Welch’s outfits are often either long, light and billowy, or shiny and sparkly. The cupcakes are red velvet for her fiery red hair (and also because it matches the color on her album cover), and the sparkly sugar sprinkles and gold stars are because she’s glamorous (and the gold also because of the photo below).
Pumpkin-apple-champagne cupcakes with champagne buttercream frosting (recipe at bottom of post)
You know the awkward time between between fall and winter, usually in November-ish, when you’ve had two weeks of scarves and winter coats, then all of a sudden there are a few days when it’s 50 degrees and sunny and you can get away with just a sweatshirt? Or between winter and spring, when you think the snow has finally disappeared for the year and then BAM! Another snowstorm hits and, despite the fact that it’s mid-March, you’re suddenly convinced that winter won’t end for another six weeks? Casey Dienel’s song “Cabin Fever” sums that up perfectly, as she personifies autumn as an old man with tattered clothes, and sings about Indian summers, wearing sweaters, and getting out of town.
“And we’ll toast this death of summer months, and summer warmth, and summer love.”
The cupcakes were inspired by changing seasons and new beginnings: The pumpkin and apple are obvious fall flavors, the champagne is a nod to Dienel’s lyric about toasting the end of a season, and I wanted the frosting to look at least a little bit like snow. Since I made these for a New Year’s Eve party, the champagne was even more fitting to represent new beginnings. And hey, it’s also the first post on here, so cheers to that, too!
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Before she started performing as White Hinterland, Casey Dienel released Wind-Up Canary, a quirky piano-pop record that I bought on a whim about four years ago. Her first album as White Hinterland, 2008’s Phylactery Factory, was still rooted in piano, but WH’s 2010 LP, Kairos, took more cues from R&B than Regina Spektor. It should also be noted that Casey has a really wonderful food blog, Hungry Oyster — maybe I can convince her to come over and cook with me next time she’s in town? White Hinterland on MySpace