Tuesday, September 1, 2009

cupcakes in the country

Last weekend, Dan and I found ourselves driving on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway. We were lost, but not so lost that we were outright admitting it. Instead, we cursed our Google map, the pickup trucks bearing down on us, and the lack of visible road signs pointing out our destination, our friend Megan's wedding. The side of the road blurred green as we sped along, no signs, no stores, just a few houses spread out along the highway here and there. Our frustrations turned to the residents of whatever town we were passing through. What do people do here? How can you live way out here in the sticks? Where is the 24-hour Korean deli? Where can you get good cup of coffee? We felt about as far away from Brooklyn as we could get.

Fully accepting that we were lost, we eventually found a gas station and some helpful locals who told us to turn the car around and drive a short spell up a hill. We weren't that far away after all. We quickly thanked them and hopped back in the rental car. I didn't have time to ask them what they did for fun, as the wedding was about to start any minute. After a few harried turns down a winding residential road, we rounded a corner and came upon what appeared to be a county fair, and saw Megan walking down a hill on the arm of her father. At that point, we started running. Me, in heels, down a gravel path.

I've been to quite a few weddings, including my own. Each one is completely unique, a reflection of a couple, their taste, their faith (or lack of), and their families' expectations. There is also food, which is equally revealing. When Dan and I got married in South Florida, we wanted food that reflected the area and the Cuban restaurant where we re-met. There were mini Cuban sandwiches, marinated pork loin, and margaritas. Fried plantains and black beans and rice. Miniature Key lime pies and chocolate cupcakes. I took more care and interest in planning the menu than choosing my dress, or the flowers. In my eyes, my wedding was the biggest dinner party I had ever thrown. Even though I wasn't doing the cooking.

Megan and Butch's wedding was an old-fashioned hoe-down in a pasture, obviously inspired by the area. They hired a bluegrass band, set up a music station complete with jugs and washboards, and draped red, white, and blue banners around the fenced-in area. I sat on a bale of hay, which is something you don't see very often. Or, ever. Hence the photo.

Dinner was just as thoughtfully planned. A local restaurant made a Southern-style buffet of pulled pork sandwiches, chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and hush puppies. And, happily, a lot of barbecue sauce options. I love barbecue sauce. Everyone lined up and loaded down their plates, eating at picnic tables and homemade checkerboards as the sun went down. The food was very good--homey and filling, especially the mac and cheese. Eating outside with a plate on your lap always tends to make food taste better.

But my favorite part of the menu came later. On a long table, there were dozens of cupcakes made by Megan herself. There were so many that they filled the entire table, tray after tray of hand-frosted lemon and vanilla. How she found time to bake hundreds of cupcakes days before her wedding (and go canoeing, and introduce her parents to her in-laws, and set up a music-making station, and get her nails done, and probably remind Butch of a dozen odd things he had to do, the list goes on and on) is beyond me.

Megan is a great cook and baker, and the cupcakes were absolutely perfect--all soft, airy cake and sweet buttercream. I took my time eating one, not my usual way of eating cupcakes, but I wanted to really enjoy it. I wanted to savor it all, really. Being in the middle of nowhere, seeing my friend all dressed up and kicking her heels to the band, dancing under the stars with strangers and old friends.

Amy Sedaris' cupcakes
Megan said she used a recipe from Amy Sedaris, author of the awesome I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. The story goes that Amy started selling cupcakes to pay for food and supplies for her rabbit, Tattletail. The cupcakes became so popular at New York City bakeries that she expanded into cupcake (and cheese ball) catering with Dusty Food Cupcakes, a company named after her second rabbit, Dusty. If you know anything about Amy Sedaris this won't sound strange at all. Some of the cupcakes were vanilla, others were lemon with bits of lemon zest in the frosting. To get the lemon flavor, I'd estimate using the juice of one lemon in the batter, reserve the zest for the frosting.
(Makes about 2 dozen...or 18, if you are Amy.)

For the cupcakes:
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups sugar

2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat the butter and sugar, then add the other ingredients. Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I get 18, 'cause I'm doing something wrong.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 box Domino confectionary sugar
¼ cup half-and-half
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip for a while, color if you want.


Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

If you ever make it out to western PA, I will show you TONS of hay bales! And even hay wheels!

Colin P. Delaney said...

I still dream about those mini-Cubans sandwiches at your wedding...

Unknown said...

The cupcakes look great. Thanks for sharing the recipe. You looked like a natural on that bale of hay.

Lisa said...

Casey: Yes, I think I need more hay bales in my life.

CPD: Thanks! I think of them too.

Tender Branson: Thank you. I didn't feel like a natural but it was fun. I may buy a bale of hay for my desk.

Ulla said...

you are so pretty! what fun! i love cupcakes!:)

Daniel said...

Does anyone else like the sound of a Korean grocery with hay wheels and mini cuban sandwiches?

Pink of Perfection said...

this wedding takes my breath away -- so sweet, so uniquely of the couple. thanks for all the great pictures, lisa. and you look gorgeous-o, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Is Geronimo munching on Virginia peanuts now?

Lisa said...

Daniel: Why are you always pitching business concepts here?

POP: Yes, it was a really special day. And so unique.

Anony: From what I hear, Geronimo is in his native state of Virginia, possibly eating peanuts. I wanted him to be the ring bearer but Megan was worried he would be eaten by a hawk or some other bird of prey.

Unknown said...

I grew up in Virginia. I miss it dearly.

I'm glad you had a great time in my home state.

Lisa said...

Nikkilooch: I did! I really liked Richmond a lot. I love all of the old buildings and houses and all the people we met were very nice.

Ellen said...

What a COOL wedding idea! Some people are so creative. I went to a wedding that was a bit fancier, but the food was low-key: mini burgers and fries, quesadillas, warm doughnuts for dessert—basically every yummy food you'd want to eat if you had your choice, especially while simultaneously consuming massive amounts of alcohol! Your wedding menu sounded awesome as well...people always remember the food--I know I do!



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