Cupcakes and Gratitude

Last Updated: March 25, 2021

When I was pregnant last year, there were so many reasons it felt like a cloud was hanging over us, the pandemic being just one of them. Most of the time we powered through, busy with work, getting the house ready for the baby, and like everyone else in the world, tracking down toilet paper and disinfecting our groceries took up 80% of whatever time was left over! The upcoming early months with the baby seemed very daunting at the time, especially since we were not going to have anyone to help out at home, so to make it fun and to have something to mark the milestones and celebrate the fact that we were “surviving” early parenthood, I planned this very special little side project: I decided that for each of our baby’s monthly birthdays (the 25th of each month), I would make a seasonal cupcake recipe, and take his picture with the cupcakes!

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Orange chocolate chunk cupcakes with chocolate frosting

A delightful citrus combination, that can be taken to the next level with the addition of orange liqueur to the cupcake batter and/or the chocolate ganache frosting! These cupcakes (which I often make into bundt cakes or mini bundt cakes with the ganache draped over, or round cakes filled with the frosting) are one of my most frequent bakes all year round – turns out many of my friends dig the chocolate and citrus combination!

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Vegan Rose and Pistachio Cake

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As much as I love vegan cake recipes, many times they involve strange ingredients (like flax eggs instead of regular eggs, or things like tapioca starch, and so forth). It’s most likely my ignorance on the matter because folks make wonders with these things, but my problem with them is the fact that they are substitutions, and not organically vegan.

I usually draw the line at using an extra banana or two instead of eggs in a banana-based baked good, like a banana bread, or a double chocolate banana bread, or pancakes and waffles, but beyond that I don’t find it appealing at least at this point. Which is why I was so happy to find this inherently vegan cake recipe in a handout I got at a cooking class somewhere in the Caribbean, and then spotted a variation of it on smitten kitchen!

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Kesar Pista (Saffron & Pistachio) Cake

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This cake came to be because a friend happened to order Kesar Pista Kulfi (Indian ice cream infused with saffron and ground pistachios, chilled in an earthen pot) without realizing the consequences of her actions. You see, I expressed my interest to bring dessert to a Diwali party and the Kesar Pista (Kesar = Saffron, Pista = Pistachio) ice cream had already been ordered. I figured I would bake something that’ll “go” with the ice cream, but one thing let to another after I saw this loaf, and a Kesar Pista cake was born for all future parties, Diwali and otherwise.

This is a saffron- and cardamom-infused riff on the Pistachio Cake by Smitten Kitchen. I used a saffron syrup that is easily available in India and likely some Indian/Middle-eastern grocery stores in the United States, but don’t fret if you can’t find it – just infuse the milk with regular saffron. You can do so by scalding the milk (warm it in a saucepan and turn off the heat before a simmer sets in), adding 2-3 big pinches of saffron to it, stirring it gently and letting it cool completely before using in the recipe below.

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Woof!

Dog lovers unite for this ultra-cuteness fest! It’s a shame dogs can’t eat chocolate, because these guys seem to be having an awesome time playing in a Chocolate Dog Park! My friend requested a “dog park themed cake with maybe a dog that looks like Koby (their pet dog)” for her then-2-year old son. I may have gone a li’l bit crazy after I figured out how to make one dog.

Of course my inner (and outer) engineer first decided to make a “test” dog. It was quite ugly and scary looking. From there on, it was just youtube video after youtube video on making dogs, and cats, and various animals, and the thing that makes dogs look adorable and goofy isn’t their body/face shape or even the eyes – its the tongue and the ears!

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