Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cupcake, Surprise!

At my apartment building (inhabited by artists and other ne'er do-wells) there are often little parties, and every couple of months we hold some sort of competition. The first month we lived here, I won the cake contest. Several months later, Jason won the Chili cook-off. The following October, we carved some amazing 3-D jack-o-lanterns, using linoleum carving tools and a relief technique. We lost the contest (and also the coveted trophy we'd owned for nearly a year) to a lime, after our apartment manager reminded everyone that we'd won the last two contests. 

Determined to win the trophy back, I baked the most delicious cupcake sized lemon meringue pie-lets for a Pie Contest, but lost the trophy yet again when it was decided that not enough people had showed up for the judging. 

And so, angry at being robbed of the chance to redeem myself, I hatched a revenge plot when the next cake bake-off was announced. I had found a recipe for sauerkraut fudge cake, and thought that would be a fun, and possibly repulsive thing to make. I figured if I wasn't going to win, it would at least be funny to make unsuspecting neighbors eat such a thing. Additionally, it was the weekend before St. Patrick's day, so I thought the recipe was kind of thematic. I could not find a single review of the cake, so I had no idea what to expect. Since then, I have found several reviews on, as well as similar recipes that do not call for three separate mixtures. 

Anyway, I promised I would document this experiment and report back. So, without further ado, I present the making of what I like to call "German Irish Fudge Cakies".

You can see the three separate mixtures here: egg yolks and sauerkraut (it's important to rinse the kraut, or your cakes actually will be kind of gnarly), creamed butter and sugar, and the dry flour and cocoa mix. 

As is common with baking, you need to alternate small amounts of the sauerkraut and flour mixture in order to ensure the mixture is creamy and thoroughly but not over beaten. Otherwise, too much gluten is produced and your baked goods will be rubbery instead of delicious and fluffy.

I made a combination of both cupcakes and mini-bundts. I have noticed that, when given the option, people often choose mini-bundts about 90% of the time. I don't know why. Is it because most adults don't love frosting anymore? Is it because cupcakes are getting played out? Is it because no one ever knows what to do with the cupcake wrapper? All I know is, I never have mini-bundts lefts at the end of a party. 

At this point, I tried the batter, and it tasted exactly like chocolate covered sauerkraut.  It was crunchy and pickled and not at all appetizing. I was a little disappointed that all this effort was going towards making something that tasted so literal. I wanted to be surprised; I wanted this to be some sort of metaphor for the experience of living. Like, "Don't be afraid to try things that scare or concern you." Instead, I was learning the lesson, "Things are precisely what you expect them to be, and chocolate sauerkraut is exactly as repulsive as it sounds. Sucker!"

So, while they were baking, I half-heartedly prepared a frosting, using whatever I found in my kitchen, since I had completely forgotten about this part. This meant banana rum, coffee yoghurt, instant coffee, cocoa, powdered sugar and water. Mostly, I added the rum to get rid of it, because what the heck else can you do with something like that?

The only problem I have with baby bundts is that you have to cut off the bottom in order for them to sit right, otherwise they are slightly reminiscent of Weeble-Wobbles. On the other hand, this is an excellent opporunity to taste your creation before others, so after cooling for a minute, that is exactly what I did. It was then that I discovered I was not to be disappointed. Something about the baking changed the taste completely. The kraut softened up so that it just created an extra texture within the fluffy cake, and reminded me of German chocolate cake, without so much sweetness. I frosted the little guys and sprinkled some crushed instant coffee on top before taking them off to competition.

I did mention there was a secret ingredient, which most tasters assumed was coffee. Right before voting, I admitted it was actually sauerkraut, and proceeded to earn a completely respectable third place finish. Considering I baked these attempting bitter revenge, I don't know whether that means they were a success or a failure. 

So, there, I guess, is your metaphor?

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