So [peeking out from under my blankets] is the cupcake craze over? ‘Cause, peeps, I just couldn’t get behind that one. (And the cupcake cake? Don’t get me started — totally. not. going. there.)
I know, I know. A cupcake is just a mini cake — what kind of a loon wouldn’t like a mini cake?
Here’s the thing: it’s not the taste, it’s the packaging. From making to transporting to peeling to eating, the effort-expended-to-eating-enjoyment ratio just doesn’t stack up and can’t compare to picking a cookie or brownie off a tray and shoving it in your mouth, all quick and sneaky like. Or digging into an adult sized piece of cake, on a plate … with a fork. If that makes me a loon, then I don’t want to be … a … uh … non-loon.
You love the cupcake? That’s cool. It’s nothing personal, man.
You love the cupcake cake? Well, I’m not sure we can be friends. I’ll give it a shot, but I’m thinking it won’t work out. It’s not you, it’s me. (Right … it’s totally not me….)
3 5 7 reasons for being happy to wave adios to the cupcake craze:
- They’re awkward to eat. Is it possible to eat a cupcake without getting icing all over your fingers and/or your cheeks and/or the tip of your nose? (Sure, it sounds like something you actually wouldn’t mind, but in reality, the big schmear of chocolate icing on your chin happens at the office potluck, when the corporate army of vice presidents are standing around making fun of everyone who isn’t a vice president. (And, yes, that would be you, Chocolate Schmear. VPs don’t eat cupcakes in front of the proles. Because of, you know, the schmear factor.))
- Crumbs on your shirt. Crumbs on the girl-shelf. Crumbs in your lap. As if the schmear wasn’t tacky enough.
- The proportion of cake-to-icing is never right. You didn’t even notice the schmear because the fillings in your teeth were on fire from the two-inch-thick layer of icing.
- I lose my cupcake decorating mojo after the 6th one; by number 14, I’ve nicknamed every cupcake using words I can’t print here. (My nightmare job: Magnolia Bakery, the Cupcake Cake Division*.)
- One layer of cupcake paper is not enough to hold back the grease seeping through, yet two layers of paper are clumsy and annoying, as the outer layer always separates from the inner.
- Transporting enough cupcakes for more than, say, 24 people is an exercise in advanced logistics.
- The humble cupcake led to the invention of the cupcake cake, the continued existence of which should cause the baking world to hang its head in shame.
Cue the dessert in a jar.
Just a fad? Undoubtedly. But SoupAddict has fallen for it. Head over heels.
Because you know what this reminds me of, digging deep into a jar of goodness with a long spoon, scraping the sides to get every last morsel?
That’s right. Peanut butter. Right out of the jar. Oh, the childhood memories of the peanut butter jar. My family thought I couldn’t reach the shelf where they kept it. But I knew where the step stool was, and how to use it.
For s’mores, the mason jar packaging solves the problems inherent with (although probably beloved by some, I’ll grant) s’mores in their natural state: melty chocolate and sticky gooey marshmallows busting out of their graham cracker confines = same objections as cupcakes.
(Although you will never catch SoupAddict complaining about a s’mores cake, no sir.)
Just look at these lovelies. I had a hard time deciding between chocolate cake and brownies for the chocolate portion of these hybrids. Ultimately, chocolate cake won out.
But. I decided to under-bake the cake so that it was still a little gooey on the inside. Good move, SoupAddict, brilliant move! (Note that it was still baked to an egg-safe temperature of 160°F in the center.)
A cute and, I suspect, stunningly rich variation: use 4 ounce jelly jars and instead of chocolate cake, whip up a batch of ganache, flavoring it with your favorite liqueur (um, hello, Kahlua). (Sure, you can do this with pint jars, too. Serious chocolate coma would follow, I think. But, sure, it’s an option.) No baking required; just heat until the marshmallows mushroom out of the jar like … well … like a cupcake.
You know what else? You can totally make these ahead. As in, the day before. (Lids!) Leave ‘em out on the counter, and everything. Reheat them in the microwave (if you don’t want to turn on the oven), and, if you haven’t toasted the marshmallows yet, just place them under the broiler for a few minutes. Done and done [and the crowd goes wild].
S’mores in a Jar
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 50 minutes
Yield: Fills 4 one-pint mason jars
Graham cracker crust:
12 sheets of graham crackers (4 crackers per sheet) (when roughly crumbled, about 2 cups)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Dash of salt
adapted (to cut the cake recipe in half) from King Arthur Flour. This recipe includes a delicious chocolate ganache (the “filling”), if you’d rather use that than the cake.
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) Instant ClearJel® or cornstarch
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of your favorite dark chocolate, chopped and divided (optional)
16 large campfire-style marshmallows, divided (4 to a jar)
4 extra large gourmet marshmallows (the kind that come boxed and are cut in large rectangles)
Preheat oven to 350°F
To make the crust: Pulverize the graham crackers in a food processor. Remove any large chunks that escaped the blades. Dump the crumbs in a bowl and drizzle with about 3/4ths of the melted butter. Add salt, and stir until well combined. The crumbs should stay in place when pressed or squeezed. If still crumbly, add the remaining butter and stir. Divide evenly among the four jars and use the blunt end of a tool or handle to tamp the crumbs firmly into place.
To make the cake: Briefly whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. The batter will be very loose. Spoon or pour into the jars, dividing as evenly as possible. Top cake batter with chopped chocolate, if using.
Place jars in a large pan and add about an inch of water (a regular 9 x 13″ cake pan works great here). (The water bath will help keep your glass jars from cracking.) Place in preheated oven.
Bake 40 – 50 minutes. If under-baking, use a instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature at the center of the cake. It should register at least 160°F. If baking until set, a cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Allow jars to cool in the water bath for 15 minutes.
If serving right away, leave the jars in the water bath, and add 4 marshmallows to each jar (be careful – rims are hot!). Return pan to oven and heat for five minutes (marshmallows should begin to melt). Turn off the oven. Move the oven rack and pan to a position about 3 inches away from broiler units. Turn broiler to high, and heat until marshmallows are just toasted (don’t walk away – this happens pretty quickly).
Remove pan from oven, and carefully move jars to a heat resistance surface to cool for 10 minutes. Jars might still be hot, so serve with a kicky cloth napkin or towel and a long spoon.
If saving until later, remove the jars from the water bath after their initial 15 minute rest, and allow to cool completely. At this point, you can either add the marshmallows to the jar (if they’ll fit with the lid) or wait until you’re ready to serve. Place lids on the jars and store at room temperature for up to three days.
To serve the make-ahead versions, remove the lids and add the marshmallows, if necessary. Then you can either reheat the jars in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes, and finish off under the broiler, or — and this is much easier — use the microwave to heat each jar for 30 to 60 seconds until the marshmallows melt and puff up. Then toast under the broiler for a few minutes.