Friday, March 25, 2011

Stop 6: Connecticut Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes

So it turns out that people from Connecticut refer to themselves as "Nutmeggers."  That is at least, according to Warren Brown in the Connecticut part of the book.  Personally, I find this to be highly suspect and request anybody who is reading this who might be from Connecticut to please comment and tell me if it's true.

Brown states in the cookbook that while Connecticut is more commonly known as the Constitution State, it is also known as the Nutmeg State and that people down there really like their nutmeg.  They like it so much that they used to put an entire nutmeg into their traditional Election Cake recipe.  I guess the original recipe was a dense coffee-cake filled with dried fruits and, well, a whole nutmeg.  They used to make it around elections.  Maybe to have something substantial, but easy to eat while counting ballots late into the night?  Brown based the recipe he put in the book on the book American Cookery by Amelia Simmons which was published in 1796.  He altered it so that it wouldn't make enough to feed an entire church congregation and omitted the dried fruit to lighten the batter a bit.

For amusement, Brown left in one of the traditional recipes for election cake that he found.  He didn't state where he got it, but it's worth repeating here:

4 cups sugar
6 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs
1 pound each raisins, currants, 1/2 citron
1 teaspoonful salt
1 teaspoonful soda
Half yeast cake
2 gills Brandy
1 Nutmeg
2 cups Milk

I have no idea what a gill is, or where you would get a cake of yeast, but the real fun comes in the directions to put the cake together:

Make a sponge of the milk, add 4 cups of flour at 4 o'clock, at nine mix altogether, except the eggs, and Soda, that are put in, in morning.  Then put in pans let stand 20 minutes and bake.  

Brown points out that people must have spent a lot more time in the kitchen to know how to interpret such a skeletal set of instructions.  He didn't say whether this was a recipe from a book or something passed down in a family or among friends, which also might make a difference.  Either way, it seems recipe-writing has come a long way.

Old-timey amusement aside, Brown's updated recipe also had it's amusing quirks.  For example, you mix all the wet ingredients together (without beating the eggs) by putting them together in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shaking for about 15 seconds.  It worked really well.  He should really rename this recipe the 15-Second Cupcakes because first you mix the dry ingredients for 15 seconds, then shake the wet for 15 seconds and finish it all by adding the wet to the dry and whisking them together for, you guessed it, 15 seconds!

The icing was also something I had never heard of before called an Old-fashioned Milk Buttercream.  To make it you make a slurry of flour and milk (this took two tries) and heat it to thicken.  Then, when it's cooled, you add it to creamed butter, sugar and vanilla.  It makes quite a tasty, light, whipped topping.  I spread it on the cooled cupcakes and then sprinkled them with a little freshly grated nutmeg for aesthetics.

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