The idea was simple enough; a funfetti cupcake that exploded, like fireworks on the Fourth of July, when you took that first bite, entirely unaware of what the frosting hid. The execution, however, was anything but simple. Pop Rocks, after all, are a fickle and frustrating little candy, poised to pop when exposed to the liquid they encounter in your mouth. I hoped initially that Pop Rocks were chemically engineered to explode when they interacted with something that existed in only human saliva. Not the case. (Of course.) Liquid of any kind and literally, in any amount, sets them off. In a bit of pre-baking research, I read that the trick to preserving the Pop Rocks’ explosion was to use fat as a protective ingredient. Armed with this new, strange knowledge, I planned on mixing the Pop Rocks with butter, and continuing on with the cake recipe, creaming the butter with brown sugar. Problem #1: The Pop Rocks exploded when I opened their packaging, reacting with the moisture in the air, which, believe me, is minimal here in the dry, Phoenix desert. Problem #2: The butter didn’t protect the Pop Rocks at all. Each new ingredient I added made the Pop Rocks more active, until it sounded like I had the world’s biggest bowl of Rice Krispies chattering away in my kitchen. Sigh. While the end result was a pink tinted funfetti cupcake that contained none of the exploding qualities of Pop Rocks I’d dreamed of, I can’t write it off as an entire failure. Even without the firework mimicking explosions, I managed to create a delicious, moist cupcake. I have my neighbor to thank for that one.
Some people borrow an egg, or a cup of sugar in a pinch from a friendly neighbor. I’ve gone one step further and borrowed the entire recipe. While we still really haven’t gotten to know our neighbors in our new home, those living around my parents’ home in Ohio are the best. Denise, who lives right next door, is working on compiling a cookbook of her family’s recipes. In the process, she found her great, great grandmother’s recipes, which call for things like “5 cents worth of baking carbonate ammonia” and “one teacup of sugar.” I did a bit of research to modernize some of the recipes, and used her great, great grandmother’s Everyday Cake recipe for my cupcakes. I was a little nervous that my modernization efforts would taint the original recipe, but the cupcakes baked and tasted fantastic! Thanks, Denise, for sharing this one with me :)
Great, Great Grandma’s Everyday Cake
recipe adapted from Denise
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup sour milk (To sour your milk, add one tsp. lemon juice or vinegar to milk (low-fat will work fine) and stir. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes.)
1 tsp. (heaping) baking soda
3 cups flour (leveled with a knife to be exact)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup Pop Rocks (Clearly, this represents the adaptation.)
If you choose to attempt the Pop Rocks cupcake, mix the candy into the softened butter. Cream butter (with or without Pop Rocks) and brown sugar. Add boiling water, soured milk, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour and baking soda, mixing well again. Spoon into lined cupcake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Set cupcakes on a wire rack to cool, and when they have cooled completely frost and decorate. (See below for frosting recipe.)Yields 18 cupcakes.
Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Beat softened butter on medium high speed until creamy. Reduce speed of mixer and gradually add confectioner’s sugar, beating until a pale, fluffy frosting forms. Add vanilla and beat until frosting is smooth.
A few final side notes to this, the longest post ever :)
1. I still have no idea how much 5 cents worth of something is. If you have any clue, both myself, and I’m sure Denise would love to know!
2. Writing a cookbook isn’t all Denise is working on right now. She also owns her own full-service marketing firm in Cleveland, Ohio, 4 Simple Marketing.
3. This isn’t the only Fourth of July dessert I plan on making this year. Cake pops inspired by Bakerella are next on the to-do list.
4. Happy Fourth of July :) Hope yours is happy, safe and fun!