Monday, April 02, 2007

Vanilla Cupcakes


My sister was in the Brownies when she was a kid. She put on her uniform every week and went off somewhere mysterious to me, taking pledges, doing things to win badges... she even went off on a camp (which made me interminably envious because it required she be bought a pair of bedsocks). She made Brownies look like it was fun. As soon as I was old enough, I begged my mother to let me join.

The problem was, my sister's Brownie pack was too big. So they formed a new pack which it was determined would meet in the new hall. Now the new hall wasn't like the old hall - it had been brought to town on the back of a truck and had been plonked down next to the old hall on ugly, exposed brick stilts. It had none of the dignity of the old hall - it was garish and offensive.

To make matters worse, the new pack would have a new Brown Owl. She took forever to turn up, and when she did, she didn't seem to know what she was doing. Her tongue was sharp, her tone snappish; she seemed more than a bit nasty to me. The new pack also had new uniforms - not the delicious chocolate brown like my sister's uniform - the new unforms were baby-poo brown. Combined with the bright yellow tie fixed about the next with a brass pin, I felt our uniforms were more than a little garish - they were downright shameful.

From the get go, my Brownie pack didn't seem to be anything like the romantic vision I had of my sister's pack. I took the initiation ceremony, then wasted no time asking when I could try for my first badge. The Brown Owl was in no hurry to help - or at least, help ME. I was keen on the cooking badge, since I'd started helping Mum at home with baking cakes and cookies and so on. I can't remember how it worked - whether you cooked your cupcakes at the Brownie Hall, or whether you cooked them at home and brought the results in. My Brown Owl let other girls do their badges, but not me. It was a clear cut case of discrimination, as far as I was concerned, and I was not impressed.

I complained to my mother several times about the situation - I don't know if Mum ever spoke to Brown Owl about it, but it didn't take me long to jack up about Brownies. The bodgie hall, the bossy Brown Owl, the dorky uniform, and the distinct sense of being supressed... if I couldn't do my cooking badge, I told my mother, I wanted out. And that, as they say, was the end of Brownies.

Ingredients
125g salt reduced butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 tblsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1.5 cups self raising flour
2/3 cup buttermilk

1. Place the softened butter and sugar in the small bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on low speed to combine then increase speed to just over half way (sixth gear on a Kitchenaid mixer) and continue to beat until butter and sugar becomes pale and creamy.

2. Add the vanilla, eggs, flour and buttermilk. Continue to beat until all ingredients are well combined.

3. Increase mixer speed to high, and beat for three minutes. Mixture will turn from looking quite curdled to very creamy.

4. Scoop icecream scoopfuls of mixture into cupcake papers arranged in cupcake pans. Be careful not to overfill the papers to no more than two thirds full.

5. Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celcius) for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top. Turn out onto wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing. Makes about 16 cupcakes.

Note: A word on cup cake pans - there are now four different types on the Australian market. There's mini, patty (the kind I grew up with), muffin and Texas muffin size. They each have their own size patty paper to line the pans. be sure you use the right size with the right pan. I quite prefer the original patty pan size, but the muffin pans can produce a really nice sized cupcake (approximately 60g). In the end, I think it's a personal choice.

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