My oldest came across a cake mix in the pantry yesterday and wanted to make cupcakes. So as I was pouring the dry mix into the bowl, my just-turned-3-year-old picks up the box and counts the eggs in the picture. Then says, "One egg for Zach, one for Gabe, and one for me!" Now, I've never been one to let my kids crack eggs very often (those organic eggs get expensive!), but I figured in the spirit of making cupcakes together on a snowy day......sure why not.
So I helped her crack hers, then let the boys do their own. It was about the time Gabe dumped his egg in the bowl that he announced he wanted strawberry cupcakes. Almost instantaneously, Zach said he wanted cream cheese frosting. Well, no matter how I stretched my imagination, I just couldn't come up with a way to make strawberry cupcakes from ingredients in the house. So I offered the compromise of making chocolate-cream cheese frosting since the cupcakes were going to be boring old yellow (well, butter-recipe yellow, but still just yellow to my little dessert lovers.)
Gabe suddenly changed gears and asked for orange juice, just as I was measuring the 2/3 cup water to put into the cake batter. So I stopped to get him some oj, and he said, "Orange juice has water in it, can we put it in the cupcakes?" And I thought that sounded like a brilliant idea.
So after all the kids chiming in, our butter cupcakes turned into orange vanilla cupcakes. And I figured since our cupcakes were turning into an experiment, I would do the unthinkable and use the whipped "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" that I had on hand. This was technically my daughter's suggestion who grabbed the tub when I said I needed butter, and refused to accept that hers wasn't what I needed.
Yes, like all bakers, I have REAL unsalted butter on hand. But to be honest I've used enough real, unsalted butter in my cooking recently that my cholesterol level has probably gone from "very healthy" to "one foot in the grave" just since Thanksgiving. So I figured why not play around and see what happens. After all, I'm still learning to bake at an altitude of over 6500 feet, now is the time to play around.
So in went the orange juice, vanilla extract (dangit - I just remembered I have actual vanilla beans I should have used!) and tub butter. (OK, sidebar, are any of my Grey's Anatomy friends now envisioning Izzie eating an entire tub of butter right now?? LOL) And the 4 of us took turns whipping them up as I fully expected a disaster to come out of the oven. I even took the advice of a friend who told me to never, EVER bother with high altitude directions. That part certainly makes life easier.
Much to my surprise, we created the absolute moistest cupcakes I have ever put in my mouth. Granted it was probably a fluke -- some strange combination of the altitude, sub-freezing temps and massive fluffy snowflakes saturating the air around the house that attributed to this experiment actually turning into something heavenly. But hey, I'll take it.
And it just goes to show that you can always doctor up a cake mix to make something your own. It's easy to feel like you've made something homemade just by changing one ingredient.
Orange Vanilla Cupcakes
1 box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Yellow Cake Mix
2/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup tub margarine (please, feel free to use the REAL stuff!!!)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Mix & bake according to package directions.
And if you desire......
Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
(I usually double this recipe)
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick REAL unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup dutch cocoa powder
Whip together til fluffy