Why We Cook: Afternoon Apathy Cupcakes

Cook, Why We Cook

This post comes to us courtesy of Samantha Hobbs Chulick, blogger at Cashmere Fog.


I’m standing in my parents’ kitchen in Santa Barbara covered in chocolate fudge. In fact, it’s everywhere – dripping from the KitchenAid mixer onto the grey slate floor and creeping slowly across the butcher block kitchen island. I turn to my left, and there stands my stunned grandmother, Maxine, draped in dark chocolate.


Whenever my grandmother and I are in the kitchen, hilarity ensues. Out of sheer boredom on a rather ordinary day, we thought it would be a great idea to bake something.


Our recipe du jour: “Afternoon Apathy” cupcakes — dark chocolate frosting with chocolate cakes (mainly because that’s what was in our pantry). We gathered all the ingredients and sifted, whisked and mixed the afternoon away. Although I’ve never been the biggest fan of baking (I think all the precision takes the fun out of the process), somehow with my grandmother it’s an absolute ball.


And that day was no different. Well, perhaps the outcome was a bit out of the ordinary. See, everything went awry when I decided to add a bit more melted chocolate to the mix. I had tasted the frosting, and something was slightly off. After a heaping spoonful, my grandmother agreed as well.


“Chocolate. It needs more chocolate.”


I broke a few more pieces of dark chocolate into a copper saucepan and heated it up slowly. Soon it was a searing hot chocolate fudge. Forgetting to put the mixer on a slower speed, I just poured the warm fudge concoction into the bowl and poof! Everything went everywhere.


And there we stood, staring at each other in shock, in the middle of a May day, plastered in slowly hardening dark chocolate fudge. Slowly, my grandmother took her off oval frames and licked one of the lenses.




After a brief moment of dumb-founded silence, we broke into laughter.


It’s one of my fondest kitchen memories. My grandmother is my culinary mentor. She is why I cook. Regardless of my age I was always welcome in her kitchen. I’ve witnessed triumphs (a masterful coconut crème pie on a sultry august evening) and utter failures (a Coq au Vin that turned into an alcoholic soup.)


That May afternoon is perhaps my favorite. There was something about seeing my grandmother’s white hair streaked with brown that still makes me laugh. Over the years, the story has most definitely been exaggerated. But I only remember my grandmother and me, tears streaming down our chocolate stained faces, chuckling.


Afternoon Apathy Cupcakes


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

¾ cup milk

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup melted dark chocolate


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan.


Combine flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat granulated sugar and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in two  parts, alternating with 1/2 cup milk.


Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool completely.


Meanwhile, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, gradually add cocoa mixture, scraping down side of bowl as necessary. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup milk, melted dark chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.


Frost cooled cupcakes and serve immediately. Makes 12 cupcakes.


About the author: Samantha is a graduate student studying food & wine writing in the Midwest. Originally from California, her work has appeared in Santa Barbara Magazine, Vox Magazine, The Columbia Missourian, and Farm Journal. She has also been featured on her local NPR station as a wine expert. She believes that every girl should always have a bottle of bubbly in her fridge – in case of emergencies and impromptu celebrations.

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