Allow me to introduce you all to my husband, Nick. This is his George Clooney "peer through your eyebrows, deliver your line, peer through eyebrows again" look. He looks devious, doesn't he? Well, that is because he is devious.
This past weekend our favorite little wine shop turned 3 and there was a birthday party. Nick and myself went with our friend Mike and Amy. No sooner had we arrived than we all shot humored but slightly panicked glances at each other. The guy was there.
Some months earlier the four of us had attended a function at the same wine shop and there was this guy. We never learned his name, but for the sake of this story we will call him Jerry, due to the fact that he may as well have stumbled out of an episode of Seinfeld. Everyone knows a Jerry. Jerry is the guy that has the confidence to talk to anyone but lacks the tact or self awareness to be a good conversationalist. Which, under normal circumstances, I would sympathize. Except Jerry is also offensive. Upon this initial meeting Jerry cornered Mike and Nick and tricked them into a one-sided conversation that ended in his disclosure of, well, some sexual encounters involving some miniature bottle-shaped chocolates filled with liquor.
The second we realized Jerry was at the birthday party this weekend the four of us spent a fair amount of time in graceful social choreography to avoid getting caught in a conversation. However, as more people arrived later in the evening and the small shop started to get packed we let our guard down a bit. We found ourselves in the back of the shop, outside, where there was food, a keg, musicians, and a fire pit. Nick and Mike went to warm their hands at the fire while Amy and I grabbed plates and started to wait for kabobs to come off the grill. While munching on tabbouleh Nick comes up to us and innocently says, "Hey, did you guys see the chocolate covered strawberries inside? They are really good. You will have to check them out. Although, you know, I really wish they had those little chocolate bottles with the liquor in them." And as soon as the last word left his lips, Nick turned on his heels and walked the short distance back to the fire. Before Amy and I could even giggle at the little inside joke we heard a voice from behind us, "Was he just talking about the little chocolate liquor bottles?" We turned around to face Jerry. He proceeded to tell us about two different places we could get the chocolates, and what time these places would be open, and give us recommendations about what else to look for at these shops. Amy says nothing. I say as little as possible. We are both shooting glances over to our husbands who are still at the fire, facing away from us but still in earshot, their bodies shaking with laughter. Well played, Nick, well played. We will call the photo posted of him as my small vengeance.
On another note, as part of the birthday party the shop ran a cake competition where Amy and I debuted the bacon cupcakes. Haven't heard the results of the competition yet but all the cupcakes were gone before the evening was over and we heard some good things so my fingers are crossed. As promised here is the recipe:
*Note: These are best made as mini-cupcakes as the ratio of cake, to icing, to bacon is crucial.
Butter Cake Recipe:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350℉ and line your mini muffin tin. Sift cake flour, baking powder, and salt into bowl and set aside. In a large bowl use and electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until blended. Add vanilla and then beat for about two minutes. (The goal is to get the egg whites all whipped up and get the batter fluffy.) On low speed add the flour mixture in 3 parts and the milk in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated and batter looks smooth. Fill the minis about half to 2/3 full. Bake for roughly 17 or 18 minutes. Until tops are golden brown and a toothpick can be pulled cleanly from the center of the cake. Cool for 10 minutes in pan then put on a wire rack.
*Note: This recipe is adapted from the book cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans. I love, love, love this recipes are easily conquered with a little take charge attitude.
While your cupcakes are baking start the bacon. Cut into pieces first and then fry in a pan until the bits are on the verge of burning. This way it is nice and crispy and you have rendered as much fat from the bacon as possible. Move the bacon bits to a plate lined with a paper towel and pat with paper towel. Allow bacon to cool while you make frosting.
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Gently heat your butter. You will want it extremely soft and partially melted. With a mixer beat the caramel and butter together until blended. Add salt. Blend again. Finally gradually add the powdered sugar until completely blended.
*There are recipes online that include how to make your own caramel and then use it in icing. I am not well-versed in candy making and get lazy sometimes...hence the ice cream topping.
Frost your cakes. Top with bacon. And you are done!