Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cookies-n-Cream Cupcakes and The Amazing Scoop

There once was a little girl who was very attached to cookies-n-cream ice cream. She had her occasional moments with butter pecan and mint chip, bubble gum and rocky road, but if she followed her heart, it always led back to cookies-n-cream. It wasn't just that there were Oreos to be dug out of the sweet treat, but that alchemy of chocolate cookie chunks, their creamy centers, the ice cream melding it all into one - the cookies and the cream were magic together.

This same little girl loved receiving gifts. Not because she loved things, but because she could tell with a gift whether or not someone really knew her; whether or not they paid attention to her loves; whether or not they wanted to show her that they cared for her by sharing in that same love.

Over the course of her short years, she began to realize that most gifts did not live up to these expectations, and tempered them accordingly. Other people weren't mind readers, after all. Why live with disappointment when she could live with moderate satisfaction?

Little did she know that one day, her jaded 12-year-old mind would be revived. That she would in one moment glimpse that ideal of gift-giving and decide to never let it go again. That ideal showed up in the form of a cookies-n-cream cake.

In the midst of a week of Nutcracker ballet performances, with the excitement of her first solo role and Christmas looming two weeks later, her birthday was an afterthought. A brief meal to be followed by another performance. But at that meal, that cake - the cookies-n-cream cake - appeared without presumption nor guile in the hands of her grandfather.

She was amazed and starry-eyed before the Oreo-studded, buttercream-coated wonder. Its loveliness would please her tongue, but its taste would fade away before the knowledge that it was a gift. Her grandfather knew that she loved cookies-n-cream, remembered that fact on her birthday, made the effort to buy the cake, and presented it to her as a complete surprise. This was love.


This post is dedicated to my grandfather, who passed away 8 years ago today, for showing me the closest thing to unconditional love on earth, and for reminding me that I should not ever give up on my ideals. I love you and miss you, Gung Gung.

I really cannot think of a better introduction for these cookies-n-cream cupcakes; while not love incarnate, they are the closest thing to cookies-n-cream in cake form that I have been able to produce. I have posted previously on Oreo cupcakes with 7-minute icing, or buttercream icing, but these are the latest rendition. I added crushed Oreos to the buttercream, which gives them a bit of the feel that the ice cream creates. I also confirmed my theory that Reduced-Fat Oreos actually work the best in this recipe, since they grow soft when pushed into the middle of the cake (yes, there's a whole Oreo in the middle of the cupcake!), unlike regular Oreos, which stay crunchy after baking.

So, here's how to do it:
1. Make a Devil's Food chocolate cake mix from Duncan Hines. After you scoop* the batter into each cupcake mold, press a whole Oreo into the batter so that the batter squooshes over the top of the cookie's edges. Smooth the batter over the cookie and bake according to the instructions for the cake mix.

(If possible, use one of these scoops - it will make your life so much easier! See my notes below)

2. After cooling the cupcakes, cream together the buttercream, slowly adding the powdered sugar to the butter and vanilla, followed by the milk/cream:
1 C (2 sticks) salted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 C (1 lb) powdered sugar
1-2 T milk or cream

Add 10 crushed Oreos (crush in a heavy-duty freezer bag) and mix in well.

3. Spread the cookies-n-cream buttercream generously on each cupcake. Top with a fourth of an Oreo. This whole recipe should require one whole package of Reduced-Fat Oreos and should make about 24 cupcakes.

*I used to feel that a scoop like this one from Pampered Chef was unnecessary in my kitchen for anything other than ice cream, but have realized through trying to replace it with measuring cups, ladles, and spoons, that nothing does the job in baking nearly as efficiently. Not only does the scoop measure out exact amounts each time, but it has the all-important scraping mechanism to push the batter or dough out of the scoop. Runny batter pours out well without dripping too much, and stiffer dough packs in nicely and comes out cleanly with the scraper. These are the scoops I used for my compost cookies.

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