Saturday, March 22, 2008

Secret Garden Cupcakes

I read a lot. And my favorite book so far this year is a little surprising. It's the Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. It's not what I thought my favorite book would be. And I've read some other books that were really good. I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Which is very strong book that has an interesting story line, and lots of violence and language. It would be an R rated book. I read Love in the Time of Cholera which dragged and dragged and made me think twice about Oprah's reading list. My sister Super G loved it though. So if you're into super descriptive long stories this might be the book for you. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore was pretty funny, like laugh out loud and almost pee your pants funny, but it wasn't a book that I kept thinking about or a book that gave me a whole lot of hope.

The Secret Garden is a "Juvenile" book. Yep that's right, my favorite book so far this year is a kid's section book. I always knew about it. My stepmom gave me a copy of it a long time ago. But it wasn't until I was driving along listening to NPR and they reviewed it that I got really interested in it. The NPR review pointed out that this was a book about neglect. Here I thought it was a book about a spoiled girl and a garden. It is a book about a girl who gets whatever she wants, but nobody wants to spend anytime with her. She meets a boy who also gets whatever he wants, but nobody wants to spend time with him either.

Once they find each other Magic begins to happen. Mary and Colin play constantly in the forbidden and secret garden with another boy, Dickon, who happens to be well loved and well adjusted and the animals of the moor are very fond of him. It's a British story so of course there's a moor. And by the use of the Magic, or really through the power of positive thinking Colin begins to get well...

"And the sun felt warm upon his face like a hand with a lovely touch. And in wonder Mary and Dickon stood and stared at him. He looked so strange and different because a pink glow of color had actually crept all over him- ivory face and neck and hands and all.

'I shall get well! I shall get well!' he cried out. 'Mary! Dickon! I shall get well! And I shall live forever and ever and ever!'"
Although there are no actual cupcakes in the story, there was a garden, so I made what I hope to be a floral and semi-British tasting cupcake. It's a lavender and cardamom flavored cupcake with a honey and confectioner's sugar icing. These are my entry into the Novel Food. It's a quarterly event that celebrates the connection between books and foods. Two of my greatest loves. And I am late. I was supposed to have posted this morning. But last nights cupcakes had too much lavender and tasted sort of like, um, soap. SO make sure you look for the roundup on briciole, or Champaign Taste. Check for the roundup in the next few days!

Secret Garden Cupcakes

Lavender Cardamom Cupcakes:
1/2 tsp lavender flowers
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
yolk of 1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp lemon extract

Place paper liners in 6 muffin cups.

Gently pulse the lavender and sugar in a mini processor until lavender is thoroughly integrated into sugar.

Whisk the buttermilk, egg yolk and lemon extract together in a small bowl.

Whisk together flour, salt, cardamom, baking soda, and lavender sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and half the buttermilk mixture. With electric mixture beat until light and fluffy. Add the remaining buttermilk mixture and beat for about 1 minute.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake until tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Honey frosting:
2 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp milk

Place the butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and mix with handheld mixer. Add honey and milk and continue beating until the mixture turns into a spreadable frosting. If it is too thin add more powdered sugar.


Simona said...

This a lovely story and I can see how it would leave a long-lasting impression. The cupcakes look yummy: you can imagine the three protagonists eating them while giving each other the gift of time. Thanks for participating in our event.

Kitt said...

Oh, that's very nice. "The Secret Garden" is ageless, I think. I love her other books, too. "A Little Princess" is my favorite.

Yummy cupcakes! And smart tie-in.

glamah16 said...

Youre really talented with the cupcakes!

Mary ;) said...

I adore cupcakes! And yours looks really pretty.

It's such a coincidence because I just bought a cupcake pan yesterday and should be embarking on some cupcake baking soon! I just hope mine turns out right. I still have to buy the equipment for piping the frosting on!

Thanks for your comment on my blog the other day :) I will keep your suggestions in mind and watch a comedy next time perhaps!

Lisa said...

Your cupcakes are simply lovely, and they fit with the book very well. The Secret Garden was one of my favorites books of childhood (along with Burnett's The Little Princess). Thank you for taking me back to it (oh, and I love the photo of the cake with the book's pages -- such a nice touch).

Thanks very much for taking part in our event!

Mrs. W said...

Ooh, your cupcakes are gorgeous. And the dishes.

I loved The Secret Garden as a child. I think it's time to re-read it!

Pixie said...

Ahh lovely entry and gorgeous little cupcakes!

CB said...

awesome cupcakes and great story. Brings me back to my childhood. :)

Mrs. White said...

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a kid. Glad you liked it! As for the cupcakes, I've always been curious about cooking with lavender and has loved all your previous cupcake recipes, so I'll definitely be giving these a try. Where do you even buy cooking lavender?

Tempered Woman said...

Oh my gosh~ I attempted lavendar angel food this weekend and threw out "my soap" before attempting to frost them. ;-) You've given me hope that a balance can be found (and I'm not crazy for thinking the same thing).
I love the Secret Garden and good kid's books never go out of style!

Johanna said...

cardamom and lavendar sounds like an interesting and wonderfully fragrant combination! And a fine tribute to a fine book (it is one I can't remember if I read because the BBC series made such an impression on me as a child)

Deborah said...

I've never read The Secret Garden - but I'm now thinking I should! I used to read quite a few books off of Oprah's book club list, but I never really loved any of them. I've given up on her...

These cupcakes look great!!

Mary said...

Thanks everyone for the nice comments about these cupcakes! They really were delicious and made only 6 so they would be perfect for a tea party.

I think you can buy lavender at gourmet shops. You might be able to get it at Whole Foods too, but we don't have one anywhere nearby so I don't know for sure.

And yes I was surprised at just how much I loved this book, I have added A Little Princess to my reading list too!

Emiline said...

I have never read the book, but I loved the movie. You should read A Little Princess, next.

The cupcakes are gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

The cupcakes are lovely, but the china really makes the photos elegant! I love pretty things ...

Julie said...

Hello Aunt Mary! This is Megan! Your cupcakes look beautiful! (I bet they taste delicious! Do you take the pictures yourself?!?

Megan :)

LisaRene said...

I think you made a very appropriate cupcake for the theme, great idea! I tend to think of lavender as a feminine flavor for just us girls to enjoy. Combining it with cardamom would be lovely and topping it off with a honey frosting makes for the perfect treat to enjoy with a cup of tea in the garden. Delicious!