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The audacity to promenade


So here's my trouble. I wanted to tell you about Martha Stewart's Cupcakes (Clarkson Potter, 2009). To chat about my impressions, my likes, my dislikes, the nitty gritty details of this cookbook devoted to the small.

But my attention has been captured by someone small, a small one who is getting bigger every day. Happy Birthday to you, our William - today is your first, and I can hardly find the words.

All week I have been vacillating between my heart bursting with pride and my chest tightening with emotion. Such is the state of Mummyhood. The First Birthday is an event met with a mile-wide grin and cheers of joy tempered with the sob-sniffle-wail of "my goodness, this is all too fast."

And fast it has been. Our Littler Man is walking.

William took his first tentative steps a few weeks back, and has now fully embraced the notion of upright locomotion. The rapid-fire thwack of his hands and knees on the floors of our home has been replaced with the padded rhythm of confident footsteps. And confident he is, as Will is not one to toddle.

In a manner unsurprising to anyone who has met him, our William has the audacity to promenade. His walk is so spirited, his step so lively, there is most surely a song in his heart.

Oh there now, I've digressed into ridiculous levels of Proud Parent Mode. My apologies.

Where was I? Oh yes, cupcakes. With William's first 1st birthday party planning underway, Martha Stewart's Cupcakes was a wealth of imaginative cake ideas, all on a scale befitting the occasion. Silly me though, I put Benjamin in charge of selecting the flavour to try - and again as my children are nothing if not consistent, he chose the most basic of recipes, chocolate upon chocolate.

But his choice was surprisingly astute, as our previous favourite chocolate cupcake was the One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (Clarkson Potter, 2005). Now One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes are in the new book, but it is a different recipe.

So it was settled, the dessert menu chosen for our celebration. The recipe itself warrants little description; it is a standard cocoa and buttermilk cake, with only a scant amount of oil. The method is as demanding as a boxed cake, with the dry ingredients whisked in a bowl, then the eggs, buttermilk and oil poured over. A few stirs, and it is done.

This recipe yields cakes that look the example of cupcake perfection; each rose with the same rounded cheek, bulging slightly at their edges but with a gentle slope. Best of all was their colour - a true, dark brown, exactly how a chocolate cupcake should look.

As we did not have the recipes side-by-side for comparison, we had to rely on (unreliable) memory for our verdict. While everyone enjoyed the cupcakes, they were not met with the same knee-buckling adoration of the previous version. When I first made the Baking Handbook incarnation of One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, I recall thinking that these were simply the best cupcakes ever. This time, not so much. They were good, but not exceptional.

It should be said though, that I am terribly finicky about my chocolate cakes so it takes a good deal to impress. While I shrugged at the taste, there was nary a complaint from our guests. Approximately 5 minutes after the Happy Birthdays and candles blown out, there were quite a few happy faces smeared with whipped ganache frosting.

While my personal assessment of the cupcakes was lackluster, my overall impression of the book from which they came is not. I did not test many recipes from the book (honestly, even I can only eat so many cupcakes) as I would have liked, but I can tell you that the book Martha Stewart Cupcakes is full of fun.

There is an obvious, infectious merriment in the way that the subject matter is treated, and the variations on the theme simply make me smile. One cannot help but be made a bit happier by pages upon pages of sprinkles and gumdrops, marizpan ladybugs, and coconut-feathered chicks.

What's more, the cookbook is inspiring. Ingeniously, the book pushes the boundaries of cupcakery to include all manner of small cakes, and even cookies and meringues, as long as they are baked in that distinctive shape.

There are filled cupcakes, layered mini-cakes, cookie-crusted cheesecakes, and simple pound cakes. Not all cakes are frosted, such as the Tiny Cherry and Almond and Pistachio-Raspberry teacakes, making these gems the ideal everyday treat to be tucked into lunchboxes or enjoyed as an afternoon snack. The combination of flavours, specific decorating techniques and helpful guides (including clip art templates) could all be adapted and developed to suit your specific tastes, and could be applied to the creation of full-sized cakes.

One caveat, as with Martha Stewart's Cookies (Clarkson Potter, 2008), much of the content included in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes has been previously featured in the various publications of Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Personally, I enjoyed having the recipes available in a single source, but others may disagree and might have preferred a wholly originally collection.

Time to get back to the business of being Mum to a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. Oh my. So big. So fast. So wonderful.

Happy, happy day.

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
From the book Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.


crossed lines
More photos from this series shot by my brother and sister-in-law can be seen here.

Now you didn't think that I'd forget to announce the winner of our Martha Stewart Cupcakes giveaway, did you?

Without further wait, Mr. Random.Org took the honour of selecting our winners, as follows.

The First Prize Winner will receive one copy of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes and one copy of Martha Stewart Cookies:
Chocolate Shavings

The Second Prize Winners will each receive a copy of Martha Stewart Cupcakes:
Dor and Michelle R.

I would like to thank everyone who entered, and highly recommend the checking out the fantastic conversation taking place in the comments section. To the winners, please e-mail me at tara [at] sevenspoons [dot] net, with your contact information at your earliest convenience.

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Reader Comments (19)

I love the pretty decor and sweet cupcakes. What a lucky little one to have such a great birthday! ps - I've been a longtime fan of your site, you are on my blogroll. :)

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey B.

Thanks for the honest review. I was debating buying the book since I suspected that Martha would just republish the recipes already available online, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought. I like having one central source for my cupcakes. I too was a big fan of the one-bowl cupcakes and I don't know if anything will top them. But I want to try the others... Tell your boy happy belated bday! they grow so fast...

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Happy birthday to William and well done to his mum on such a cute party!

Very interesting book review, too. I love Martha but for some reason have always been a bit wary of her cookbooks. Several reviews - including yours - have changed my mind a bit.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHilary

Congrats on making it through that first year! I think kids (especially boys b/c I have two of them) are indescribably cute from 12-18 months. Heart stoppingly so. I too appreciate the honest review - so helpful in helping me decide whether or not to add to my already out-of-control collection.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

I love that there isn't so much oil in this recipe. I wish i could eat endless amounts of cupcakes too. Happy belated birthday to your so!

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

Happy Birthday to William! (love that last photo of the birthday banner) I'm still waiting for my copy of that cupcake book. In the meantime, I have pictures of your cupcakes to enjoy :)

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterY

Thanks for the review. I asked in your previous post about the duplication and much appreciate you mentioning that they weren't all entirely original. I have most of Martha's other books and constantly access the recipes online. If the budget permits, I may get this book. But not in a hurry now. THANKS!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulia @ Mélanger

I am featuring this book on my blog this month as the Cookbook of the Month, but have only made 2 of the recipes so far. It is such a fun book, and I'm having a hard time deciding which recipes to make!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Kelsey B., thanks for all the sweetness. The banner is from" rel="nofollow">Earmark, and we made the bunting flags using papers from Martha Stewart's craft line (how fitting). It was a bit of a carnival theme, and terribly fun to do.

Amanda, do you like the One Bowl Cupcakes from the Baking Handbook or the one that was published in Living (and now Cupcakes? In principle, I thought the repetition would bother me, but in practice I do like having the recipes all together. And thanks for the birthday wishes!

Hilary, thanks so much for the kindness. I'm curious to know, why do you think you've been reticent to try her cookbooks? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Dana, thanks so much! Little boys are rather irresistible. Can I ask your decision regarding the book?

Steph, thank you! The buttermilk keeps the cake fairly moist, even with only that small amount of oil.

Y, thank you! I love that picture too, my brother did a great job capturing the feel of the day. If you liked Cookies, you won't be disappointed with Cupcakes. I really want to take a stab at adapting some of the recipes to layer cakes - the fillings look fab.

Marshall, thank you for your interest, but it should be noted that these cupcakes are not vegan as they contain eggs - it is not mentioned in my review, but if you click through to the recipes you will see the details.

Julia @ Mélanger, the recipes here seem to be ones from the magazines and her show, but none (as far as I can tell) that have been in other cookbooks. Glad the review helped! By the way, since you reminded me, I wanted to say that I'm going to make my way through responding to the comments on the last post - it just might take a day or two!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertara

SO incredibly lovely! Just found your blog via Simple Song =)

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTruly Smitten

Oh, I didn't win, but I'm okay with that, really. Your photo and your cupcake flags are adorable, and for a 1 year old's party? Amazing. I do have the baking handbook, so I'll definitely check out the 1 bowl chocolate cake. I'm getting hungry for cupcakes!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

Happy birthday to your darling boy! This post truly warmed my heart.

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen

happy birthday to william!

i always use the one-bowl recipe from the handbook too!

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichaela

this blog is perfection! I have had a blast reading through it and was so excited to see such a gorgeous display of our patchwork party banner, thank you so much! The party was surely one to remember. Congrats on mummyhood :) and happy birthday to your dear William!

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterearmark

I'm so glad that you wrote this! I am sitting here right this very minute trying to decide on some cupcakes to make for a friends baby shower and this is so helpful! I'm going to go get my hands on that book {darn it for not entering the contest !}......... I just hope they aren't toooooo hard because I can only handle so much:) Ha!

thanks so much for your sweet comment on my blog today.....xo

June 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterknack

I have been considering getting her cupcake book. Thank you so much for the review!

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs D

What an honest story about the joys and heart-touching moments of motherhood! Your prose captured the moments perfectly, and I can even hear a baby's steps clacking against hardwood floors as I type.

Happy birthday to your dear William!!

June 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrace@PoeticHome

Dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache would have tasted swell enough for me even if the other cupcake you had compared it to is much better. Chocolate is chocolate, and regardless of how it is prepared majority of the human populace is bound to go crazy! I wish I had been at your baby's first birthday to share in the fun and those delicious cupcakes!

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfoodiejunkette

Happy Belated Birthday, William. What a beautifully written blog. I enjoyed it so much that I read it several times

July 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

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