I became swept up into the cupcake craze, back in the mid-1990's when Magnolia Bakery opened in NYC. They made cupcakes fashionable and suddenly, a homey cupcake was elevated to an art form. It was this cupcake atmosphere that was partially responsible for my inclination to prepare a batch of 80 cupcakes.
One Spring, in the late 1990's, I was reading Hamlet with my Second Graders at the Lycee Francais. We were also studying Shakespeare's life and his birthday was approaching (April 23rd). I wanted to do something memorable that would forever remind them of Shakespeare. I decided I would make cupcakes in honor of his birthday and we would all sing Happy Birthday to Shakespeare. Since I had four Second Grade classes ( I was their English teacher), I needed to bake about 80 cupcakes. I frosted them with a lovely pastel palette of colors and packed them into all manner of tins and carriers to schlep them from my apartment to school.
I must say that my efforts were rewarded. Many of my students proclaimed the cupcakes to be the best they had ever eaten. All of them were quite appreciative and in awe of the fact that their teacher had actually baked for them. Best of all, it became a meaningful way for them to remember Shakespeare.
The recipe I used came from Fanny At Chez Panisse, one of my favorite children's cookbooks. It is a recipe for a 126.96.36.199. Cake. The cake itself is very light and airy, much more delicate than that of Magnolia Bakery. I continued to make it for other occasions as well, continually experimenting with different cakes and frostings, usually preferring this one to others.
Once Izzy was born, I figured I had honed my cupcake baking skills and his birthdays would be a cinch.. To be continued...recipe to follow shortly.