Fat Tuesday – the last day before Lent begins, the end of Mardi Gras, a day dedicated to partying and eating. What a great day!
Good Catholic girl that I was, the Lenten season was probably the worst time of the year. It always began with a day of walking around with a huge, embarrassing smear of ashes across the forehead (my bangs, no matter how much I let them grow out beforehand, were never quite long enough), followed by lots of fasting and abstinence and fish, at least one round of Stations of the Cross led by the slowest, yet most devout nun, and the obligatory semi-annual Saturday afternoon of confession. I always looked forward to Palm Sunday because it meant 1) the end of Lent was near, and 2) I would receive a fresh crop of razor-sharp palms leaves with which I could torment my younger siblings. Finally Easter Sunday, when all my sacrifices were rewarded with a basket full of drug store candy delivered by an abnormally white, large rabbit who, much like Santa, was able to circumnavigate the Earth in one night.
Fat Tuesday’s significance increased with each passing year. I mean, this was it before 40 days of pure torture. Fat Tuesday was the last day to fill up before facing 40 days of no candy, no baked goods, no “beverages”, no chocolate, or no desserts. 40 days is a long time. A long, long time. So stocking up on Fat Tuesday was serious business.
The folks in New Orleans know how to do Mardi Gras: parades, costumes , and brilliant colors, beads, booze and debauchery. And food…loads and loads of amazing food. Spicy jambalaya, red beans and rice, étouffée , sugary beignets and of course, King Cake. A rich, sweet yeast bread with cinnamon filling, King Cake is traditionally served during Mardi Gras. Often baked with a penny or little baby inside, legend says who ever finds the trinket has to make next year’s King Cake. Although I’ve never found the baby, somehow I always end up making the King Cake.
This year I thought I’d switch it up and bake up a batch of King Cupcakes. I found a delicious recipe by King Arthur Flour, which I topped with my creamy Limoncello frosting and decorated with a sprinkling of the traditional King Cake green, yellow and purple sugars. Go ahead an insert the little lucky baby in one of the cupcakes after baking but before frosting. And then sit back and enjoy these little gems..all of them if you want to…40 days is a long, long time.
Makes one dozen cupcakes.
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line cupcake tin with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk tougher the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
Add the butter and beat with electric mixer at low speed until it looks like sand.
Combine the milk, vanilla and lemon extracts and add to dry ingredients all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then at medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.
With mixer at low speed, add one egg. Increase to medium for 30 seconds, then add the second egg, and mix again for 30 seconds.
Scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Beat briefly, just until smooth.
Fill the cupcake tins with approx. 1/4 cup of batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown around the edges, they spring back when lightly pressed and toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before inserting plastic baby and frosting.
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons limoncello
4 cups powdered sugar
green, purple and yellow decorating sugar
small plastic baby (can be found at Michael’s or A.C. Moore in the baby shower department)
Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar and limoncello and mix at low speed until combined, then at high speed until light and fluffy.
Frost as desired, decorate with colored sugars and Enjoy!