The Festival du Livre Culinaire was held from February 22 – 24 this year at the Carrousel du Louvre. There were publishers from around the world displaying their culinary books and non-stop conferences and cooking demonstrations for three days.
The first demonstration on Saturday featured Alisa Morov, an American who moved from Los Angeles to Paris in 2002 to found Sweet Pea Baking. Alisa showed the audience how to bake cupcakes. This may sound easy, but according to Alisa, it can be frustrating if you don’t combine the ingredients properly. Baking is chemistry, and Alisa explained how to do it correctly.
Alisa said that some people who buy her cupcake cookbook (Sensational Cupcakes, Simon and Schuster, UK) complain that they don’t get good results. She said this is because they combine all of the ingredients at once, rather than following the step-by-step instructions. The trick is to combine the ingredients in stages so that they get a chance to react with one another chemically. And here was her big tip: use real buttermilk in the cupcakes, not a buttermilk substitute, such as regular milk mixed with lemon juice. Buttermilk, she said, is one of the ingredients that helps the cake rise.
And so we watched as she added flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, real vanilla, eggs, butter, buttermilk…all in the correct order…
…and then put the batter into the cupcake pan and pop the pan into the oven. Each cup was lined with a paper cupcake liner. Alisa said that cupcake liners are not necessary with modern non-stick pans, but that people like to peel the paper liner off their cupcake…it’s like opening a gift!
Then she made buttercream frosting and squeezed the frosting from a pastry bag onto a batch of cupcakes that had already been made (the other cupcakes were still in the oven)…
…and distributed them. We each got one!
The cupcake tasted rich and buttery. It had wonderful flavor but was too rich for my taste. Alisa staunchly defends the use of butter and heavy cream in her cupcakes and frostings, and she made comments during her presentation indicating that these products are not meant to be diet food. I found myself wondering why, in this era when Americans are becoming alarmingly obese from eating fat-filled and sugary foods, Alisa appears to blithely ignore the dangers that fat and sugar pose to health…clogged arteries and diabetes…just to name two.
As is true for everything, moderation is key to consuming these cupcakes—particularly if you have a weakness for sweet and buttery baked goods!
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