I believe it was my sophomore year of college when I decided to join, momentairly, our schools “English Club.” As a declared English major, I was on the mailing list for all things literary and as I skimmed the Introductory first meeting e-mail, where “all new people are welcome,” I figured, why not? So, I dragged my fellow English major friend Kaitlyn along, because of course, I couldn’t dare go alone, unbeknownst to most people.
As the students trickled in, and I nodded in recognition of a few familar faces, the meeting kicked off in an interesting and sweat-inducing start. “We’re going to begin with an easy question,” the girl and undeclared leader of the group began, standing and sheepishly smiling in the front of the room. “What is everyone’s favorite word?” she asked. There were chuckles of laughter that erupted in the room, upperclassmen turning around in their chairs to face one another, leaning their heads back, laughing, as if they were tossing all intellect out the window. I heard giggles and mumbles of words as I, biting my nails, turned to Kaitlyn with a blank stare. There were so many words flooding my brain, none of which even seemed remotely applicable to the question. Dog. Sandwich. Book. Red. The students answered one by one down the rows of chairs as I sat fumbling, waiting for the right word to suddenly appear. Noodle. Ohio. Bean. July. My brain was a hot mess. I cursed myself for being a 20 year old college student, English major nonetheless, self-proclaimed writer and avid reader of intellectual novels who now, in panic mode, could not think of one smart word. For a second, I debated bailing. Faking a dying cough, perhaps? Having my cell phone “accidentally” ring extra loudly? There was still one more row of students to go before I had to either put on my thinking cap and get serious, or get the hell out. I kept telling myself to man up – “You’re a smart girl, Lan, THINK.” Then it got worse. I suddenly found myself making up words. Flipperflogger. Hoschenwashen. Darnana. “Hello strangers, my name is Allana and my favorite word is fagjfdsalkdjasf.” Yes, that word is much better than Dog. Or Ohio, for that matter.
Suddenly, I chuckled loudly to myself, imagining what it would actually be like to admit to 30-some rando’s that my favorite word is “fagjfdsalkdjask.” The redhead sitting in front of me, whipped around, obviously to get a glance at the crazy, cackling loonie sitting behind her. I smiled, biting my lip from more laughter and nodded, somehow acknowledging that this sort of behavior is normal on my part (no big). Suddenly, I noticed most of the students had turned their bodies towards my row. Gulp. In my giggling fit of haze, I had hardly noticed the squeaky, annoying voice blabbing on in front of me. Redhead. She admitted her favorite word was slice. I didn’t even have a millisecond to process this answer, seeing as I was suddenly up on the chopping block. As I put away all notions that the redhead in front of me could possibly be a serial “slice & dice” killer, my answer, my one perfect word, somehow, slipped out.
To be honest, I don’t really remember how people responded, seeing as I was now infatuated with the serial slice killer two feet away from me. I do know my moment of glory only lasted a minute until the next student took away my thunder and non-pareil was most certainly forgotten.
But some three years later and non-pareil is still very prevalent in my post-awkward, never to go to an introductory meeting again, so-called crazy life. For those who are so out of the loop they don’t know what a non-pareil is, let me explain. It is simply, a candy sprinkle. The “Sno-Cap” candy at movie theaters? Mini non-pareils!
There’s not one specific reason I love the word non-pareil, just many little bitty reasons. I love the candy, I love the chocolate, I love sprinkles, and I mainly think non-pareil is quite fun to say.
With that being said, I wanted to bake a chocolate cupcake that was a play off of, (you guessed it) non-pareils. And let me exemplify and brag to the utmost degree how flipping delicious these cupcakes actually turned out to be.
I first stumbled upon this recipe while reading Molly Wizenberg’s food memoir, “A Homemade Life“. The beyond talented Molly Wizenberg is the author of the incredibly popular and delectable blog, Orangette. As I kiss ass for only a second, I swear, this memoir is a must-read for all. Her voice and writing style is impeccable, her recipes are easy to follow and proven delicious and her blog name is amazing, and lets be real, that counts for a lot these days.
- 1 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup well stirred plain, whole milk yogurt *not low fat or fat free (I substituted between 1/4 and 1/2 cup buttermilk)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- Chocolate Glaze : 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line the wells of a standard size muffin tin with paper liners. Then, put the semisweet chocolate in a bowl with the hot coffee. Let stand, stirring occassionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and opaque.
Meanwhile, in another small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg on a medium speed until pale yellow, about one minute. Add the oil, yogurt, and vanilla, beating well. Gradually pour in the melted chocolate mixture, and beat thoroughly to combine. Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed until the batter is well combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and briefly stir to make sure all ingredients are combined.
Spoon the batter into the wells of the muffin tin, making sure its evenly distributed. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool for 20 minutes before- carefully, they’re tender! – removing the cupcakes. Allow them to cool completely before adding the glaze.
To make the glaze : melt the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. When the chocolate is completely smooth, its ready. Working with one cupcake at a time, spoon a heaping teaspoon of melted chocolate on top. Alternatively, use a knife or a icing spatula to spread the chocolate. The top of the cupcake should be entirely covered with a thin layer of chocolate. Spoon on more chocolate if needed.
Set the cupcakes aside at room temperature, for at least an hour, until ready to serve. (You don’t have to, if you don’t want to. I was salivating the whole time while icing, and got hungry – so I dove in. But its good to wait because the chocolate will harden slightly and form a nice glaze on top. If you eat it before its slightly hard, it will be very messy. Use a napkin. Also, heads up, these are the greatest cupcakes you will ever make in your life. Just a warning. No big deal, they’re truly fagjfdsalkdjasf-ing good.