I love this quote by Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules); he writes,“There is nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion...Special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn't deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored.”
I love being a baker, making cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and sweet treats. However, I know that I can't make them all the time, nor can I just give them out at whim to any child. I've tried hard to model to Children that treats are actually treats, and we celebrate our family birthdays and special occasions with a small treat, but a treat is just that - something special that doesn't happen every single day.
If I ONLY baked for just the family birthdays, I'd already bake five times a year. Add the extended family who lives near us, I'm already baking 11 times a year. That averages out to about once a month. With just the baking that I do for my family, Children will have access to a sweet treat once a month. This is a treat that I really enjoy making, because I don't use a boxed cake mix, but try and source high quality, organic (if possible) ingredients, that I put together with my own two hands.
Add the baking that I do when I have guests over, which averages about once a month. That's now twice a month Children get a treat. Add the additional invitation over to someone's house where I offer to bring something and they request dessert. Let's just call that on average, once a month. Now we're at three times a month, Children get a treat.
That's a lot of treats already, and some with not necessarily the right sense of occasion. There are invariably birthday parties where cake is served (usually store bought) and goody bags often filled with candy. The treats, and special occasions keep adding up. School treats, school occasions, birthday handouts, party handouts quickly add up, and suddenly, what was once or twice a month of treats becomes almost a thrice weekly thing.
I'm not anti-treats. Don't get me wrong. I'm anti-every-day-is-a-treat day. I'm also anti-other-people-giving-my-children treats. Children get enough of treats, distributed by me, made by me, at home. I don't offer them processed treats, and I make my own treats for them. I also don't give out treats to other children, without the express permission of their parents, as their parent has the absolute right to monitor how much their child eats.
I'm sure I don't have all the right answers. I only claim to know what to do for my own kids. I do know the United States leads the world in obesity, and if that statistic doesn't give you pause, I'll remind you that the burden of taking care of the unhealthy in this country is a collective one that falls on all of our shoulders. As parents, we really need to revisit what is going into our children's bodies. If you ARE going to give a treat, one that is homemade is miles better than what you get in a store, which is why I do like to challenge people to try and make their own homemade cookies and treats. If you refuse to buy processed packaged treats, and say that you will only make them, you'd be surprised at how much money you save and how much fewer treats your children will actually consume.
I made these treats to celebrate a reunion with an old grad school friend and an old teaching colleague, both brilliant thinkers of education reform and thoughtful planners of education's future. I made us all a lovely dinner, and each of our children got a single mini cupcake; the adults sat, savored our small treat and enjoyed the occasion of friendship.
Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24 regular sized cupcakes or 48 mini cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups superfine sugar, or regular sugar that has been processed in a food processor and made fine
2 large eggs (taken out of the fridge the same time as the butter)
3 large egg yolks
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with liners.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Mix together milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, blend softened butter and superfine sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, one at a time, add egg yolks, one at a time,and beat until well mixed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well blended.
Add half of flour mixture and mix until just combined, and add half milk mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add remaining half of flour mixture, mix until just combined and then add remaining milk mixture. Mix until just combined.again. At this stage, the less you mix the better for your cake. (too much mixing makes for a tough cake.)
Scoop batter into cupcake pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes (minis) or 22-24 minutes (regular size) until tops spring back up when tapped.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Frost with icing once cupcakes are completely cooled.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
½ cup of butter (1 stick), softened
8 oz of cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, mix butter until it is softened and uniform. Add cream cheese and beat together until it is uniform. Add 2 cups of sugar and cocoa powder to the mixture and mix. Add milk and vanilla extract and mix again. Add remaining 1 cup of confectioners sugar. Mix again until mixture is creamy and spreadable. Add more sugar if necessary, otherwise frost completely cooled cupcakes.