For the Love of Cupcakes – Guest Post From Meg Donohue, Author of HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE
Since this blog is all about secrets, I’m going to share one with you: despite the fact that my debut novel is entitled How to Eat a Cupcake, I’m not actually a baker. Maybe that doesn’t surprise you; the title, after all isn’t How to Bake a Cupcake. Still, it’s about two women struggling to repair their damaged friendship as they open a cupcakery, and cupcakes play a prime role in the story. People naturally assume that I must be an avid baker. Does a writer of crime fiction commit a lot of crimes? Probably not. These are things our fictional characters do and we, as writers, are tasked with coming up with the right recipe for making their actions believable.
I took a multi-pronged approach to researching baking, cupcakes, and the life of a twenty-something pastry chef. Here are some of the ingredients that went into creating Annie Quintana, master baker of delectable cupcakes:
BLOGS. I read a lot baking and cupcake-related blogs. In particular, I loved Joy the Baker (www.joythebaker.com) for her mouth-watering recipes, sassy story-telling, and gorgeous pictures. You should probably race over there right now and check out her Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Marshmallow Cupcake recipe.
Cupcakes Take the Cake was another site I visited frequently while researching the book. It’s chockfull of recipes, bakery news, and pictures of beautifully decorated cupcakes.
TELEVISION. Let’s just say I watch a lot of Food Network and TLC. Between DC Cupcakes, Cupcake Wars, and Top Chef: Just Desserts, there’s no shortage of opportunities to watch top pastry chefs in action.
INTERVIEWS. I spent a fun afternoon (followed up with many months of additional questioning) baking cupcakes with San Francisco pastry chef Alyce Shields. We chatted about what it is like to work in a kitchen both as an assistant and as the head honcho, including specifics about the sorts of hours chefs keep, who else is in the kitchen at any given time, and what chefs do with their “down” time. Alyce was an invaluable resource! She even developed a special Meyer lemon cupcake recipe exclusively for readers of How to Eat a Cupcake.
TASTE TESTING. I may not be a baker, but I am an Eater with a capital E. The most fun part of my research was traveling around to many of the city’s bakeries and trying their various cupcake flavors. Just as there is no one way to eat a cupcake, there really is no one way to bake one. There is such wonderful variety out there! Two of the standouts in my research were the Cinnamon-Horchata Cupcake at Mission Minis (spicy and creamy, with the Mexican drink horchata in a starring role) and the Chocolate-Caramel-Fleur-de-Sel Cupcake at Noe Valley Bakery (probably my three all-time favorite ingredients, in one cupcake!). Put them on your list for the next time you’re in San Francisco!