High school English class staples: Hamlet, Beowulf, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Macbeth, and The Scarlet Letter. Most high schools don’t stray from these core 5 fiction masterpieces. But enough about that- let’s talk about cupcakes. That is, cupcakes inspired by #5 on our list, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
For those who have only made through books 1-4 on our list, The Scarlet Letter is about 17th century Bostonian, Hester Prynne, who has an affair while waiting for her husband, Roger Chillingworth, to arrive in America. He ends up getting himself lost at sea. Her act would have gone unnoticed in her Puritan community, if it wasn’t for her increasing pregnancy belly and lack of an in-country husband. She gives birth to her daughter Pearl and one-by-one, eyebrows are raised by the townspeople. Because of her acts, she is forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her chest to show the community what will happen to you if you commit adultery.
Hester and Pearl are shunned from their community and must endure constant glares and some pretty obnoxious treatment from the town. But despite this, Hester still refuses to give up the identiy of her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale. She finds herself in an intense love triangle between herself, her lover, and her husband, who has managed to find his way to shore. Hester and Arthur hatch a plan to escape the torment of their town, while still keeping their secret safe from a suspicious Roger, as well as the rest of the community.
The thing I always found interesting about this book was how Hawthorne sweetens Hester’s scandalous behavior so the reader empathises with the protagonist. Let’s be honest here, a scandal is a scandal and typically nothing good is thought about those involved. But the reader can’t help but be on Hester’s team, rooting enthusiastically from the sidelines of his or her comfiest reading chair. Hester is captivating, but sinful. She is beautiful, but flawed. She is a victim, but a criminal. She is a hodgepodge of contradictions, which is what makes her character to dynamic.
Red velvet, or should I say, scarlet, cupcakes are the perfect homage to Hester. Like Hester’s predicament, red velvet cake has a unique flavor. It’s not chocolate. But it’s not vanilla. And there’s no chocolate in it. Or butter? No butter? Crazy talk! Just madness! It’s also the prefect homage because of the color. Red is seen as a warning. Typically, not something good. By wearing the scarlet letter “A”, Hester was picked out from the town as being a sinful, scandalous person. She was a warning of how this behavior was seen in their society.
That aside, after a bite of these scarlet cupcakes, you’ll be thinking that scandal never tasted so good.
The Scarlet Cupcakes
(adapted from my favorite butter girl, Paula Deen’s, recipe)
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Cups white sugar
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoons salt
1/3 Cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cups canola oil (Deen’s recipe called for vegetable oil, but I didn’t have any on hand and didn’t have any complaints from my test kitchen crew- my family.)
1 Cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1 Teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- In a medium bowl, sift together, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, oil, and vanilla until well combined.
- Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is evenly incorporated.
- Place better into a lined cupcake pan and bake for about 20 minutes. This will bake about 24 cupcakes.
- Set on cooling rack and let cool before frosting.
- Cream the cream cheese, Butter, and vanilla extract together until creamy.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar until smooth.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes with the frosting.
- Melt the baking chocolate on defrost for 45 second intervals until smooth. I did it for 4 45 second intervals.
- Once melted, dip your fork into the chocolate and drizzle it on top of the cupcakes.
- Cut a maraschino cherry in half and place a half on each of the cupcakes.