Once, in another lifetime, I spent one night lying on the floor with 31 other similarly minded people. It was one of those times when crying, hugging, and declarations of never ending love are normal modes of expression. The rest of the world doesn’t function like that: unbridled expression of comaraderie, brotherhood, family. Only small children lie in a puddle of bodies, taking comfort in the closeness of the many, just breathing next to them. It was the end of three months of theater school, and the intensity of the experience left us all, I think, trying to cling to the magic just a little bit longer. One set of arms is not long enough to hug 31 other people. Instead, we lay on a floor in a haphazard pile. I have a photograph of this, taken from a balcony above, and looking at it recently, I am shocked at the stories it tells in a multicolor blur of scarves and leg warmers and collegiate hoodies and ancient sweatpants, through a filter of fuzz from 35mm color fast film taken flashless in low lighting. Somehow, it does not smack of poor photography, only of joy, and love, and family.
At the time, we were eating bourbon balls, brought straight from Kentucky by someone’s parent. My friend turned 30 this weekend. I promised to bring cupcakes to the bar we were to surprise him at. I had one of those weeks where I just wanted to stretch my arms around my New York family and take comfort in their nearness. But, my arms aren’t long enough. And only theater nerds think it is normal to lie on the floor in a puddle of people. So I made some bourbon ball cupcakes, my typical food-as-feelings way of saying you are my joy, you are my love, and you are my family.
Bourbon Ball Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen
For the cupcakes:
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 teas baking powder
- 1/8 teas salt
- 1/2 teas ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teas ground nutmeg
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 cup pecans, chopped medium-fine
For the filling:
- 2 oz semi sweet chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 teas vanilla extract
For the frosting:
- 12 Tbs (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 6 cups confections sugar
- 2 Tbs vanilla extract
- 1/4 c bourbon
- 1 Tbs heavy cream
- chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup standard size cupcake tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium high until fluffy about 3 minutes. Add sugar and mix for about 5 minutes more. Mix in eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on low, alternate add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in pecans. Divide batter evenly among the cupcake tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely before coring out centers or frosting.
Meanwhile, heat the cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate, bourbon, and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes until mixture is cool and slightly firm. Beat with an electric hand mixer until fluffy and color lightens.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 cup confectioners sugar. Add vanilla and bourbon. Mix. Add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time. When combined, beat in cream. If the frosting seems a little soft, add more sugar as desired.
When cupcakes are cool, core them using a cupcake corer (an apple corer works okay too). Using a frosting bag with a plain tip fill centers with chocolate filling. Frost with butter cream. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles (optional).