Cupcake Armageddon


The other night, I was switching around on the treadmill TV at the health club (carefully, because I don’t want to lose my grip and go flying backward out the window), and I ran into the Food Network. Normally I avoid the Food Network. It is mostly people like Paula Deen and Sandra Lee and Alton Brown and Padma Lakshmi, with industrial blenders and fifty pounds of butter and ovens the size of walk-in closets.



But I came upon a show called “Cupcake Wars.”



Holy Mother of God.



Four very nice women, working under a time limit, were frantically designing brilliant delicious clever inventive cupcakes to please a panel of “judges.” I came in while they were trying to combine three flavors in one cupcake.



And, according to the judges, they all failed!



All right, I need to pause at this point. Do you honestly see how silly this whole food-combat thing has become? People are being made to cry because their cupcakes aren’t as good as someone else’s cupcakes. “Iron Chef” was at least funny, with the whole “Kitchen Stadium” thing, and the war cry “A la cuisine!”, and the secret ingredient being something stupid like salt cod or sweet potatoes or shiitake mushrooms.



“Cupcake Wars” has a judge named Florian Bellanger, who runs a macaroon company (!), and who is completely humorless. He is Simon Cowell times ten. He never cracks a smile. He speaks with a nasty humorless Eurotrash accent. He says things like (please read these aloud with your most atrocious French/Belgian accent):


  • “We asked for three flavors. You gave me one. I do not like this. I say this is a no.”

  • “I wanted something delicate. You give me a chocolate cupcake.”

  • “This red velvet . . . it is like sucking food coloring out of the bottle.”



The contestants are baking cupcakes. You hear me? Cupcakes.



Actually, I think I might bake cupcakes this week. Maybe banana-walnut-kiwi cupcakes, with infused lemon curd and a vanilla buttercream frosting decorated with daisies and butterflies.



Or maybe I’ll just dump a box of cake mix in a bowl with some oil and eggs.



Either way, if we can peel the papers off their little bottoms and eat them, they will be a triumph.




Paula Deen: full of love and lard

I receive emails from the Food Network from time to time. Today’s email led with a PAULA DEEN RECIPE: FRIED MAC AND CHEESE.


A less appetizing photo you cannot imagine. It looks like a slightly burnt pound cake with a flat mealy crust. And I’m pretty sure they put a filter on the camera to keep the grease from sparkling in the light.


Please don’t get me wrong. I’m all for carbohydrates and fats. My grandma used to eat bread with lard on it, so it’s in my genes. And I’ve been known to double the amount of butter and cheese in a ho-hum recipe, just for kicks.


But Paula is – well, “over the top” doesn’t even describe it. It’s stunt cookery. How can we make this recipe even gooier than it already is?


She is also, hm, lazy. New York Magazine was kind enough to highlight her recent online recipe for English Peas. Be sure to read the users’ reviews too.


Memorable moments from her show:


  • In one episode, four shirtless guys carried a coffin-sized slab of butter on a palanquin through the audience and up onto the set. I expected Paula to do the Dance of the Seven Veils in front of it.

  • In another episode, she mixed peanut butter, honey, and sugar into a thick paste, scooped up handfuls of the mixture, rolled them in more powdered sugar (no cooking necessary!) and then ate one like an apple, while informing us that her grade-school lunch lady used to make something just like this.

  • In yet another episode, she posed the question: How can you make a rich recipe like bread pudding even richer? Why, by replacing the bread with Krispy Kreme Donuts, silly!



What next, Paula? Crisco Fritters with Georgia Butter Sauce and Mars Bar stuffing?


Come to think of it, that’d be some mighty good eatin’!




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