05 March 2008

The First English Grad Gals Baby Shower!

It's a little hard to believe, but one of my grad school girlfriends is now the first one of us to have a baby! I feel like my grad school friends and I live in this alternate universe where we are all waiting a really long time to have babies (as opposed to, for example, the girl from my high school reunion who already has four kids). But happily, my friend M. is pregnant and due in April! I was so thrilled about it that I jumped at the chance to host her baby shower at my house.

We didn't have a particular theme, but we all gave favorite baby books to M. (of course, since we were all English literature majors!). We had a really nice time sitting and chatting while sipping champagne (or sparkling grape juice) and eating some delicious snacks, like B's chicken casserole, S's artichoke dip, and MF's spinach pie. I decided to make little tea sandwiches (proper British-style cucumber sandwiches and good Southern pimiento cheese) and cupcakes. I tried the Jamie Oliver recipe for Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Chocolate Topping and they were a real hit--especially with my husband, who helped polish them off after it was safe for men to come back in the house, heh.

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Chocolate Topping
Jamie Oliver, from "Happy Days with the Naked Chef"

2 tbs sultanas or golden raisins
1 oz dried apricots
1 oz dates
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup self-rising flour
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs corn syrup
1 large egg
2 tbs melted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs hot water

for the chocolate topping:
3 tbs butter
3 tbs sugar
1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 tbs heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400. In a food processor, chop the sultanas,
apricots, dates, baking powder, and a little of the flour (just enough
to keep the fruit from sticking o the blades). Put this mixture into
a bowl with the brown sugar, the syrup, the egg and the melted butter
and stir together. Then add the very hot water and the remaining
flour and mix well with a whisk. Divide the mixture between 12 foil
cupcake cups (doubled up) and place on a baking tray. Bake in
preheated oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt all the chocolate topping ingredients in the saucepan
and bubble for a while until slightly darkened in color. Remove from
the heat and let the sauce cool until it thickens. Then put a blob on
top of each cupcake.