03 January 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday!

One of my oldest and dearest friends is a fiery redhead named Jen. We met over 20 years ago at summer camp in Maine and while we didn't hit it off immediately, we were brought together on an outing to Sugarloaf Mountain and have been like sisters ever since. Like an old married couple, we have been together through the good and bad, in sickness and in health, through thick (or should I say fat?) and thin. We've lived through braces and bad hair-dos, first dates and summer crushes, job searches, apartment searches, dysfunctional families, heartbreak, the struggle to shed "those few pesky pounds," more family drama, bad fashion of the '80's and '90's and more recently, finding the "one." Jen has always had my back, and I've had hers.

Since I grew up in the City, and Jen on Long Island, much of our teenage years' time together was limited to weekends and summers. During our college years, Jen headed out West to Boulder where I spent an unforgettable Halloween with her and her friends. In our senior year, Jen attended the Junior Year Abroad Program run through my college so we were able to get into all sorts of trouble here in France...including several hilarious trips to neighboring Spain and Amsterdam (where Jaywalking Jen was almost cut down by a speeding bicyclist), as well as starring in a short film, Sans Rire, as two lost American tourists written and directed by then still undiscovered French talent Mathieu Amalric (who you all probably know better as the latest Bond villain, Dominic Greene, in Quantum of Solace).

Since I moved to Paris 5 years ago, our time together has been brief. While distance may be hard on some relationships, I find we can pick up where we left off and it's as if we had just seen each other the day before. We last got together about two years ago when I was pregnant with my second. Since then, I've given birth (and my how that little munchkin has grown) and Jen's gotten engaged. I still find it hard to believe she has yet to meet my daughter, and I haven't had the chance to congratulate her in-person, or lay my eyes on her rock which I hear is absolutely breath-taking! But Jen and her true love are getting married in 2009 and so I know we'll all hook up then.

Today is Jen's birthday and here are some special cupcakes baked just for her. I'm calling them "French Kiss" cause it was baked with love here in Paris. And because, a French Kiss was our cocktail of choice one hot summer in Manhattan. It was introduced to us by our favorite bartender, Kathy, at the now defunct Mugamba Bay on the Upper West Side. A French Kiss is a cocktail made from a mixture of vodka, chambord, creme de cacao and half and half (or cream). This is a chocolate cupcake, stuffed with a creme de cacao ganache and topped with raspberry Chambord buttercream and a hand-made marzipan rose. To finish it off, I sprinkled some Wilton's edible silver glitter which I found from a seller on ebay.co.uk who (lucky for me!) carries lots of the those hard to find cupcake decorations I have been ogling on US sites.

Happy Birthday, Jen! Wish there was some way to bridge the distance so we could be together on your special day (and you could try one of these babies for yourself!). Have no fear though; in the time it has taken me to type up this post, my dear husband has already finished three of these off and is starting to look for more....

Here's how to make a French Kiss at home (ganache and buttercream will be enough for 12-14 cupcakes):

1 batch chocolate cupcakes (I posted a very simple one-bowl recipe from Martha Stewart here. It's a great recipe if you are a novice cupcake baker.).

Creme de Cacao Ganache:
1 lb. white chocolate, chopped and melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsps. white creme de cacao

Chambord Buttercream
4 ozs. softened unsalted butter
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsps. milk
2 tbsps. raspberry liquor such as Chambord

1) Prepare chocolate cupcakes and allow to cool on a wire rack.

2) Prepare ganache. Make ganache by combining all ganache ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well mixed. Ganache will be about as thick as frosting. If it is too thick, thin with a little cream or milk.

3) Once cupcakes have cooled, cut a small cone from the top of each cupcake and set aside. I usually place the top next to its respective cupcake on a baking sheet so I can get an exact fit when rebuilding them. Place about a teaspoon of the creme de cacao ganache in each and replace top. You may need to cut a little bit off the bottom of the cone portion if you have really stuffed the cucpcakes with ganache.

4) Meanwhile, to make frosting, sift 4 cups sugar into a large bowl. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add milk and Chambord and continue beating until frosting is of good spreading consistency. If too runny, add more sugar in half-cup increments. Frost cooled cupcakes.


  1. That is a beautiful, sweet post, LMC, and an equally beautiful, sweet cupcake. Jen is lucky to have a friend like you (and vice versa). Sounds like the new year is off to a sweet start!

  2. The cupcake looks delicious and sweet, but couldn't possibly be as sweet as the post! Glad all our fun times are so recent in your mind...mine too. Can you cold pack a cupcake and fedex it to me?? Ok, probably not..i won't attempt to make it myself, i'm a terrible cook and even worse baker. I love and miss you. Jen