The secret behind Mona Lisa’s smile. How they get the caramel in the Caramilk bar. Why it takes my kids 20 minutes to put on a pair of snow pants. Some things will always be a mystery but I do know this: Prairie Girl Bakery‘s cupcakes are delicious! delectable! delovely! and you can totally make them at home. The secrets are all in The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook, released just last week. I baked from it on the weekend (would you believe those are my cupcakes up there? I’m so proud!) and I’m here to tell you, it’s a revelation. Heck, it might even be the secret behind Mona Lisa’s smile! The cupcakes are that good.
It’s the first cookbook for Jean Blacklock, who opened the first Prairie Girl Bakery in 2011 and went on to open two additional locations (all in Toronto). The Saskatoon native and former banker uses only the best ingredients in her kitchens: real butter, fresh eggs, milk, cream and 70% chocolate. Kraft peanut butter, table salt and white all-purpose flour are also staples, along with freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries and raspberries used to flavour fruity icings. (Prairie Girl Bakery orders the freeze-dried berries from nuts.com, but I’ve also seen them at bulk food stores.) The ingredients are all detailed in a short chapter at the front of the book for a reason: you’re supposed to read it first! Don’t skip it and substitute ingredients willy nilly.
You’ll also want to read the chapter on baking tools and techniques. I’ve been baking since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and learned several things that not only saved me time, but almost certainly made the cupcakes as amazing as they were. For example did you know that creaming butter and sugar together for a long time (8 minutes!) creates a much lighter cake and a more appealing icing? Or that you could skip the sifter and just whisk your dry ingredients instead? And how do I not own a microplane for quick and fine zesting? Must rectify that situation STAT.
Another day I’ll try some of Jean’s recipes for gluten-free cupcakes and vegan cupcakes and icings, but since we don’t have any food intolerances in our household (unless you can count vegetables as an intolerance, har har) I made two of the “everyday cupcakes”: banana cupcakes with classic vanilla bean icing and dark cocoa cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese icing. Each recipe makes 36 mini cupcakes, 18 regulars or 12 jumbo Prairie Girl-size cupcakes (you need a special pan for those ones) and I made the regular size.
The cupcake batters were very different from each other — the banana thick and heavy almost like a batter for scones, the dark cocoa thin and runny like chocolate soup. Both were still wet to the touch when the timer buzzed so I left them in the oven a few minutes longer than the recipe called for. I should have pulled the banana out sooner as it was just a titch drier than I would have liked (still delicious, just not super moist) but the dark cocoa was perfection. Light, fudgey and moist, and not overly sweet. Actually neither of them were overly sweet, which paired with the icing just perfectly.
The icing is thick and easy to work with and maintains its shape when you pipe it onto the cake. Both recipes make enough to pile it high if you like them the Prairie Girl way (we do!), but if you prefer less icing, you can always freeze the rest. I topped my cupcakes with jelly beans and a few Godiva dark chocolate pearls, which we had in the house. (The pearls are from Chapters. I don’t think they have them online but they do in the store.)
My kiddos have asked for Prairie Girl cupcakes for their birthdays in May, but I’m sure we’ll find a dozen reasons to make them between now and then. The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook would make a great gift for the baker in your life, and if that’s you, treat yourself! It’s my go-to for cupcakes, and I bet it’ll be yours too.
Penguin Random House Canada Ltd. sent me a copy of The Prairie Girl Cupcake Cookbook in exchange for an honest review. I love sharing my favourite books with my readers!