Camp Cupcake Cupcakes
Nestled in the Appalachian hills of southeastern West Virginia, Alderson Prison Camp is the nation’s oldest correctional institution for women. The federal facility made headlines when Martha Stewart began her 5-month sentence for lying about a stock sale—and again when she broke prison rules by cooking up a batch of crabapple jelly—but the celebrated homemaker and media mogul is by no means the most famous inmate the prison has housed.
Since opening its doors in 1927, Alderson has been home to a diverse roster of felonious females. Billie Holiday served a drug sentence at the rural compound in 1947. Iva Ikuko Toguri, one of the women who gave voice to Tokyo Rose, crossed paths with Mildred “Axis Sally” Gillars while at the prison. Socialist, ACLU co-founder, and women’s rights activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was sent to Alderson after her 1951 conviction for violating the Alien Registration Act.
Alderson is, for the most part, a temporary home for non-violent offenders (Manson family alum and would-be assassin Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is one notable exception). A minimum security prison on an open, forested campus, Alderson has earned the nickname “Camp Cupcake”, and it’s that lighthearted sobriquet that inspired this delightful dessert.
I began with the Chocolate Cupcake recipe in The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, a recipe that’s quite similar to this Devil’s Food Cupcake recipe found at marthastewart.com. The type of cake used isn’t important, though, so use any kind of cake you like. It is important, though, to have a large canvas for decorating, so use a jumbo muffin tin instead of standard size.
A white topping is also necessary, and I chose this Shiny Cream Cheese Frosting. Sweet and just a little tangy, this is a wonderful complement to a dense, fudgy chocolate cake. Please note that this frosting requires chilling before it’s properly spreadable, so you might want to make it before you make the cake. You should also know that it takes a lot of mixing before this recipe gets creamy, so using a stand mixer—such as this gorgeous Kitchen Aid model in Martha’s green—is a good idea. When you’re frosting these little cakes, be sure to reserve some for the decoration.
While any dessert should, of course, be delicious, Camp Cupcake Cupcakes are all about style. Martha Stewart may have to wear Alderson’s contemporary uniform of sweatshirt, khakis, and sneakers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t emulate the nostalic charm of old-fashioned jailhouse togs. To make the stripes, mix black food coloring—available in the baking aisle of big grocery stores—with reserved frosting and pipe the colored frosting through a ribbon tip. Be sure to separate each black stripe with white space of equal width to achieve the desired effect. The finished result? A dessert that’s as visually striking as it is tasty.
It’s a good thing.
November 9, 2004 | Permalink
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