Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Literary Palate: Thornton Cupcakes

I know I haven't written a lot of actual book reviews lately, but there are so many other things going on right now! One thing I've been working on is cupcakes. My friend, MaryAnn, and I are creating a bunch of cupcakes based on book and TV characters of which we're fans. The cupcakes we made this week were especially delightful, so I wanted to share them with you! So, without further ado:

Our Inspiration

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
(picture taken from Goodreads)

I know many of you are familiar with the book and will appreciate that there should always be delicious cupcakes dedicated to the brilliance of this piece of literature.

Our Creation

Thornton Cupcakes

The Thornton cupcake is, of course, based on my favorite character from North and South: John Thornton. It is a dark chocolate cupcake with an assam tea buttercream filling and a semi-sweet chocolate glaze on top. Because we all know he has a little soft and sweet deliciousness under all that darkness and glowering! It was quite fun coming up with this one!

The Recipe

1 cup unsalted butter                                             1 1/3 cups 1% milk
2 cups sugar                                                           1 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs                                                           2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour                     2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                    1 cup Dutch process cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl until well-blended. Add 1 egg and beat until blended. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs. Add 1 cup of flour and the salt and blend. Add 1/2 of milk and blend. Add remaining cup of flour and the baking soda and baking powder and blend. Add second 1/2 of milk and the vanilla extract and blend. Add cocoa and blend until consistency of batter is uniform and smooth. If not using cupcake papers, grease or butter cupcake pan. Fill each cup 1/2-2/3 full and bake for roughly 20 minutes. Cool baked cupcakes before filling.

1/4 cup water
1 assam tea bag
3 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter

Boil water and pour over tea bag. Brew for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, cream 2 cups of sugar and all of butter. Consistency will seem dry or inconsistent; blend as well as possible. When tea is brewed, take out tea bag and pour over sugar and butter mixture. Stir in but not completely. Add last cup of sugar and blend well. After cupcakes are cool, make a hollow in the center of each with a melon baller/spoon/whatever works for you. Mine were probably an inch deep or less. Spoon filling into cupcake and smooth top for easier glazing.

3/4 cup butter
2+ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave. Remove from heat and immediately mix in chocolate chips until smooth. Add more chocolate chips as desired for stronger flavor.

I have included the type of ingredients that I specifically used (certain flours or milk, for instance), but you are welcome to substitute with what you can or prefer to eat. I almost always tweak recipes that I use anyway. Just make sure you're aware that altered fat content/dry-wet ingredient ratio/etc. will alter the consistency of the cupcake and adjust other ingrdients accordingly. This recipe will be much easier to make in a mixer if you have one. If you don't or yours is currently broken (like mine), be prepared for some serious mixing! Keep in mind that I personally think the filling needs some work so the tea flavor will be stronger and the texture more consistent. I'll update this recipe when I find the solutions.
For Your Comparison

Richard Armitage as John Thornton
(picture taken from Google Images)

Let me know if you all like this post! The cupcakes and other treats will be an ongoing project of MaryAnn's and mine, so we'll have others to post if you guys are interested. Also, if there's anything else you'd like to know about our processes or inspirations, please comment and I'll do my best to answer. And I'd love to hear how yours turn out if you make some!


  1. I love it! What a fabulous idea! And those Thornton cupcakes look delicious. :D I do have a question actually. I've never created a recipe before, so how does it work for you? Your reasoning of Thornton being all dark on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside goes so well with the actual cupcakes, so how did you arrive at the flavors you chose?

    1. Thanks, Kara! They were really good. I guess I don't have a set process. I'm a big recipe reader, so I'm not sure you could say I write a recipe from scratch. I tend to glean bits from a variety of cookbooks and put things together or tweak stuff that I think will make it better or more convenient. The main thing I have to remind myself when planning a new recipe is to keep the balance of ingredients. You know, the amount of dry to wet ingredients you use will determine whether it will bake properly. If I use chocolate chips instead of cocoa, I have to add more dry ingredients to make up for it. Originally, I was going to use a peanut butter marshmallow filling and ganache on top, but the filling was a big flop. I haven't worked much with peanut butter in my baking, so I didn't gauge it quite right. I was looking around my kitchen for something else that would work, and when I saw the black teas in my cupboard, it just felt right. I brewed tea and added it to the buttercream instead of other liquids, but it wasn't a very strong flavor against the chocolate. I might try infusing the butter next time. I'm glad you liked the post! I'll try to do another one soon!

    2. Side note: I thought about including a recipe, but since I took parts of my recipe from cookbooks, I don't want to infringe on any copyrights. :/

    3. Little late in responding, but thank you for the recipe! Will have to try them soon. I love to bake! :) And thank you for the explanation for recipe-creating. I learned a few things!

      And yes. Please do try this again and share the results. I loved this post! :)

    4. No problem! I hope yours work out. I'm going to try and enhance the filling and try again soon, so I'll update this if I make changes.

  2. Recipes are not copyrighted! Or rather, you cannot copyright a list of ingredients. The words you use to write up your description can be copyrighted, so you have to write them up in your own words, that's all.

    So please post the recipe, because I want to try it!!!

    1. Thanks, Hamlette! I didn't know that, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. My instructions would mostly be "mix it all together," because that's usually how I bake. :) Anyway, I'm glad you guys are so excited! I'll try to post the recipe info soon for you.

  3. What a delicious post :)
    I'd love to see more posts like this, Hannah. It will be interesting to have a bunch of recipes based on literature, yummy.

    1. You definitely will then! MaryAnn and I are coming up with more ideas every day; I think we've started something really fun!

  4. What a great idea and the cupcakes look very yummy! Such a pity you can only see them and not taste them via the internet right?

    What other characters have you been 'baking' so far?

    1. I agree! If there were a simple way to ship them, I'd send you all some. :)

      I haven't had a chance to bake most of the ones we've come up with; we're mostly in the creative flavor-planning stage right now. We have flavors for Margaret Hale, of course, Mr. Darcy, the Dragonriders of Pern, Zeus, and Hades. I'm fine-tuning flavors for Harry Potter characters and Laura Ingalls Wilder. MaryAnn is working on several sci-fi culture cupcake flavors right now--Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, etc. I have a long list of characters and books that I would like to include, but the process of putting the right flavors together without repeats takes a bit of time. As soon as I perfect another recipe, you'll hear about it!

    2. Thanks, Hamlette! It helps to have another person to bounce ideas back and forth, so I can't take credit for everything.

    3. Oh wow, that's amazing! You could start an Etsy shop, only I guess sending cupcakes around even in the US would be quite difficult

    4. Yeah, it's fun but would probably get complicated as a business.

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  5. Recipe has been added! Enjoy everyone, and let me know how yours turn out! :)