A few weeks ago someone in my mother’s group suggested going to a pumpkin patch. I was all in, it sounded fun and exciting and so quintessentially American! We found a good time and decided to go before the weather “turned”. A few days before the event when Mr Firehouse asked “what exactly is a pumpkin patch?” I was stumped! Thankfully, like all good tourist attractions Stocker Farms had a website and it told me that for a 10 dollar entry free there were hay rides, tractor rides, corn mazes and even a petting zoo amongst other things. The pumpkin patch part, was actually a patch of pumpkins (har har). A large plot of land, full of pumpkins that patrons take a wagon into and “pick” pumpkins for the upcoming carving madness that accompanies halloween. It was awesome!
We spent the day there and even though Mister C and his friends were a little young to appreciate the fun activities on offer, they had a blast taking in all the attractions and I’m sure him and his buddies will be wreaking havoc there this time next year.
The best activity was by far the hammering station. A set of logs, arranged in a circle with a few buckets of real nails on the floor. The young children who frequented this activity were handed real metal hammers and encouraged to hammer the nails into the wood. There was a young girl supervising and a few parents keeping an eye on the proceedings but it was mainly young kids, using real hammers and real sharp nails (really real!!!). Litigation be damned! It was refreshing. We watched a young boy, no more than 4, hammering away and he of course accidentally hammered his finger. I could tell it hurt by the grimace on his face, but he didn’t cry, he barely flinched. He quickly sucked his finger and went back to hammering. There was no way he was giving his mum, who was standing by and watching, any reason to take him away from the fun.
I feel like “allergen free” cooking a good thing to have in your tool bag these day. I seem to be meeting more and more people that can’t eat a huge variety of things. I myself was dairy free and soy free for a time to try and curtail dear Mister C’s spewiness. These cupcakes were made dairy free to cater for a breastfeeding mum whose bub is on a dairy free diet. I made them to take with us to the pumpkin patch. I’ve used this recipe countless times as an egg free recipe too. Simply replace each egg with 1/4 cup of blended silken tofu. I iced mine with royal icing, which melted at room temperature (bleh), so I’d eat these plain with a dusting of cocoa powder or make a dairy free buttercream with dairy free spread.
one must clap, when one is at a pumpkin patch
Ingredients (makes about 30 small cupcakes or 2 8 inch cakes)
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used raw cacao because I couldn’t be sure of the ingredients in my cocoa powder as I’d lost the label…oops)
- 1 cups sugar (granulated or caster if you’re in Australia)
- 1/2 cup vegetable Oil
- 1/2 unsweetened apple sauce (apple puree) or another 1/2 cup oil .
- 1 cup boiling water & 1 1/4 tsp. instant coffee mixed together and cooled
- 1 cup soy milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Buttercream
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (or dairy free margarine like Nuttelex or Earth Balance)
- 2 2/3 cups icing sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
And cocoa in the following amounts…
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for light)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for medium)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for dark rich)
Preheat an oven to 350F or 180C and line 3 cupcakes trays with liners.
Mix the first 6, dry ingredients together in a large bowl using a whisk. This helps aerate and Martha Stewart once told me (via her cooking show) that whisking briskly does much the same thing as sifting.
In a second, smaller bowl mix all the wet ingredients and whisk together until the eggs are broken up.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk it all together until you have a smooth mixture. It’s a very wet batter so don’t be alarmed if it’s not thick like most cake mixes.
Pour about 1/4 of a cup eat into your cupcake tray and bake for 25 minutes in the oven. Remember to rotate the trays if your oven isn’t fan forced.
For the buttercream
In the bowl of your stand mixer, start beating your butter. Start slow and once it’s smooth, turn the mixer to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes until the butter changes colour (this is a sign of the butter being aerated – air = fluffiness).
Stop the mixer and add your icing sugar and cocoa powder. You can hold some back if you’re worried about the sweetness. Put the mixer on the lowest speed (mine has a “stir” function) and mix until the icing sugar is incorporated and won’t spray your kitchen white.
When the sugar is combined, add the vanilla and turn the mixer up again to high and beat for 4-5 minutes until it’s all light and fluffy. Finally add the milk a little at time until the icing is of spreading consistency.
Pipe/spread onto the cooled cupcakes and serve straightaway or place in the fridge for later.