Camouflage Cupcakes (Nut-Free)
I never thought I’d produce a camouflage anything in my kitchen. But, today, I have proven myself wrong. You guys, I made a camo cake AND two dozen camo cupcakes. I’m in a strange state of wonder over the whole thing.
Here’s what happened. Over the last few months, my son has been profoundly interested in all things military. I’m not sure how it started or why, but he wants to watch WWII documentaries and check out library books about amphibious vehicles. My Dad is a Vietnam War Veteran and when we were home a few weeks ago, Dad shared some of his memorabilia, much to my son’s delight. I’m happy that he wants to know more about our American history and how our fine military operates, but it makes me just a little bit nervous. Fighting and war are big topics when you’re merely a child. Understanding the political and environmental situations that necessitate military force is something he likely won’t study until high school and I don’t dare explain to a six-year-old!
So, this sweet child turns seven tomorrow. Today, we have two celebrations for him – one at school and one with a few of his friends this evening (hence the cupcakes and cake). He wants everything to be camouflage – the plates and napkins, his shoes and (sigh) even the cake. I literally spent two weeks wringing my hands over how I was going to make a camo cake. I crafted a plan (of course) and held my breath while these things baked.
Here was the running commentary, which happened out loud, not just in my head: “Will the three batters hold up individually so that all three colors emerge or will they just bleed together into a mass of some terrible greenish-brown blob?” “Will I be able to taste the spinach powder (which I used to “dye” one part of the batter green because food dye is yucky)?” “Will the green batter turn brown when I bake it leaving me with a checkered cake instead of a camo one?” And finally: “What have I gotten myself into?”
You will be rather pleased to know that my efforts resulted in a successful camo cake! Let me walk you through it a bit. It is NOT difficult, it just requires a little bit of patience. But, if you ever need to make a camo cake or cupcakes, I have your solution!
So, we start with a really good, basic vanilla cake batter recipe. Once you’ve incorporated all your ingredients, divide it into thirds in three separate bowls. One third you’ll leave plain vanilla. Another third, you’ll turn into chocolate (magical!) and the remaining third, you’ll “dye” green. Let me say a few things about spinach powder (or any vegetable powder) you may use in baking:
- You’ll need a good acid in the recipe to keep the powder from turning brown. For this recipe, you’ll see that I added vinegar to the whole milk. That’ll do it!
- Be mindful of your quantities. Powders are concentrations of the vegetable, which means the flavor is strong. You will taste the spinach if you use enough of it! I started with 3 teaspoons in this recipe. It gave me the perfect camo green color. I can taste the slightest hint of spinach in the final product, but that’s because I knew it was there. I doubt the regular, unassuming consumer would notice it.
- I added the spinach powder directly to the batter. Some people prefer to soak the powder in water first, then add the liquid to the batter. I didn’t test this method, so if you do, let me know how it goes!
And now for the most time-consuming part. You’ll need to add spoonfuls of the batter one at a time. You’re trying to create that camo “pattern.” The good news here is that precision and perfection are irrelevant. Just drop ‘em in. Let the camo baking gods do the rest. Here is what my first layer looked like:
When I baked the cake (a 2-layer 9-inch round cake), it only took one layer in each pan. The cupcakes needed, like, 1.5 layers. I filled the cupcake liners almost all the way to the top. This batter rises really well, so my resulting cupcakes have a nice big, overflowed top.
And here’s what the inside of the cupcakes looked like after baking:
Pretty awesome, no?
Here is the bottom of the cake, too. I thought this view showed the cool marbling of the camo pattern:
Needless to say, both the cupcakes and the cake were a huge hit! And now I’m off to contemplate how my baby could be SEVEN already?!?!