My first memory of Layla is of an early morning Arabic class. It was our second day of our first semester and we were partners for an activity. While I was struggling to sound out the most basic of words (he, she, big, small, etc), Layla read and pronounced them perfectly. I was filled with panic--I was supposed to know all of these squiggly letters and words already? What?! But by the third day, Layla and I had a real conversation (in English, of course) and she revealed her secret: being half Arab, she had learned Arabic as a small child and remembered how to say basic things. What a relief! We became instant friends.
Layla has shared some of the best moments of her life with me. I went wedding dress shopping with her and her mom and then attended her wedding (which she managed to schedule for after I came back from Guatemala). We studied for Arabic tests and learned about women and Islam together. We've ranted about what bugs us in the world and talk about things ranging from clothes to religion to having kids (and our mutual dislike for newborns) to politics in the Middle East and, of course, food. She's spunky, smart, and sassy, a girl who's not afraid to speak her mind. A kindred spirit in every way.
In Seattle, there is this incredible cupcake shop that I am addicted to. They have the cutest little shop and the yummiest cupcakes. My favorite cupcake is their smores cupcake and I was beyond delighted when the owner of Trophy, Jennifer Shea appeared on Martha Stewart and shared the recipe for my favorite cupcake.
When I made these, I noticed that I needed to make some alternations to the original recipe. I increased the amount of the graham crackers because there was not enough to use as a topping. Also, the frosting tasted amazing but it was out of control to set. I think it's because of humidity? I made two batches of it because I wanted it to be perfect and the second time it was more successful than the first. Even then, it began to run as soon as my husband Brock was done taking pictures of them. Make sure your ingredients are fresh and of high quality. You'll get better results that way. So good luck!
Check out Layla's blog here.
Recipe from Layla
Pictures by Brock from The Grass is Greener
Yields 2 dozen
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)*
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.
- Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.
- In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
- Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.
- Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.
- Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
- Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip. Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.