September 10, 2010

Cupcake tarts | Birthday dinner | Smoky spicy black beans and rice

Don't you just hate when you're rushing around and you make a mistake because you're ... rushing around? My middle son's birthday was September 8, but because the rest of the family couldn't come for dinner that night, we decided to celebrate the following night instead. Still, I wanted to make him a little something sweet for his b-day, like ginger carrot cupcakes based on this recipe. But I was, uh, rushing around, and I wrote down the recipe incorrectly. Even as I was mixing the batter, I knew it was too thin, but I ignored my gut feeling, and just sloshed ahead. Unfortunately, I'd left 1/2 cup of flour out of the recipe, so of course, the tops sank. I filled the sunken tops with chocolate chips and put the poor cupcakes back into the oven for a minute to soften the chips so I could swirl the chocolate around and make them look less pathetic. The cupcakes were surprisingly good, under the circumstances.

My self-induced baking curse continued the next day when I attempted to turn these orange mini-bundt cakes into a single, modest but normal, bundt cake. I knew my pan was too big, but I used it anyway, hoping the cake would rise to the occasion. You've heard of muffin tops? Meet bundt top. To make the situation even more bizarre, the request to my son and d-i-l to bring a birthday candle and one of those little plastic candle holders got misinterpreted, and they brought a huge candle in a metal holder. Well, good thing I'd made the bundt top; the candle fit right in, so we lit it and sang happy birthday.

Fortunately, the first part of the dinner was free of mishaps. The birthday dinner was Mexican-themed with spinach enchiladas with ranchero sauce, smokey black beans and rice (recipe follows) and salad.

The enchiladas were from this recipe. (For the yogurt I use Wildwood unsweetened plain, and for the cheese I used Daiya cheddar.) The beans and rice were improvised for the occasion. I was trying to make a dish so spicy that none of the spice-crazed diners would add additional hot sauce. I also wanted to be able to eat it myself, so I wasn't quite able to meet my goal. :D I passed a small dish of chopped jalapeños at the table that everyone except my husband and me put on everything. I thought the beans and rice were very flavorful and plenty spicy.

Smoky spicy black beans and rice
  • 1-1/2 cups raw, long grain brown rice
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium onions)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cans low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups home-cooked)
  • 2 peppers from a can of chipotle in adobo, minced (less if you want to reduce the heat)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, optional
  1. Cook the rice, preferably in a rice cooker. The rice should be fairly dry. I cooked brown basmati in a rice cooker with 1-3/4 cups of water.
  2. In a large wok or skillet, sauté the onion in the oil . As the onion starts to brown, add the garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for a minute or two until the cumin is toasted and fragrant. (You could also pre-toast the cumin, remove it from the pan, and add it back in at this point.
  3. Add the pepper and celery, and cook for two minutes, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften. Add the salt and mix in.
  4. Add the rice and toss with the vegetables. Cook for two minutes to flavor the rice.
  5. Add the beans and chipotle. Heat until the beans are hot.
  6. Optional: Stir in 1/2 cup chopped green onions, and cook 30 seconds before serving. Or garnish with raw chopped green onions.
  7. Optional garnish #2: thinly sliced red radishes.
Generously serves six as a side dish, or four as a main course alongside salad and a vegetable.

note: If you want the dish smokey but not spicy, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika instead of the chipotle in adobo.


"Can't a girl get her beauty rest without being disturbed by the paparazzi?"

As I was concentrating on getting this post written, Buffy was making herself more comfortable by unmaking the guest bed and settling in. She looks slightly annoyed at being photographed, doesn't she?


  1. I think your cupcakes look gorgeous! I thought that was what they were supposed to look like...had you not said anything, I bet no one would have noticed :-) The bunt cake+candle misunderstanding is too funny! Everyone knows that all that matters is how it tastes, though...and since you baked it, I am guessing it tasted amazing and that no one cared what it looked like, lol. The photo is priceless, though, and will make for many happy birthday memories, I am sure!


  2. I agree--those cupcakes do not look like failures--they're like half cupcake, half tart... and I bet they were great.

  3. I love beans 'n rice! Thanks for sharing your recipes. And everything looks great, including the cupcakes! At first glance I thought they were tarts, so I would not have even known they were so-called "failure" cupcakes had you not said anything LOL.

  4. I first saw the cupcakes, before you explained the failure.....I thought, wow those look good! So it's totally NOT a failure :) It all looks good!

  5. Courtney,
    Thanks, Courtney. The cupcakes were maybe a little more weird in person than in the photo. The cake top and candle were REALLY odd! (But fun.)

    Maybe I should have photographed the cupcakes before the chocolate. I "fixed" them but I was kind of disappointed at first. :)

    I love beans and rice, too, and this dish tasted really good to me. You're all being so nice about the cupcakes!

    Okay, the cupcakes have potential. The original carrot cake recipe was delicious, and maybe I'll try again to make cupcakes that don't look like tarts. :D

  6. I would have never known that there was something "wrong" with the cupcakes! I thought they looked pretty and, most of all, really yummy. :D

    I also love the picture of Buffy. It seems like she knows how to pose for the camera - a real lady! ;)

  7. Wowow, the chocolate cup cakes look yummm!

  8. That was a good idea adding the chocolate chips to the cupcakes. Even if they didn't come out the way you planned, they look good to me! I love the pic of Buffy, she looks so comfy!

  9. Seglare,
    The cake recipe is a wonderful one so I was a little miffed at having messed it up. But the cakes were at least salvageable, and looked kind of cute, if a little weird. Buffy says thanks!

    They tasted good, too, except for being a little too moist. :D

    Buffy looked so cute and comfy I wanted to pick her up and hug her. But I resisted, so as not to disturb her, and just gave her a kiss on the nose and told her what a beautiful girl she is.

  10. Nice saves! Everything looks great, I don't think anyone would have noticed. :-)

  11. I usually do not leave a comment, but you really impress me, also I have a few questions like to ask, what's your contact details?


  12. Aw, those cupcakes looked cute anyway! And happy birthday to Son # 2!!!

    I am commandeering Roya's macbook, and having a great time with it. Much easier to view your blog, and to comment, because on mine it takes, like, a year to do anything.


  13. Nice save, Andrea! The cupcakes look delicious and they definitely look like they're meant to have all that chocolate on top.

    The giant candle in the middle of the "cake top" is hilarious! I love that type of thing, or as I like to call it - buffoonery. If you had made a bigger cake and if they had brought a normal candle, then you wouldn't have this hilarious anecdote! I love it! :D

    The beans look amazing! Rice and beans is such a good combo, especially smokey beans. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Chow vegan,
    Thanks. They may not have noticed the cupcakes, but the caketop was hard to miss. :D

    I can be reached at

    I'm still waiting to have a video chat. I sure hope we get to it before Roya comes back! I did a google chat (no video) with Jordan in, I think, Nice, today. Or maybe Nice is tomorrow. They seem to be having a great time staying with friends and couchsurfing.

    Lots of chocolate can do wonders for any cupcake — no matter how weird. Buffoonery, or a good sense of humor, is important when things don't go as planned. (Actually, I made the cake that way on purpose just for you. :D)

    I think all the buffoonery made the rice less noticeable, so thanks for noticing!

  15. Those cupcakes look awesome! If you hadn't mentioned your mishaps, I would have never known any different. Everything looks great!!!

  16. When I first saw the picture of your "tarts" I thought how yummy they looked. You are genious to come up with something like this from sunken cupcake. Kudos to you!!!

    The bundt cake looks great too and the enchiladas of course.

  17. Michelle,
    Ah, the power of photography! (The cupcakes are pretty good in spite of the mishap.)

    Why, thank you. Chocolate to the rescue. :D

  18. Those cupcakes look amazing! last time I made a batch of muffins, I lfet out the oil. They came out very, very spongy.

  19. Mihl,
    I didn't want to mention that just after I got the bundt cake into the oven, I realized I'd left out the oil, so I removed the cake from the pan, added the (wrong amount of) oil, and returned it to the oven. What a bad couple of baking days. Sheesh. I think I should try baking again before I lose my nerve. :D

  20. Sorry about the cupcakes! But think of it this way: an opportunity to eat more chocolate. ;) Bet they tasted great!

  21. Ricki,
    The depressions were deep, and held a LOT of chocolate. I froze the leftovers and, once frozen, I could see the chocolate was at least an inch thick in the center — very tasty indeed!

  22. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा6/17/11, 6:08 PM

    Those vegan enchiladas look delicious!!

  23. Gauri,
    The WERE delicious! I should make them again soon.


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