The Great Gatsby | French 75 Cupcakes
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since: 'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'"
HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE, FAM! *does a little dance*
In the spirit of New Year’s Eve, in honor of too much champagne, and in respect of metaphorically pressing the restart button, I decided to revisit “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Published in 1925, this boozy and highly symbolic book follows a young man, Nick Carraway, as he moves to New York and gets entangled into the extremely messy lives of the upper class. Not only does he learn that his cousin Daisy’s husband is having a tumultuous affair and watch as that husband breaks the nose of his mistress, but Nick also realizes his neighbor Jay Gatsby, known for his gaudy nature, extravagant parties, and his inability to pick up on social cues, is totally in love with Daisy.
Seriously, it’s like an episode of The Young and The Reckless (and The Fabulously Wealthy) in this book. These affairs play out in extravagant fashion, leading to a jealous rage that ends with not one, not two, but three people dead! Nick then quickly moves back to Minnesota, tired of the emptiness and moral decay of life among the wealthy—and you know, probably also tired of watching so many people die.
And of course, as anyone who’s taken their fair share of literature classes could tell you, it’s all a metaphor for the death of the American dream—how it was corrupted by money, dishonestly and status, and went down in flames. It was a pretty depressing look at what, at least F. Scott Fitzgerald, thought had become of America in the 1920s.
Last year, for Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth,” I baked a very classic, very simple champagne cupcake. But, seeing as how nothing about Gatsby is simple, I decided I need to spruce it up a little bit—French 75 cupcakes!
A French 75 is a drink developed in the 1920s, the Gatsby days. Back then the champagne cup was a popular cocktail, consisting of champagne, lemon juice, sugar, and ice. Gin was sometimes added, yielding the French 75. The cupcakes feature a fluffy champagne-infused base, topped with a gin and lemon zest buttercream frosting. You can leave it at that, or add Shot Infusers for an extra burst of champagne right before you enjoy it. I’m taking them to a NYE party tonight—hoping they’re a hit!
So here we are, at the end of 2016, the year that most people say couldn’t end fast enough. And I’ll admit it’s been a rough one in a lot of ways—but guess what? We made it. And we deserve a good party.
1 3/4 cups of champagne (divided)
1 package white cake mix
4 egg whites
1/3 cup vegetable oil
5 to 6 tablespoons gin
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted well
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
lemon peel (optional garnish)
Shot Tops Infusers (optional)
1. First, the cupcakes, which are super simple! In large bowl, beat cake mix, 1 and 1/4 cups of champagne, egg whites and oil.
2. Bake 350ºF for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean.
3. Remove from oven and brush tops of hot cupcakes with 2 tablespoons of gin.
4. Cool cupcakes in pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling.
5. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the icing! Beat shortening and butter in large bowl with electric mixer until smooth.
6. Gradually add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
7. Add 3-4 tablespoons of gin and lemon zest. Beat until light and fluffy. Taste often to make sure it's delicious!
8. Decorate however you wish. You can use a lemon twist as a garnish! You could also get some Shot Tops Infusers, fill them with champagne and place them on top of the cupcakes. When ready to eat, tell guests to squeeze the top of the infusers to release the champagne!
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
“I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
“I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
“Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”