All Tomorrow's Parties | White Russian cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream
"Four months before reunification, we are drinking a previously impossible-to-obtain West German wine at a makeshift sidewalk cafe stumbling distance from our illegal coldwater flat."
The first chapter of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by editor and cofounder of Tin House magazine Rob Spillman recounts Spillman’s experience at a rave that occurs literally underneath the Berlin Wall, in an old subway station. For Spillman, a man who values authenticity, artistry and defining moments, this experience suits him perfectly.
“’I never want to leave,’ I say—out loud, I think. I can’t believe this. We are literally between countries, under two countries. I close my eyes and let the concussive bass vibrate through my body. I can feel the beat of my heart aligning with the beat of the music. I’m dissolving, breaking into a million particles. I am nowhere. I am home.”
It’s no wonder Spillman is a dreamer—he really never had a chance. Spillman was born in Germany, the son of two musicians who eventually divorced, and his childhood was set in West Berlin, just two hundred miles from the Iron Curtain. He grew up faced with that reminder of the East and West split, which became, as he put it, “a divide between suppressed dreams and freedom of expression.” So when the wall crumbles, Spillman and his wife return to Germany, dreaming of the artistic potential of a more bohemian lifestyle.
Each chapter relates a story of this very pursuit, whether in his childhood or in his return as an adult—to experience something bigger than himself. Unsurprisingly, this book is full of kicks—beer and girls, adrenaline, drugs, riot police and more genres of music than I thought a single person could appreciate.
Something about Spillman’s conversational tone helps make it all a lot less like the old man bragging at a party, less “back in my day, we used to party….” Mixed with a cultural study of Berlin is Spillman’s coming-to-age story, a portrait of a young artist’s life, his rebellion and as it turns out, his even deeper desire to belong and to call some place home. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” is a book for artists, dreamers, those concerned with the authenticity of life, who want to drink it all in and find a meaning or a truth to each experience.
Cold War, not fun. White Russians, a lot of fun. That's why I decided to return to an old favorite for this book--White Russian cupcakes with Kahlua buttercream frosting. There's vodka and Kahlua in the batter, and the frosting is heavy with Kahlua.
I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything here, but I think I've finally perfected this recipe. The first time I baked these, for Anna Karenina, I think it was too heavy on the vodka and not enough of the booze that really mattered and really added to the taste. If anyone tries this altered recipe out, let me know what you think!
White Russian cupcakes
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg and 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup Vodka
1/4 cup Kahlua, divided
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl or in a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until combined.
4. Add egg and egg white, one at a time.
5. Then add the vanilla, Vodka, and 1/8 cup of Kahlua.
6. Gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, ending with the flour mixture.
7. Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcakes comes out clean.
8. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with the remaining 1/8 cup Kahlua. 9. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
1 stick of butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
3 - 4 tablespoons Kahlua
1. Beat butter until creamy.
2. Add salt.
3. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined.
4. Add Kahlua 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.
"I read and read and read. To escape, yes, but also to find myself. In the real world, no one was lie me. But in the pages of 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' 'Lord of the Rings,' and 'The Prince of Central Park,' there I was. Or at least there was who I wanted to be."
"Artists were never supposed to be content."