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It | Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes

It | Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes

"The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain."

The Book
This week, I decided to set aside my own childhood nightmares and revisit the classic 1986 horror novel, “It” by Stephen King.  I’m a 90s baby, so up until recently I’d only seen the film 1990 film adaptation of this book, but it was enough to scare me away for years. You see—I don’t play with clowns, but I figured this book was a classic for a reason, so I better suck it up to see what the fuss was all about.

“It” is told through different narratives alternating between two time periods: 1957-58 and 1984-85. In 1957, after a kid loses his arm trying to fish his paper boat from a storm drain, a group of kids form a gang called the Losers Club to try and stop the mysterious being they believed caused it. They call this being It, and everyone in the Losers Club has encountered It in different forms.

Ben Hanscom—mummy
Eddie Kaspbrak—leper
Bill Denbrough—deceased brother
Richie Tozier—werewolf
Stan Uris—a group of dead boys
Beverly Marsh—blood in the sink
Mike Hanlon—flesh-eating bird

After battling It (and a group of childhood bullies under It’s control) the Losers barely escape with their lives, promising to return if It returns in the future. Fast forward to 1984 when a string of violent murders runs rampant in their little town again. Mike, the only Loser that didn’t leave town, calls the gang back. One Loser can’t face it, and slits his wrists in the bathtub rather than face It again. The other Losers return to jog their memory, uncover the horrors of their past and prepares to face the monster once and for all.

You can’t deny that this book is scary. And that’s even if you don’t have a problem with clowns. A creature that can appear in any form is ripping limbs off innocent children, seemingly just for fun? Plenty of material for nightmares.

But what makes “It” a classic? The same thing that makes every Stephen King novel a classic: underlying themes! This book isn’t just about a scary thing killing people (it never is that simple, is it?). A classic horror movie doesn’t just play on fears of mortality and gruesome deaths. It deals with all aspects of being human—other fears and desires. “It” is about the omnipotence of memory, childhood suffering, the monstrousness prowling behind a disguise of classic sectarian values—and friendship, believe it or not!

The Cupcakes
Another Halloween cupcake, another red berry. Last week I was using raspberry sauce to simulate blood and this week I’m recreating that iconic clown nose we all have nightmares about with maraschino cherries.

These sugar-soaked berries have come under a lot of fire lately, because of the fact that they’ve been injected with sugar and dyed red, but you actually can find “natural” maraschino cherries that with no artificial coloring, preservatives or red dye. Regardless, the juice from these cherries is delicious, and pair well with almond and vanilla flavors. These cherry vanilla cupcakes are fluffy, sweet and topped with a cherry almond frosting that’ll make up for all those nightmares.

Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
maraschino cherries without stems (optional garnish)

Cherry Almond Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice or milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1. Allow butter and egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and cherry juice until combined and set aside.
4. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
5. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until combined.
6. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
7. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
8. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in baking cups on wire racks until completely cooled.

“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all – how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.”
“But a spider was, after all, only a spider. Perhaps at the end, when the masks of horror were laid aside, there was nothing with which the human mind could not cope.” 
“What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke."
“The fears of children were simpler and usually more powerful. The fears of children could often be summoned up in a single face... and if bait were needed, why, what child did not love a clown?” 
“For a moment he felt a wild hope: perhaps this really was a nightmare. Perhaps he would awake in his own bed, bathed in sweat, shaking, maybe even crying . . . but alive. Safe. Then he pushed the thought away. Its charm was deadly, its comfort fatal.” 
“Want your boat, Georgie?' Pennywise asked. 'I only repeat myself because you really do not seem that eager.' He held it up, smiling. He was wearing a baggy silk suit with great big orange buttons. A bright tie, electric-blue, flopped down his front, and on his hands were big white gloves, like the kind Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck always wore.

Yes, sure,' George said, looking into the stormdrain.

And a balloon? I’ve got red and green and yellow and blue...'

Do they float?'

Float?' The clown’s grin widened. 'Oh yes, indeed they do. They float!" 

Happy Baking, everybody!
--Ariel

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