Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010),
224 pages, Grades 5-8
Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orlean’s Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane — Katrina — fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.
In the opening of the NINTH WARD, Lanesha is celebrating her twelfth birthday. Like me, she LOVES chocolate cake. Her cupcake recipe will make you shiver with deight, it’s so good! It makes her feel special.
Note: Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
For the cupcakes
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
For the frosting
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons whipping cream or whole milk
1. To make the cupcakes: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with baking cup liners.
2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is well blended and thick.
5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.
7. To make the frosting: In standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended, then increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
8. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the cream or milk. Continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more milk or cream as needed to achieve spreading consistency.
9. To frost the cupcakes: Mound about 2 tablespoons of icing on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread icing to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center. Decorate as desired.
Yield: 12 cupcakes