Last week I woke up to an early morning message on my phone from work — school was canceled for the day. I waited with eager anticipation for my little one to wake up so I could tell him he would be getting his very first snow day home from school.
We ate pancakes and eggs and watched the branches sparkle in the sunrise while we made plans for our unexpected day off together. I agreed to let him stay in his pajamas until lunchtime (a free morning would certainly be spoiled in day clothes) and we enjoyed stories and Legos and many car races on the rug by the fire before he was ready to face the frosty air.
Our goal was a snowman, but alas, the snow was far too dry and powdery to pack nicely, so we settled on snow removal and the construction of a superhighway with his dump truck and skid steer.
We trudged paths around the house, frequently plopping down to make snow angels along the way, and we used beach toys to make a castle out of snow … which was immediately squashed under tiny boots with happy squeals.
When his belly was full of snow and his face was red from the cold, we packed up our toys and hung our wet gear on the rack to dry while we had a late afternoon treat — hot cocoa and snowballs. These “snowball” cupcakes are similar to the packaged snack cakes — light and spongy chocolate cake topped with airy meringue and covered in sweetened coconut. Plates and forks highly recommended — these guys get messy.
Ingredients for 24 cupcakes:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk (or 1 cup black coffee)
Ingredients for the meringue:
3 cups sugar
4 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
Garnish: about 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare 24 cupcake liners in baking tins.
In a large bowl combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs and oil.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Pour the dry ingredients over the wet, then add the milk or coffee and vanilla extract. There is no need to alternate wet and dry — just mix gently until you have a smooth batter with no dry lumps.
Fill each liner with about ¼ cup of batter and place immediately in the oven.
Bake for 14-19 minutes, rotating pans as necessary, until the tops are firm and springy.
Remove and allow to cool completely while you make the meringue.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup and water and set over medium high heat with a candy thermometer attached. Cook until the syrup reaches hard ball stage — about 255 degrees.
While the syrup is cooking, combine your room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. When the syrup reaches soft ball stage (about 240 degrees) start whisking the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
When the syrup reaches 255 degrees, turn the mixer down to its lowest speed and very slowly and carefully pour the boiling sugar down the side of the bowl into the whipping egg whites.
When all the syrup is in the bowl, kick the mixer up to high and whip until the bottom of the bowl is no longer hot. This stage may take up to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla at the last minute.
Cover the cupcakes with plenty of meringue and coat with shredded coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.