Lincoln Logs, or, Double-Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

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There hasn't been a lot of presidential celebration in the Recipe Box kitchen lately, and since technically our leader is Theresa May, I guess that makes sense. But then I found a recipe in the box that is specifically for celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday. I'm not sure why anyone who isn't Mary Todd Lincoln or the parent of a child in the 1950s would need a specific baked good to celebrate Lincoln's birthday, and if you DID need one, I'm not sure why you'd want to make him cupcakes shaped like logs? Wouldn't he appreciate a cupcake decorated to look like a penny? A tiered cake built like the Lincoln Memorial? Or maybe he's more of a pie guy? DID BETTY CROCKER EVEN THINK TO ASK HIM?

In an effort to answer these vital questions, I did some research on Lincoln Logs so you don't have to, and here's what I learned: a lot of weird stuff. Lincoln Logs, in case you did not grow up in the US, are log-shaped pieces of wood out of which you can build houses and buildings, toys marketed to young buys as an alternative to blocks. They're notched at both ends so the things you build look like actual miniature log cabins. I assumed (or maybe was told?) that Lincoln Logs were named after Abe Lincoln because he was born in a cabin, but I always thought that was weird because, like, a billion people were born in cabins in the 1800s, so why does he get called out specifically? Turns out I was onto something: Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, who named them possibly after Abe Lincoln, but equally plausibly after his father's original middle name (Lincoln) or as a pun (Linkin' Logs) because of how they fit together.

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It gets even more surprising: the original idea came to Wright when he was in Japan viewing a building there that was thought to be earthquake-proof on account of it's cross-hatched base (so why did he market it as a Western American thing, especially when Japonism was at its height in the early 1900s?). And strangest of all (to me), the original kits came with instructions to build Lincoln's house (would this not be the White House?) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (why?!).

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What does this have to do with this cupcake recipe, you ask? Nothing. And that's my quibble with the recipe. The cupcakes don't even look like Lincoln Logs, they just look like logs... and only if you squint. Plus, I can't think of a reason I would need to make a dessert for Lincoln's birthday, and if you didn't explain that's what they were for, you're just left with unexplained log-shaped desserts, which somehow manages to be EVEN WEIRDER than log-shaped desserts in honour of a former president's birthday.

the verdict:

3 spoons out of five. The cake was soft and plush, the frosting was easy to pipe and to die for delicious... but the finished product comes in a serving size of two cupcakes, which seems excessive, and, really, why would you want a cupcake shaped like a log to begin with?

one year ago: Crazy Chocolate Cake
two years ago: Chocolate Cake with Date Filling

the recipe:

Lincoln Logs

the directions:
cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease 18 muffin cups.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Beat in almond extract, shortening, milk, yolks and chocolate.
Beat 2 minutes on medium speed until very smooth.
Fill muffin cups ½ to 2/3 full, then bake 15-18 minutes until the top springs back to the touch.
Remove cupcakes from tins and allow to cool completely on cooling racks.

Frosting:

Beat butter and powdered sugar until smooth, light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Set aside ¼ of frosting.
To the remaining ¾ of frosting, add chocolate and beat to combine.
Use a small amount of chocolate frosting to 'glue' the flat bottoms of two cupcakes together.
Use a knife to frost the ends of your 'log' with the white frosting, adding a swirl with the knife to resemble the cut side of a log.
Using a piping bag with a round tip, pipe the chocolate frosting in lines connecting the two ends of the log (you'll have to leave the very bottom unfrosted as a 'rest' for the log to sit on).
If you're keen, you can use a knife to swirl the chocolate frosting so it looks more like bark, but by the time you've done this nine times, you're probably not going to be too interested in doing so.

the ingredients:
the cupcakes:

1 ½ c (180g) flour
1 c (200g) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
½ c (102g) shortening or Stork
¾ c (175ml) milk
4 egg yolks
2 oz (60g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and well-cooled

the frosting:

½ c (110g) butter
4 ½ c (500g) powdered sugar
2 ¼ tsp vanilla or almond extract
3-4 tbsp cream
4 oz (120g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled