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I try to experiment with making all of my short-cut foods from scratch at least once. What’s a shortcut food? Anything that comes in a box, bag, mix, etc. If someone at some point made it by hand, then I should be able to do the same before I go all crazy thinking I can cook just because I can add two eggs and some oil to a box mix and end up with brownies. That is, of course, part of how I learned to cook. Using boxes and premade foods gives you confidence in the kitchen, and that’s important if you want to learn how to strike out on your own and create amazing food. I can make brownies from scratch now, but I couldn’t the first time I had my (now) husband over for dinner at my apartment (spaghetti with jarred sauce, frozen garlic bread, Caesar salad from a bag, and brownies). Now I could make that entire dinner from scratch (including fresh pasta) in about the same amount of time as it took me to cook from those boxes the very first time.
So, of course, these premade foods serve a purpose. Even so, I feel so much shame when I use them — like I’m cheating at cooking, or something… but am I? Previously, boxed foods were full of weird ingredients I still can’t pronounce, and using them meant a feeding yourself (and/or your family) a high-fat, high-salt, over-processed meal. Now that is not so much the case, which makes me wonder:
do I feel guilty simply because the meal is easy?
I can cook, now. I don’t need a premade food or mix for anything, but still, guiltily, I use them. I know that homemade mayonnaise tastes a million times better than the stuff from the jar, but sometimes you just want to make a stupid tuna salad sandwich and not have to pull out your food processor and the raw eggs.
I think it’s time to get over that guilt. I mean, why do I feel like buying Triscuits instead of breaking out a tiny wheat loom and weaving them all by hand with tiny tweezers and spools of wheat-yarn is going to result in a ticket straight to culinary hell? (Okay, seriously, does anyone know how they make those things? Because that is honestly how I imagine the process going down.)
So, this recipe is not what I would consider to be a recipe at all. In fact, I felt guilty that I used so many shortcuts here, but even with the shortcuts I spent the better portion of an afternoon and quite a few hours into the evening getting these little guys together. This was more of an exercise in following directions and assembly that I never intended to post about (they served as the birthday cake for a party a friend was throwing, so the only pictures I took were of the final product and one during production just because I felt like it), but they received such rave reviews that I figured I should go ahead and share, guilty or not!
CUPCAKE HAMBURGERS (or, HOW I SENT A BUNCH OF COLLEGE KIDS INTO SUGAR SHOCK)
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 box brownie mix
- 2 cups flaked coconut
- 1 container cream cheese or plain white frosting
- red food coloring
- green food coloring
- yellow food coloring
- sesame seeds
Follow the directions for baking the yellow cake mix (as cupcakes, and make sure you use cupcake liners to avoid browned edges!) and the brownies (in a 9 x 13 pan).
While everything is baking, you will need to color the fixin’s for your hamburgers. Prepare to dirty every last bowl and spatula in your entire kitchen. The amount of food coloring you use will be based on the brand and type you choose. I would recommend a gel food coloring, regardless of brand, as this will not thin your frosting like the non-gel colorings can.
Separate your tub of frosting into three different bowls.
For the ‘ketchup’: Add red food coloring. A ton of it. I used almost the entire tiny container of it.
For the ‘mustard’: Add yellow food coloring and a drop of red food coloring.
For the ‘mayonnaise’: If you are using white frosting, add just a drop of yellow food coloring to get a more mayonnaise-like color. Don’t do a thing to it if you used cream cheese frosting.
Put each condiment in its own plastic baggie and cut the tip off.
For the ‘lettuce’: put the coconut in a large plastic bag with several drops of green food coloring, and shake vigorously to coat.
By now, the cupcakes and brownies should be finished. Use a biscuit cutter (or for the non-southern readers… a round cookie cutter approximately the size of the rim of a standard wine glass) to cut out “hamburger patties” from the pan of brownies.
Remove the cupcake liners from the cupcakes, and cut each cupcake in half.
Now finally we can begin assembling them! An assembly line will make the whole process go faster, so make sure you have everything lined up in front of you.
Start by spreading the ‘mayonnaise’ frosting on the cut side of each cupcake bottom. Place a brownie ‘hamburger’ on top, followed by a drizzle of ‘ketchup’ and ‘mustard’. Top with a pinch of coconut lettuce, and place the other half of the cupcake on top of the ‘lettuce’. Brush each hamburger with water, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top while the tops are still moist.
Finish each dessert with a toothpick, and serve!