Today ranks in THE TOP 5 HARDEST EXPERIENCES I’ve ever had as a parent. I sent my “baby” off to sleep away camp in Maine. I know this was a choice that we made so I can’t whine. But, there’s something so wretched about loosening the “grip” on your child, watching them wave to you through the tinted windows of the bus, only to turn their head and vanish into the summer. Knowing this day would come, we carefully scheduled a weekend chock-full of family activities. We wanted to eek out as much quality time together as humanly possible. First item on the list of activities: to bake Judy’s Black Bottom Cupcakes.
In my hometown of Baltimore, MD, black bottoms were ubiquitous. They could be purchased in every supermarket, at gas stations, bakeries, and most school bake sales. Yet, since living in New York City, people look at me like I have three heads when I tell them the name of the cupcake. “You know, the goey cupcakes with the cream cheese in the center?” Still, no recognition. My daughter was equally curious when we prepared to bake the mysterious treat.
Black Bottoms served many purposes for my mom. From panaceas on sick days to congratulatory rewards for good grades, Black Bottoms were Mom’s go to sweet treat for any occasion. In fact, I can’t think back to any field hockey game or tennis match without being flooded with images of Mom cheering from the sidelines with her shoe boxes next to her, filled to the rim with mini-black bottoms for the team. So, in retrospect, it’s not that crazy that I decided to have a baking project the day before I shipped my daughter off to camp. I was echoing Mom’s desires to placate, calm, and celebrate—with Black Bottoms!
I have to admit, even though Mom wouldn’t be caught dead with store-purchased Black Bottoms, that’s all I’ve eaten since I left for college. My knee-jerk reaction is to purchase instead of bake. It’s quicker and easier. But, yesterday morning, all I wanted to do was bake to clear my head, soothe my nerves and bond with my daughter.
Black Bottoms are cherished for their rich bright cream cheese center that nestles itself between the moist chocolate cupcake. I think we were so intent to make the cream cheese perfectly “soft” (as indicated in Mom’s recipe) that we over-mollified. We put the cream cheese in the (gulp) microwave to soften it to the point of soup. When instructed to add a “dollop” of the cream cheese mixture to the batter, we could only ladle it on and watch it run over the sides of the cupcake paper.
I knew immediately that our finished product would probably not look like the picture perfect cupcakes a la Mom. Even though the kitchen looked like a cyclone went off and the cupcakes entered the oven looking like a science experiment gone wrong, we had a blast in the process. We practically forgot that the 6-hour bus ride to Maine was still looming large.
As with any baking project involving my kids, we hovered around the oven to watch our cupcakes come to life. While I can’t say the black bottoms were easy on the eyes (at all) they tasted just like I remembered them. And we neatly packed them up for the bus trip the next day— a little memento from our time together baking.
When my daughter gave me her final hug goodbye before leaving for the summer, I knew she’d be able to pull out the cupcakes and enjoy them (with some new friends). And to comfort me even more were her last words, “Mom if anything every happens to you, I’d like to take over MyJudytheFoodie…”
Judy’s Black Bottoms
- 1 8-ounce package of regular cream cheese (don’t cut the calories for reduced fat)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup of flour
- 1 cup miniature chocolate chips
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line muffin tins (either mini or regular sized) with paper cups.
- In bowl, gently beat (until fluffy): cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and salt. Add in chocolate chips.
- In large bowl, sift together the: flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
- Make a hole in center dry mixture and add: water, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Blend together.
- Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.
- Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes.
- Cool on wire rack. Enjoy!