I used to volunteer quite a bit in the United States. I think it was ingrained in us as Americans to help others out when possible. As a Girl Scout, I remember visiting the local retirement home and celebrating the 102nd birthday of one of the residents and singing Xmas carols at the mall during the holidays.
In high school, I volunteered at the hospital after school, making coffee for the people in the waiting room, delivering lab samples, helping new parents install baby seats into their cars, and pushing the wheelchair for discharged patients ready to go home. Of course, there were various canned food drives, newspaper drives, and jog-a-thons for charity in between.
As a university student, we showed elementary school children how to make ice cream out of dry ice as part of a grassroots education program to get kids interested in math and science. I also organized an Evening With Industry dinner and job fair for engineering students to network with local companies.
After I started working, I mentored summer interns and new hires, helping out with college recruiting efforts for my alma mater when possible. One year I co-organized the American Heart Association Heart Walk for my company, collecting registrations and donations, and gathering friends, family, and colleagues for the walk.
In recent years, I feel as though my life has kind of taken a different turn, and the extent of my help has involved mostly monetary donations to One Heart One Hope or donating goods to the local Goodwill. Partly because I don’t know if the same culture of volunteering exists in Switzerland, and I don’t know if I have the language skills or the knowledge to know what to do here anyway.
But my company started a Global Community Week last year, and I found an opportunity for me to take part this year at the bake sale/auction. The proceeds of the sales will go to the Stiftung Frauenhuas Zürich (Women’s Shelter Foundation), a 30-year-old foundation in Zürich that assists women and their children who face domestic violence.
Sounds pretty good, eh? Just bake something and bring it to work, no German required. I like to bake, and the proceeds will go to a good cause. It’s a win-win situation. 😀
So I scoured the internet for the right recipe and came upon something that I thought would be a crowd-pleaser–Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with buttercream icing. courtesy of Food.com and BBC, respectively. Both recipes looked fairly simple, economical, and easy to make. I did a little more investigation to see how I could customize the recipes to make them a bit tastier. 😉
- Part of my customization was to add some instant coffee to the chocolate cupcakes, which I promptly forgot while making them, so they are not part of my finished product. Oh well. If I ever make these again, then perhaps I’ll add them in next time.
- I also filled the cups too full of batter initially, so I ended up with only 14 cupcakes instead of the 20 that the original recipe stated. Some of the cupcakes overflowed and got little muffin tops, which didn’t look so nice.
- I thought my buttercream icing recipe wouldn’t be enough to frost all the cupcakes, so I tried to increase the quantity to 1.5x. Unfortunately, after adding the extra butter, I then realized that I didn’t have enough powdered sugar. So I omitted the milk, added powdered vanilla that I had on hand, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken the frosting.
Alas, the end result didn’t look as pretty as I was hoping for. I guess you can totally tell that they are homemade from scratch. The piping nozzle that I bought had gaping holes in it, so the frosting looked a bit loose. I tried to cover up by throwing a bunch of sprinkles and sugar-paste decorations on it, à la my trick from the cupcake decorating class I took last month, but somehow I don’t think it made the cupcakes look any better. 😦
I did eat one of the cupcakes just to see if it was okay, and it tasted fine… moist and chocolately, with sweet, creamy frosting. So I hope the buyers tomorrow can overlook the slight deformities in presentation and still appreciate the yummy goodness of my cupcakes made with tender, loving care. 🙂
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 20 cupcakes (Note: Don’t fill the cups too full, as they will puff up during baking!)
- 1 ½ cups (188 g) flour
- 1 cup (225 g) sugar <– I included 8 g vanilla sugar
- 1 (5 g) teaspoon baking soda (or 15 g baking powder)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (59 g) cocoa powder
- 1 cup (2.4 dL) water (or milk or buttermilk)
- ½ cup (1.2 dL) vegetable oil (or melted butter)
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 egg (optional)
- instant coffee (optional) <– I forgot to add it
- Mix all the ingredients well with a mixer or wooden spoon. It should be brown and smooth, free of lumps.
- Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 25 minutes.
Basic Buttercream Icing
- 140 g (5 oz) butter, softened
- 280 g (10 oz) icing sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp milk
- a few drops of food coloring (I used 3 drops of yellow and 1 drop of red)
- Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining icing sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the milk, if necessary, to loosen the mixture. (I omitted the milk because I didn’t have enough powdered sugar.)
- Stir in the food coloring until well combined.