Bacon holds a special place in my heart. It was very early on in my blogging life that I took a flying leap of faith and made French Toast and Bacon cupcakes for the inaugural Cupcake Camp Columbus. I was terrified of the idea because, seriously, who puts bacon in a cupcake? But I did it, and they came out better than I could have ever hoped for. They came out so well, they won 1st place in the Best Bacon category! To top it off, the post about them has been the most visited post on my site overall. Over a year and a half after posting it, it still averages about 10% of the hits I get every day. So when I realized there was a cupcake category I could enter at the fair this year, I knew it was time to revisit French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes. Time to see if everything really is better with bacon.
I’ll admit, I was worried. Cupcake Camp lends itself to creativity, allowing for more experimental flavors, but the fair? It’s full of housewives and grannies baking apple pies and pumpkin bread. I was scared the judges take one look at the bacon on top and say, “No way.” But my motto is “Go big, or go home” so I packed up my cupcakes and hoped the day didn’t end in a spectacularly fiery crash and burn.
With two cupcakes (Bacon and Snickerdoodle) in the “Other Flavor” category, I was doubly nervous when they began announcing the winners. Especially after seeing how strict the judges were in the previous two categories. Seriously, you would have thought we were all on Top Chef or something the way they started just ripping into us saying that most of the cupcakes entered were dry and half didn’t have leavening agents. They didn’t even award a 3rd place in the vanilla cupcake category because they didn’t think any of them deserved it! What the hell would they think about my bacon?
“In second we have the one you’ve all been wondering about. Yes. It’s bacon. And it’s fantastic.”
Holy crap. I got 2nd place! At the Ohio State Fair!! With BACON!!! Talking to the judge afterward she said the only thing I got marked down on was general appeal because there would be some people that would look at the bacon and never give it a chance. Exactly what I was afraid of. But that was the only thing I got marked off on? If I hadn’t maybe I could have won? Hell yeah! I’ll take it! The best part of it all? The guy from the Poultry Association who sponsored the event came over and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, but you were my favorite.” Awesome! And I apologize for bad mouthing you about how many eggs we needed to use. Well. Sort of. I still think it was too many. But you’re forgiven. After my big win, it was time to go celebrate with this year’s big fair treat.
Oh and in case you were wondering about the cookies I took to the fair? I entered my new favorite Peanut Butter Cookies, some really yummy Spicy Ginger Molasses Cookies, and Joy the Baker’s rockstar White Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies, which also won a 2nd place ribbon! 2 out of 6 isn’t bad!
Which brings my ribbon grand total after 2 years to one 1st place blue ribbon (Chocolate Chip Cookies) and three 2nd place red ribbons (Decorated Sugar Cookies, French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes, and White Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies)! Yay!!
Now it’s time to start planning for next year. I have a new goal in mind--beat the woman that placed 17 times. Not just entered. Won ribbons. Seventeen times. Next year, I will beat her. Maybe not 17 times, but I’m determined to place higher in at least 1 category. That’s all I want. The satisfaction of knowing I can beat her at least once. But I’m not competitive at all.
French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes
Adapted from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and then cooled
1 tsp maple extract
1/2 cup milk
10-12 slices bacon
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line baking pan with paper liners.
2. Cook bacon in batches by preferred method until browned, but still slightly flexible. Soak up any extra oil on paper towels and set aside to cool. Once bacon is cooled enough to handle, cut a couple slices of bacon into inch-long pieces. This will be the decoration on top of the cupcake, so make as many as you think you'll need. Set aside. Chop or tear the remaining bacon into tiny pieces. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in maple extract. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and milk, making three additions of flour mix and two of milk, beating until smooth. Fold in small bacon pieces. Mix until evenly distributed throughout batter.
5. Scoop batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
Pinch of salt
1. In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, maple extract, and salt, and beat until well combined. Add confectioner's sugar, half cup at a time, and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2. Frost or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Top with inch-long bacon pieces.
*Note: While I doubled the recipe to take to the fair, I don't suggest it. They didn't bake up as evenly, so I would suggest making one batch at a time.