My friend Matt is a great lover of bleach, guns, wigs, booze and chicken & waffles. And so, earlier this year when chicken & waffle cupcakes became a Thing On The Internet I knew without a doubt what we would be eating for breakfast on December 5th.
Every December 5, his birthday, the day goes something like this: At around 9 or 10 a.m., I scamper down the hallway to his apartment (even though we’re grown-ass adults we still choose to live dorm-style because it’s awesome) weighted down with packages and cupcakes and a bottle of bourbon. He makes coffee, into which we pour milk and Splenda and a goodly amount of that bourbon because I’m a “on birthdays anything goes” kind of gal and if we want to start drinking at 9 a.m. that’s what we’re gonna do. Go ahead and try to stop us, we’ve got bleach and guns. Then sometime around noon we decide that leaving the house might not be a bad idea and hey, are you a bit peckish? I’m a bit peckish. Let’s go get lunch and more drinks.
After lunch—so maybe by now we’ve made it to about 2 p.m.?—the siren song of International Bar becomes too much for us to resist and off we go for a few rounds of a Schaefer and a shot, which always seems like such a great idea at the time, doesn’t it? Oof. It is never a good idea and yet no one ever learns from their mistakes.
Generally by the time 4 p.m. hits we’re about pickled, which means, of course, that it’s time to go back home—sometimes we stop at Ricky’s on the way to try on wigs—and watch a movie about Rich White People. This year Six Degrees of Separation was up. Chaos, control; chaos, control.
Most years we’re passed out in bed by 7 p.m. It is the greatest day of the year as far as I’m concerned.
Right but: it all starts with cupcakes. Well, this might be the time to tell you that I’m not overly fond of cake in general and I’m doing this thing where I’m trying to be a little less do unto others and a little more do unto myself (it’s absolutely not working out well, in case you were curious; actually it’s been a disaster but that’s another story for another day) and honestly, I didn’t want to eat a damned cupcake. Plus, Matt is a hot sauce ‘n’ honey kind of guy and I really couldn’t abide the notion of putting hot sauce in a cupcake batter. So I got creative and oh man, did it ever pay off: instead of building this mess on top of cake I went with a popover base and it was BANANIMALS.
Okay shall I talk you through how to do this for the Matt in your life? You got it!
Are you aware that popovers are DUMB EASY to make and you don’t even need a fancy pan for them (though, of course, I have a fancy pan for them because I am a spectacular ass when it comes to premium cookware)? Seriously, a regular old muffin tin is all you need and who doesn’t have one of those? (Don’t tell me you don’t.) Anyway, maybe it was the equipment issue but for some reason I was always terrified of popovers and then one day I was just like, “ALRIGHT GIRLIE, TIME TO CONQUER THAT FEAR” and yeah, I was being really stupid because there’s nothing to be afraid of. I use the King Arthur Flour recipe, which I like because the King provides baking instructions based on what kind of pan you’re planning to use (like a large muffin tin, a regular one, a miniature one or a popover pan), as well as flavor suggestions, which is so thoughtful!
For this purpose, however, I wanted to jack things up with hot sauce, so my recipe looked like this:
(1) Whisk together four eggs (room temperature, or as King Arthur suggests, bathe them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before cracking), a cup and a half of milk (any kind!), a half teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce. A teaspoon of Tabasco will give the popovers a pretty decent but definitely not overpowering kick, though I must warn you that I’m a great abuser of hot sauce (I put it on my bagels, is that weird?) so you need to take that opinion with a grain of cayenne and adjust as necessary to suit your mouth.
(2) Dump in a cup-and-a-half of flour and whisk until there are no large lumps. Small ones are fine.
(3) Stir in three tablespoons of melted butter.
That’s it! I know, right? DUMB EASY. The baking instructions depend on what kind of pan you’re using, but if you’ve got a popover pan you want to bake them at 450 for 20 minutes before dropping the temperature to 350 and baking for an additional 15-20 minutes. The cups should be filled about ⅔ of the way up with batter. Two super super super important things about the baking process: the oven must be properly up to temperature and you mustn’t open the oven door to peeksies while they’re popping over.
Honey Buttercream Frosting
Another requirement of this custom designed batch of notcakes was that honey be a key player. Easy. So easy it’s almost an insult. Honey buttercream frosting done and done and done: using a hand or stand mixer, beat together one stick of softened butter with four tablespoons of honey and one cup of confectioner’s sugar. (If you’re sugar-averse, start with half a cup of sugar, and move forward, while tasting.) Do that for, ooooh, three, four, five minutes or so? Then check the consistency and depending on how things are looking beat in another half to full cup of confectioner’s sugar.
Because I’m a person who loves to cook and feed and write about cooking and feeding, I would encourage you to make your own fried chicken. It is also easy. However, the birthday boy is tremendously fond of Popeye’s chicken and actually specifically asked if I would use Popeye’s and sure right of course you’d like me to save myself the time and hassle and clean up involved with making homemade fried chicken? YOUR WISH, MY COMMAND, ETC. So to assemble these, I frosted the popovers and then stuck a couple of Popeye’s chicken nuggets on top of them. We decided that function trumped form in our case, and frosted the popovers while they were hot, which made for an absolute mess, but a delicious mess that neither of us minded at all. (Also we were pretty well on our way to tanked by the time this happened and would have made a mess in some way, shape or form no matter what we did.) If you’re concerned with presentation (AKA, not drunk) let the popovers cool before you frost them. Pro tip from the King: If you can do so without the popovers getting too dark, bake them for an extra five minutes, which will help them to retain their popped shape even after cooling. This is where, if you were really loaded, you could cut up some WAFFLE CUBES and spike them on top with the chicken—but truly the popovers and the frosting are enough bread-syrup substance for anyone.
There’s a great thing that happens when you bite or tear into a popover laden with stuff: everything collapses inward, landing in the hollow part of the popover and then you can kind of turn it into a sandwich, if a sandwich were covered in melted honey butter? Right. Just be prepared to be covered in frosting.