What better way to inaugurate a Christmas gift than with angel food cake muffins?
This was the Christmas of the kitchen gadget. (It was also the Christmas of the pig, but every holiday is full of pigs when you have a massive collection – ceramic, stuffed, dog toy, watering can – of the little guys.) Under the tree were the things I asked for – a cookie scoop, a new mini-chopper to replace the one I broke – and a couple that I hadn’t: funky muffin tins from the crowd-sourcing website Quirky, a pie weight designed to do away with all those ceramic marbles rolling around in a kitchen drawer. This post is a tribute to the muffin tins, which my mom found while ordering a swiveling power strip for my grandfather. They aren’t a typical muffin pan with twelve open wells – they’re six individual tins with domed silicone lids designed to shape the rising batter into fun, fruit- or jam-holding shapes. Called Bake Shapes, they purport to end “the bittersweet rivalry” between muffins and cupcakes by holding “plenty of toppings in place—from fresh fruit to extra, extra frosting.” Here’s a picture that does it more justice than my muddled explanation. (And no, I don’t know why Quirky decided to make them in Mardi Gras colors. Maybe it’s a nudge from the universe to tell me I should bake a King Cake, complete with tiny plastic baby, this year.)
And here’s what they looked like shortly after coming out of the oven:
So the question is, what sort of muffins were worthy of the Quirky tins? I didn’t want to use the indentations to simply hold a gob of frosting – to me, the best part of muffins is that they’re not cupcakes. If you want cake, eat cake. That muffins lack the awful, marshmallow-consistency frosting of grocery store birth day cakes is a plus in my book. That’s how I settled on making miniature angel food cakes. What better to bake in ready-made containers than a dessert that already features loads of garnishes, from strawberries and whipped cream to blueberry compote?
I wasn’t sure angel food batter would rise properly in non-stick containers – isn’t the point of an ungreased tube pan to give the batter something to grip as it expands? – but after finding a recipe specifically for angel food muffins, I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? It worked. Even though you’re not meant to remove the silicone lids until the muffins have had time to cool – a design flaw, if you ask me, as you have to trust your baking time without a chance to eyeball the browned tops – I could see the golden crust through the tiny steam-releasing holes in the tops. (Are you meant to use those holes to conduct a toothpick test? I wasn’t sure.)
Because I was worried about the non-stick finish, I only misted half of the tins with cooking spray. I should have greased them all. Not only did the muffins rise just fine, they rose so far that the tops stuck to the silicone lids. It was still possible to peel the silicone from the cakey tops without tearing the muffin in two, but the crumb layer that clung to the lids made them tough to clean. Next time, I’ll break out the big can of PAM.
Ultimately, what I ended up with were some super-cute, single-serving angel food cakes that had room on the top especially for fruit or Cool-Whip, minus the nail-biting moment that always comes when you try to pry an angel food cake from a tube pan. Next time, maybe I’ll try some plain vanilla or chocolate muffins (there’s another design flaw – neither the package nor website gives any instructions or recipe suggestions) with jam in the centers of the tops. Or maybe I’ll just wait until next summer and repeat the same toppings – after all, they do look very patriotic.