The spotlight may be on Jay-Z rapping at Brooklyn's spanking new Barclays Center this week, but Food Network host Sunny Anderson is out to give some shine to another New York native -- baked-goods startup Brooklyn Cupcake.
"In every nook and cranny of this country are people that have great recipes," Anderson told The Huffington Post, offering a sneak peek at her new show, "Home Made in America," which looks at the best homegrown recipes across the U.S.
"People that cook have stories behind those recipes, so I'm just out there to figure out how people came up with stuff," Anderson said. "We have people that have started businesses from their recipes, and some have done charitable works."
First stop: Brooklyn Cupcake, a family-run business born when owner Carmen Rodriguez was laid off from her previous job and her mother generously offered up her entire life savings to get the bakery off the ground.
"She was raised in an Italian and Puerto Rican home, so a lot of the flavors of her cupcakes [reflect that]," said Anderson, adding that within a year of launching, Brooklyn Cupcake was rated the number one cupcake spot in the borough, even earning a spot inside the new Barclays Center.
"We're talking about just two years ago, completely broke and just chasing a dream," Anderson said.
(Watch a clip of Rodriguez's story above, and get her now-famous Tres Leche cupcake recipe below.)
But it isn't all Cinderella stories, Anderson warns, hinting at the second story to air on Saturday's premiere episode. It's about a guy named Steve whose buffalo wing sauce has become the talk of Bellingham, Mass.
Anderson said she even convinced her grandmother to give up the goods, a recipe for her much-loved squash pie.
"I just really love these stories because this is how I got to Food Network -- just enjoying my food, hanging around it, sharing it with people, not thinking about doing anything bigger," she said. "It's so nice to pop into someone's life and say, 'Hey, we found out about you, and we want to tell your story.'"
As Anderson sees it, her new show offers a welcome departure from the celebrity chef craze that has overtaken lifestyle TV. "I am a home cook. I'm not classically trained. I grew up in a family of cooks that come from farming. I traveled the country and the world as a military brat, and I gained a respect for ethnic foods from all over at a very early age," she said.
Recalling encounters with viewers who assert their culinary skills are just as good as hers, Anderson said, "I think they expect for me to be offended, but my first response is, 'You're right. You can do what I do.'"
Hence the premise of her show, hailing unsung home cooks and bringing their best recipes to the masses.
Brooklyn Cupcake's Tres Leches Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
Tres Leches Mix (recipe below)
Whipped Cream Mascarpone Frosting (recipe below)
Cinnamon for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cream the butter and granulated sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla and milk, and mix until well blended. Fold in the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and top springs back.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, about 30 minutes, inject the cake with about 2 ounces of the Tres Leches Mix. If you do not have an injector, fork the cupcake gently on the top. Then spoon the Tres Leches on top, so as not to break up the cake. Let the cupcakes sit in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the liquid to absorb into the cake.
Top each cupcake with some of the Whipped Cream Mascarpone Frosting, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Yield: about 18 standard cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Ease of Preparation: easy
Tres Leches Mix:
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
Combine the three milks in a blender until well combined, and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Whipped Cream Mascarpone Frosting:
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
Chill a metal bowl. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and confectioners' sugar. Start to beat the heavy cream until you see the liquid thicken, and then add the mascarpone cheese. Continue to whip to stiff peaks.