Born in China in the 1950s, contemporary artist Cai
Guo-Qiang uses memories and experiences from his childhood growing up during
the Cultural Revolution as influences to his monumental works, especially in
his gunpowder series. While
working in Japan in the late 80s, Cai began adding gunpowder to his drawings,
and later added explosives to the mix; the perfect medium to explore the
relationship between the good and bad of explosions—i.e. celebratory fireworks
and devastating bombs.
gunpowder drawings are a constant element in his body of work, and he continues
to create them as the occasion arises. For the past couple of decades, the
occasions have usually been instances of honor or awareness—following the
catastrophic Taiwan earthquake in 1999, Cai approached Christie’s auction house to help him
contribute towards the relief of the disaster-hit area—creating (and later
igniting) a gunpowder drawing to remember the earthquake and its victims, at
the same time acknowledging the moment when the earth split in two. The work
was sold in 2008, with all proceeds donated to relief charities. Years later,
Cai has paired with the auction house once more, this time to celebrate the
opening of Christie’s new post in Shanghai, a first among the major houses. For
this occasion, he has created a gunpowder drawing depicting ancient Quanzhou
(his hometown), which is to be the new site of the Quanzhou Museum of Contemporary
Art, being designed by Frank Gehry, a friend of the artist. Of course, in Cai’s
typical showman fashion, the drawing was ignited on September 25th (video here),
to celebrate the inaugural Christie’s Shanghai sale, which took place the
following day. Influenced by the light dusting of gunpowder on the work after
it has exploded, I tried my hand at tiramisu, but the cupcake way.
|Cai Guo-Qiang, Homeland, gunpowder on paper, 2013 (image via Christie’s)|
disappointed. I think my long-time hesitation has been intimidation (not sure
why) as well as the worry that it won’t taste right and I will be stuck with an
entire cake to either eat or dump in the trash. This recipe is delicious, not
too difficult, and also produces individual cakes that you can eat now or save
for a couple days in the fridge (or bring to work, like I did).
with liners. As you can see from the photo above, I ultimately decided to double line my cupcakes due to the somewhat messy syrup. If you decide to do so as well, be sure to add the second layer after you add the syrup, to ensure that the finished cupcake has a clean, sticky-free wrapper for people to grab. In a small bowl sift together the cake flour, salt and baking
powder and set aside. In a small saucepan, mix the milk and vanilla bean
together and bring to a very low boil and then remove from heat. Stir in the
butter and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain the milk/vanilla/butter through a sieve, or very
fine colander, and then set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together the whole eggs, egg yolks and
sugar, and then place over a small, simmering saucepan. Whisk the mixture until
the sugar is completely dissolved and then remove from heat. Let cool for a
couple minutes and then use an electric mixer to mix on high for a few minutes.
Here is where things start to get a bit more specific: add
the flour mixture to the egg mixture in three batches, creating a thick batter.
Fold half of the batter into the now-cool milk/vanilla/butter mixture, and then add the milk mixture
into the rest of the batter. Pour the batter evenly into your prepared cupcake
liners, and bake for about 20 minutes, rotating cupcakes after 10 minutes.
While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the coffee-marsala syrup.
boil. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely. When the cupcakes are out
of the oven and cooled a bit too, brush the syrup onto the cupcakes, layering
until a majority of the syrup is gone (according to your sweetness/coffee
preference). Let sit while you mix your frosting. For the record, I have never
been a huge mascarpone fan. I didn’t really grow up eating it, and I guess I
never really acquired the taste? Same with cheesecake—I never really got into
them. However, this being said, this icing is really good. I added close to a
cup of confectioner’s sugar because I prefer icing on the sweeter side, but you
can cater to your own preference.
and half, but ultimately came
to terms with the fact that I couldn’t make it a tiny bit healthier; the icing
requires the extra fat in the heavy cream to whip up)
speed for a couple of minutes, until peaks form. In a smaller bowl, stir together
the mascarpone and confectioner’s sugar until just smooth. Gently add the
mascarpone mixture to the cream along with the vanilla bean, and mix until
it reaches the consistency you prefer. Immediately ice your cupcakes—one major difference that
I noticed between traditional buttercream and this frosting is that the
mascarpone adds a significant heft to the frosting. For this reason, I felt
that icing the cupcakes with a pasty bag was not as effective as carefully smoothing
on with a knife. Finally, don’t forget the most important part of the cupcake:
the “gunpowder” light cocoa dusting. Something tells me that Cai might have enjoyed biting into one of these following his drawing ignition at Christie’s Shanghai last week!