I'm very excited to be returning to Scotland next month to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and drive around the highlands with my camera, so to celebrate I baked - of course - some Scottish Highland Cows (or "Hairy Coos") in cupcake form!  I saw these while doing a google image search for another project and was in the kitchen baking them a few days later.  The cupcakes themselves are easy, so long as you have the right tools.  First, the cupcake itself is just a boxed cake mix - I chose butter yellow because that was the mood I was in.  Any flavor will work.  The "hair" is standard buttercream:

  • 1 cup softened butter  (whip this first in an stand mixer)
  • 1 lb powdered sugar (added a bit at a time to the butter until incorporated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk (after added, beat buttercream for 3 minutes or so)
  • Extra powdered sugar as needed to thicken
  • Colored with Americolor gels: 104 Chocolate Brown and 113 Orange (used a little bit at a time at a 2:1 ratio to get the reddish brown, adding more to saturate)

The nose and horns were molded from pre-made fondant from Wilton (small box), with the nose colored with a tiny toothpick tip size of Americolor 125 Terracotta.  I shaped the noses and horns and let them sit out on a tray covered in wax paper while the cupcakes baked and cooled.

Other tools you will need:
  • Wilton 233 Decorating Tip (Grass)
  • Piping bags and decorating tip coupler
  • A fondant decorating tool - or a fork or toothpick - to make the mouth and nostrils of the nose
  • Optional eyeballs - I think they look good with and without

Place the reddish brown buttercream into a piping bag already prepared with the grass tip at the end. The order of piping is such: pipe the buttercream to draw down "hair" from top to bottom until the top of the cupcake is covered in brown buttercream strings (with some hair falling over the chin area), place the nose on the lower half of the cupcake and the horns a little above the nose, pipe more hair from the crown of the head and over the horn end to cover/conceal the horns and artistically fall around the nose - stopping to add optional eyeballs if wanted.

These are going to be moist cupcakes if you use boxed cake mix, so plan on eating them within 24 hours or less.  Store in a refrigerator until serving time.

In addition to the sweet little hairy coo cupcakes, I decided to pick up some Scottish whisky for a wee little tasting with friends.  I am, admittedly, not a straight alcohol drinker (a.k.a. when not mixed in a cocktail).  I do endeavor to try new things, though.  As a fan of the Starz television show, "Outlander," by way of the books by Diana Gabaldon on which the show is based (well books 1-4 are all I have read), I've been more exposed to the idea of Scotch whisky because the actors are huge fans and often drink it together for viewing parties, on panels when it's provided, or during interviews. With that inspiration, I decided to prepare for Scotland by having my own whisky tasting party.  I went to a specialty liquor store in Washington D.C. and had a long discussion with the resident whisky expert.  While I had come in with an original list of three from different regions, he steered me to try an alternative region.  

Scotch whisky is not cheap, so I challenged my whisky guide to find me good stuff for less than $50 a bottle (even better if under $40).  First, we decided on a lighter whisky from the northern coastal east highlands - Old Pulteney 12 year single malt.  I was not a fan of this bourbon barrel aged whisky!  I am not sophisticated enough to explain why I didn't like it.  To me, it just tasted like ordinary alcohol. I've had Virginia moonshine that tasted the same, even with less aging.  The aroma was very strong, like rubbing alcohol.  Oh, and by the way, for reference we drank these all "neat."

Next up was the Glen Grant 10 year single malt from the Speyside area of Scotland.  Speyside is in northeastern Scotland, in the highlands, and is the region on the River Spey.  The whisky produced here is considered a "beginners" whisky because it is supposed to be easier to drink.  Glenlivet and Macallan are two of the most recognized Speyside labels.  My whisky guide suggested I go with the Glen Grant 10 year bourbon cask aged whisky, with its more golden color.  Once again, I was not a fan, though unlike the Old Pulteney that really hit your palate up front, the Glen Grant had a complexity that hit the complete palate.  I'm trying to remember if this is the one that left me with a vanilla finish (the website suggests almond, which is kind of close in a creamy factor way).

Finally, we saved the heaviest whisky for last.  The Laphroaig 10 year single malt whisky is from the Islay region (pronounced "eye lay").  These whiskies are known for their smoky flavor that comes from the island peat that seeps into the water and barley, from which the whisky is made.  My initial response to the Laphroaig was: "I feel like I just ate a wet cowboy boot that was too close to the fire." So a real smokey, leathery taste is what I got.  And the taste hit you more in the back of the throat and lingered.  I think I also, jokingly, described it as eating a piece of charred wood fresh off the fire.  A friend of mine suggested that this is better suited to drink in a cocktail, so I'm curious to try that out.  Regardless, our pour size during the night (not surprisingly) went from a dram of the Old Pulteney quickly down to a "wee nip" of the Laphroaig, so I have a lot of leftovers if anyone wants me to host another tasting party!

Countdown begins to Scotland!  In the meantime, I gift you with these Scottish treats:

By the way, people have asked me if there is anyone I would like to meet who I have not yet met. Sean Connery is definitely on the top of that list!

And one more...