Just as we say we'd be happy to never see another cupcake book again, one lands on our desk that is oddly compelling. We say oddly, as we wouldn't even call The Butch Bakery Cookbook by David Arrick (with Janice Kollar) a particularly good baking book. But it is pretty hilariously entertaining– though it seems less the book's intention than our interpretation of those sage bits of “manly” advice: “Baking isn't supposed to be stressful or hard work. You're making something delicious to eat, man. Enjoy the journey.”
And then we read the very brief Introduction (this is more of a pocket guide to “boy baking” than a standard cookbook), in which Arrick says he started Butch Bakery because “no one had been catering to men and their particular tastes, making their [cupcakes'] look streamlined and to the point — no flowers, no swirls, no sprinkles, just a delicious frosted cupcake.” Well, he does have an excellent point, even if we consider that craving for cutesy-free cupcakes to be gender-neutral.
Besides, who doesn't love a mid-life crisis story, according to a Business Week article, of a former soap opera actor and personal trainer (reportedly Conan O'Brien was a client) who cashed in his 401K to start a male-centric cupcake bakery after losing his job as a New York real estate attorney? It sounds like an article straight out of Men's Health — complete with that “Butch's Cupcake Boot Camp” opening chapter listing the tools an unseasoned male baker should always have in the kitchen (“Big Spoons” being one of our favorites). Or at least if chocolate-stout cupcakes with vanilla-stout buttercream and chocolate-covered pretzels weren't involved.
Sure, this guy's pocket guide to cupcake baking bliss (?) goes overboard on the silly references: Recipes instructions are dubbed the “plan of attack” and chapter titles are equally roll-the-eyes worthy (“Play Ball!” and “Couples' Night Out” among them). And we won't even get into that last chapter, “Butch's on the Go” featuring recipes using boxed cake mixes, or the silly recipe titles (Really Hot Dog and Hoo Rah, Hoo Rah! being the best of the bunch). Not to mention that the “bakery” is actually closed at the moment (it was a delivery-only NYC operation for several years and according to the website, will re-open with a brick and mortar location soon).
But for the right cupcake lover in your life, many of the cayenne-spiked devil's food and date-fig cream cheese cupcake recipes are interesting. Hand out enough of those “Home Run” peanut butter cupcakes with banana buttercream and brown sugar-baked bacon bits (p.71), and even the cupcake-averse like us might be convinced to keep sludging through all the testosterone.