Tag Archives: the observer

Red Velvet Cupcakes

6 Aug

I love food — eating it, making it, sharing it. My passion for the kitchen — especially baking sweet treats — inspired me to start a video blog for The Observer, Scene Around Campus, along with a cooking column for the Scene section, Cupcake Boy. In this Valentine’s Day edition, my good friend Kicki and I make sinfully delicious red velvet cupcakes.

Cupcake Boy: Valentine’s Day Edition

American capitalism may try to pitch the concept of Valentine’s Day to consumers as one of love and passion to sell flowers, jewelry and cards. But I’m not buying it. The only thing I love come V-Day is sugar and lots of it.

That’s why Scene writer Kicki Astuno and I chose Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting as this week’s “Cupcake Boy Recipe.” With their brick-red cake, creamy white frosting and red sugar sprinkled on top, these are the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day. Remember: A cupcake can never disappoint you, but a boyfriend or girlfriend can.

Whether you are celebrating today by spending time with that special someone or staying in to enjoy the company of your Netflix account and your cats, these cupcakes are the perfect treat to cap off your day. The best part is they are super easy to make and taste scrumptious. Why be lazy and by stale store-bought baked goods when you can make your own tasty goodies at home?

So what are you waiting for? Fire up that oven because you have some Valentine’s Day treats to make.

This recipe is adapted from Serious Eats and makes a dozen cupcakes. You’ll need a mixer and a cupcake tray. Be sure to check out a video demonstration Kicki and I as we make these cupcakes on ndscmobserver.com!


1 3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 tablespoon red food coloring

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

3/4 cup milk

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon vinegar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1/4 cup red sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line the cupcake tray with cupcake liners. Mix the cocoa powder and flour in a medium-size bowl. Using the mixer, cream six tablespoons butter, the sugar and salt on medium speed for two minutes until light and fluffy. Beat the egg, food coloring and one teaspoon of the vanilla until combined. Mix in the flour/cocoa powder mixture and milk, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the flour/cocoa powder. In a small bowl, stir the baking soda into the vinegar, letting it fizz. Immediately add it into the batter.

Using a spoon or scooper, distribute the batter between the cupcake cups. Bake for 17 minutes until firm to the touch, turning the pan halfway through. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove and let cool completely before you frost them.

To make the frosting, use the mixer to beat the cream cheese, four tablespoons butter and confectioners sugar on medium speed for three minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate and remaining teaspoon of vanilla until just combined. Using an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes (there will be plenty of frosting for each.) Sprinkle the red sugar on top to garnish.


That Time I Wrote About Taylor Swift

29 Jul


I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan. I have always thought her “girl next door” meets “women scorned” act was tired and spiteful, but about a year ago, it reached a tipping point when she released the song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The very name of the song ticked me off. I like to consider myself a feminist, but in Taylor’s world, why was it always the guys fault? So I responded the only way I knew possible: I wrote a column in The Observer.

The best part is, Taylor’s brother attends Notre Dame, so there is a chance he read it — and maybe even passed it along to his sister. If you’re out there, Taylor, I’d love to grab coffee sometime and hear what you think.

“What’s Up With Taylor Swift?”

Taylor Swift, thank you for ruining my senior year.

Just when I thought our midwestern paradise of a campus was safe, the “country” star has reemerged on the quintessential Notre Dame playlist, all thanks to her new single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Some things in the life of a Notre Dame student are just routine — the North Face and Sperry uniform, Football Saturdays, Finny’s on Wednesdays and dreadful weather. Well, add the latest Taylor Swift track bleating about her “unfortunate” love life being on heavy rotation to the list. It would seem whatever the latest T-Swift jam is, it gives the Notre Dame Victory March a run for its money in terms of plays on campus.

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift never got the memo. Hell hath no fury like a Nashville pixie scorned, apparently.

Taylor’s new song is about — surprise — her frustration with a former flame. Never one to not beat a dead horse, this is familiar territory for Taylor — think “Back to December” or “The Story of Us,” both dealing with the difficult waters following a relationship gone awry.

For the next semester, I know I can count on hearing Taylor’s depressing lyrical story about her ex-boyfriend several times each evening. It’s not so much that I dislike the song, as it is actually quite catchy. But I know this song will be beaten to death, resurrected, and beaten to death all over again, a musical zombie courtesy of the gaggle of Swift-crazed students at this University.

I’ll give it to her, Taylor is nothing if not consistent. Unfortunately, her consistency has infected Notre Dame students, male and female alike, like a pandemic — a Black Plague of griping country-pop music, if you will.

Listen, Taylor, we get it — life is tough when you’re tall, skinny, rich, blonde, famous and have dated a who’s-who of Hollywood hunks. Unfortunately, her message doesn’t really resonate with me, and I’m not so sure why it does with so many students here. I don’t know any fellow classmates who have encountered problems dating a Kennedy or Twilight star, all while shuffling between sellout concerts and award shows.

Even when Swift does focus on the sunny side of life, it always seems to be about boys. I mean, where would she be without “Love Story” or “Our Song”? When it comes to her music, Taylor is like a chameleon who can only alternate between two colors — always about her love life, either singing a sad or happy tune. Show some versatility, girl.

Taylor’s lack of lyrical creativity is frustrating on several levels. First of all, there is no denying the girl is talented. She is gorgeous and has a voice to match. It would be great if she could show some range in what she sings about — family, fun, whatever. I mean, if Rihanna can create a smash hit singing about umbrellas, I think Taylor Swift can come up with something, anything to sing about aside from her dating life. She really is holding herself back, and it’s unfortunate to watch.

But more important and slightly more troubling, Taylor is being quite the hypocrite and a bad influence to boot singing about all this dating nonsense. For someone who supposedly despises the paparazzi and has engaged in legal wrangling with the tabloids, Swift seems awfully eager to air her dirty laundry and hang her exes out to dry.

While it may seem like her music may be therapeutic or empowering, Taylor is publicly painting the men in her life as the scoundrel and herself as the victim. Last time I checked, I haven’t heard Taylor Lautner or Joe Jonas singing about Taylor being a villainess — what gives her the right to do so to them?

Not only is that catty, but it also sets a bad example for her army of young fans, who are receiving the message over and over from Swift to fall in love, then drag their former Prince Charming through the mud once he has served his purpose. This is not quite the message we want from America’s sweetheart.

So Taylor, I just wanted to formally thank you. Just when I thought it was safe to go out at night, your new song came out. If it’s a love story, you probably should just have said no.

Contact Sam Stryker at sstryke1@nd.edu

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer. 


Relocating Notre Dame

26 Jul
Little does Fr. J know I was up until 4 a.m.  the night before, celebrating graduation ...

Little does Fr. J know I was up until 4 a.m. the night before, celebrating graduation …

Relocating Notre Dame

Remember when University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins quoted from one of my Observer columns during his Commencement Mass Homily? I certainly won’t forget it. As my mom said right after, it was her “favorite Notre Dame moment,” and there certainly were a lot of good ones (my selfie with Manti Te’o, anyone?). Anyways, here is the link to the original column … Enjoy!