Is there really anything wrong with being nice? In a conversation with a male, single friend of mine - one of the nicest, most considerate people I know - he revealed to me that he hated being called “nice” because girls don’t like nice guys. Really? What’s the alternative? Mean guys? A waitress I know once told me she never was “too nice” to her customers because she felt it was unprofessional and that the diners would think she was just trying to get a bigger tip. Well, personally I am much more apt to give a big tip to a nice waitress or waiter than I am to one who is snooty and aloof. If a person is sincerely nice, it resonates. Some people, especially in business, are afraid to be nice because they think it makes them appear weak. I don’t see it that way. It takes a lot of strength to be nice to someone else, especially if you are under a lot of pressure or are having a crappy day or are stressed out to the max. It is not weak to care about other people, to try to make their day a little better, or to not take out your frustrations on people who have nothing to do with creating those frustrations. There are those who feel that nice is not “cool”. I think nice is the height of cool! Of course I am not exactly the exemplification of cool. I will never, ever be accused of being a hipster role model. But there are some things that are ultimately a whole lot more satisfying than being cool. Consideration, brightening someone else's day, being nice to another person is satisfying and it can help to reverse a situation that is spiraling downward. The easiest thing in the world is to combat meanness with more meanness. A little niceness on the other hand can keep the situation from going from bad to worse. Niceness might just even turn a bad situation into a good one. And even if it doesn’t, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from taking the high road. I will admit it – I am not always nice. In fact I used to be a lot nicer than I am now. I used to think that I was “too nice” - that people walked all over me or took advantage. So I became less nice. Honestly, I like myself a lot more when I am nice. I finally realized that I am smart enough to know when someone is taking advantage of me and I have enough guts to not let that happen. I finally figured out that I don’t have to sacrifice who I really am to do it. When I think of niceness I think of gluten free cupcakes. And the hospitality of gracious Southern housewives. It seems like every old school Southern housewife has a recipe for Italian Cream Cake. The recipes, while similar, vary slightly. Some put pecans inside the cake, others only sprinkle them on the frosting, and still others have no pecans at all. Some fold chopped up maraschino cherries into the batter, others simply add the maraschino cherry juice. But they all seem to use a combination of shortening and butter, have coconut in or on them, and top it off with cream cheese frosting, and they are all delicious. This is my gluten free version, in cupcake form. While I could extol the virtues of these Gluten Free Italian Cream Cupcakes and use all sorts of synonyms for wonderful, perhaps the best thing I can say about them right now is that they are… very nice!
¼cupnon hydrogenated vegetable shorteningat room temperature
12tablespoonsunsalted butterat room temperature – divided use
2teaspoonspure vanilla extractdivided use
¾cupchopped pecansdivided use
1½cupscoconut flakesdivided use
8ouncescream cheeseat room temperature
3 ½cupspowdered sugar
12maraschino cherrieswith stems, patted dry
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Beat the egg whites until stiff with the whisk attachment of a mixer or a handheld mixer.
Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a mixing bowl.
Mix the buttermilk and maraschino cherry juice together.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening, 4 tablespoons butter, and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. With the mixer on low, add half the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour. Using a spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl well to ensure all ingredients are fully combined. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Fold in ½ cup of the pecans and 1 cup of the coconut. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a rack to finish cooling.
While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and 3 ½ cups powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add more powdered sugar as necessary until the frosting is thick and smooth. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup pecans and coconut. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry.