Air Heads: Crab Cakes & Devil’s Rose Cupcakes

26 Feb

My face is smiling "yes" but the invisible thought bubble above my head is screaming "NOOOOO! Send help!!"

Stephen is no longer allowed to go to grad school.

After a few masters and a Juris Doctor under his belt, I drew the line at medical school. But his quest for spending large sums of money on the pursuit of ephemeral knowledge, cannot, evidently, be quenched.

So instead of caving and agreeing to live in a dorm into my doddery, I panicked and enrolled him in flight school at Christmas.

The only catch? I had to fly along, at least for the first lesson.

We decided to take our first jaunt in Farmingdale, Long Island — far enough from home to feel like we were on a journey, but close enough to be able to avoid getting a dog-sitter.

Giddy up

Stephen, our teacher Ken and I loaded into an alarmingly Lilliputian Cessna 172 Skyhawk and …. Took flight. There were very few preparatory instructions; it was clearly a learning on the job situation, like joining a cult, or parenthood.

Fire Island

I put myself in yogini mode and folded my body up like an origami Kathleen-paper-bot, I slipped into the back seat and concentrated on concentrating on not panicking. I got about 2 square feet of space, which was just enough to focus on taking pictures with my iPhone and lock the fact that my over-caffeinated speed-demon lead-foot husband was jetting us 3,500 feet into the air and there wasn’t a barf bag in sight far, far away in a black box marked “Do Not Open!” in my skittering, jumpy little mind.

Flying in a little single-engine almost makes you want to bust out the air guitar for a little "Free Bird." Almost.

After a surprisingly smooth flight over the Atlantic Ocean, one that did not entail any unexpected appearances and / or dispersions of bodily fluids, past the Sunrise Highway, Fire Island and Robert Moses Beach, a few loops around and precipitous stomach-lurching dips on stiff Southeast crosswinds, I was ready to go again … This time with Loop-de-Loops! Unfortunately, our time was up.

So we did the mature thing …. A tequila flight over brunch.

We were flying the friendly skies all day!

By the time dinner rolled around, we were craving something easy and … wait for it … down to earth. Nothing’s easier than crab cakes and a simple green salad. Followed by a devilish dessert … Click on for recipes.

Great by itself for an appetizer, or with a salad for a main meal.

Crab Cakes

Makes 6 servings


  • 1 lb pasteurized, canned blue crab (find it in the refrigerated fish section of your market)
  • 2/3 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp Grey Poupon mustard
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp old bay, dried basil, smoked paprika, sea salt each
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for frying


  • Mix the whole mess together, sans the oil. Form into patties (makes about 9 medium-sized patties). Put on a large plate, cover in saran wrap and stick in the freezer for about 10 minutes while you whip up the remoulade.


  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cornichon, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Dash paprika, old bay, cayenne pepper, sea salt
  • 1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp Grey Poupon mustard


  • Mix the whole mess together in a bowl.

To fry the crab cakes:

  • Cover the bottom of a large sautee pan with about ¼ inch of peanut or corn oil and heat over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add crab cakes; fry in batches – give them a few inches of room, otherwise they won’t fry properly, they’ll steam.
  • Set aside on plate layered with paper towels to drain off excess oil.
  • Serve with remoulade and a sprinkling of freshly minced parsley.

Nutritional Breakdown for Crab Cakes: About 450 calories and 18 grams of fat, much of it gloriously saturated. High in cholesterol. Good source of protein, Omega 3’s, iron.

Devil’s Rose Cupcakes

Loosely adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe for Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Ingredients for cakes:

  • 1 ¼ cups AP flour
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 stick plus 2 TBSP butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rosewater extract
  • ½ cup hot coffee


  • Spray 18 muffin or bundt pans with vegetable oil spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder together carefully, smoothing out any lumps.
  • Beat sugar and butter in electric stand mixer on high for about 15 seconds, until just incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Continue beating until light,ribbony and the color of  lemonade sparkling on a sun-porch, about 7 minutes (this always feels like it takes way too long).
  • With the mixer on low, add about a third of the flour mixture. Add milk, vanilla and rosewater. Add another third of the flour mixture Add the coffee, the remaining flour mixture. Fill the muffin or bundt pans about halfway and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the centers are springy.  Set aside on a cooling rack until completely cool.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling.

Ingredients for filling:

  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp rosewater extract
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk


  • Quickly clean and wipe your electric stand mixer. Mix all of the ingredients until light and fluffy. Spoon into a pastry bag and set aside.

To assemble:

  • Pop mini-cakes out of muffin or mini-bundt pans. Insert pastry tip into the bottom, gently squeeze about 1 TBSP of filling into each cake.

Nutritional Breakdown for Devil’s Rose Cupcakes: Yikes! About 300 calories and 12 grams of fat per serving. You won’t be airborne for long if you load up on these bad boys every day.

Cost Breakdown for Devil’s Rose Cupcakes: About $0.75 a cake.

Verdict / In the Future: The rosewater is subtle, but noticeable. It adds a hint of delicate, vaguely floral sophistication to the decidedly earthy grown up Ding Dongs. Stephen, because he’s a sick man, also likes eating them with a shmear of peanut butter and / or dulce de leche syrup.

Devilishly good.

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