Baking Cakes in Kigali

I really like to pride myself in making homemade food—wholesome, homemade, non-processed goodness.

Today I am not making anything wholesome, homemade or non-processed but I do hope it is good.

This has been a busy couple of weeks.   Cook the Books and Food ‘n Flix posts are due and I have had a solid two weeks of nighttime school activities, some running into and tying up my Saturdays as well.   Therefore, I am posting a “semi-homemade” dessert today.

This recipe and post is in honor of Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin our Cook the Books pick for this round.  I must say that Parkin is a “very special someone.”


Angel Tungaraza, the main character and cake baker of the title, is an earth-mother.   A native Tanzanian, she and her husband are living in modern-day Rwanda and witnessing the country’s rebirth.   Angel is raising her grandchildren and running her cake catering business.   She is a master baker and cake decorator and is quickly earning a reputation for beautiful and delicious cakes.    Her business is based out of her apartment and her kitchen becomes a focal point in her community with her extended “family.”   This family  includes diplomats, service providers, college professors, doctors, shop keepers, aide workers, prostitutes and even a CIA-agent’s wife.   Lots of stories and secrets are shared around her table over cups of tea.   She becomes a surrogate mother not only to her grandchildren, but also to this eclectic group.  Angel has the wit and wisdom to lead her extended family to certain truths, all while polishing her glasses to what must be a sparkling shine.

Because I could never hope to match Angel’s skill in cake making and decorating, I opted for simple cupcakes.

I used my basic recipe for citrus cupcakes and frosting  and decided to make the frosting as colorful as possible.

Citrus Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1/2 c. lite sour cream
3 eggs
1/3 c. canola oil
1 c. 2% milk
Zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix, sour cream, eggs, milk and zest in a stand mixer until incorporated.  Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the batter into cupcake liners.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove cupcakes from pans to cooling racks.

Makes about 16-20 cupcakes (depending on your pan size).2014-01-20 17.11.05

Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting

2 pkgs. Neufchatel (1/3 less fat cream cheese),  softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 lbs. powdered sugar
your choice of three food colorings

Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Add vanilla, zest and lemon juice.   Gradually add in powdered sugar until you get desired consistency.   Divide frosting into three equal portions in three different bowls.      Using your choice of food colorings, mix up three different colors.

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Place about 1/2 c. of each color in a pastry bag.   Just plop it in.   Repeat until the bag is full.   (You may have to decorate and refill it as needed.)   The frosting will mix into a swirly, tie-dyed effect as you squeeze it out.


I was really striving to not make “a cake that would try to hide its face in shame” (18), but I don’t know if I have really done Angel proud.

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I actually made these for our hospitality room during our mega-busy week of high school basketball tournament.  I thought the colors looked pretty but I think they ended up coming out a bit too pastel.   They really didn’t get eaten up as quickly as I thought they would.  Perhaps they came out a little too much like baby shower cupcakes than a dessert for macho coachy types.   🙂

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Maybe a bit too pastel?

Again, I don’t think that I did justice to honoring Angel.   Nor do I think I did right by Parkins, the author.  I enjoyed this book and thank you, Deb, for choosing Baking Cakes in Kigali and hosting this round.   


Angel pronounces many truths in Baking Cakes in Kigali while brewing many cups of tea and doling out many cupcakes and cookies.   I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from the novel:

“…when someone is upset it is only tea that can help.   When someone is unhappy, tea is like a mother’s embrace.” (93)

I think a great piece of Angel’s cake would help as well.


Simona of briciole takes us on a foodie journey through America with her pick for the next round of Cook the Books:  Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs.    Grab a copy and join us for the February/March round.


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