My first two years of high school were in Arizona. Our football team was great — the best in the state, actually — and I dutifully wore my “Go Huskies!” ribbons and attended every home football game along with everyone else. I even went to the state championship game and rang a little cowbell with HHS written on it. But I never really knew what was happening on the field, and I certainly didn’t ever watch football on TV.
At my high school in Maryland, people barely even went to the homecoming game. So I followed suit. I think I went to two games, tops.
When I was looking at colleges, I wanted to find someplace warm with a good journalism program. Football didn’t factor into the equation. I ignored my dad when he told me I would become a football fan once I got to UGA, and I felt like an idiot at orientation when our group leader made us stand on the steps of the student center, yell, “Gooooooo Dawgs! Sic ‘em!” and bark.
But my dad was right. By my senior year, I was watching football on mute and listening to Larry Munson on the radio when we came back to beat Tennessee in the last few seconds. I was screaming at the TV by myself in my living room at Thanksgiving. I was (occasionally) getting up before noon on Saturdays to tailgate. And after I graduated, I bought season tickets and drove back to Athens for ever home game.
Of course, I cheer for all the other Georgia teams, too. The Gym Dawgs are my favorite, but it’s hard to watch them unless you can actually go to the meets. And my appreciation for tennis players (UGA and otherwise) is well known. But football is the sport you can watch and cheer for no matter where you are. And seeing the hedges or the Uga cam always makes me smile.
And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be baking red velvet cupcakes to celebrate the first UGA game of the season (tomorrow on ESPN).
I got the bulldawg chocolate mold at Annapolis Cake and Candy Supply. It also looks like you can get one online, if you don’t live in a town with a candy supply store. All you need to do is melt some of these chocolate wafers that are make for melting, spoon the melted chocolate into the mold, tap it on the counter a few times and stick it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
I hope y’all are as excited for football season to start as I am. But even if you’d rather stick to watching the Gym Dawgs or cheering for former UGA tennis player John Isner in the U.S. Open, you should wear some red tomorrow. Get excited that our TV ad this year is 9 million times better than last year’s. And don’t feel like an idiot when you yell: GOOOOoooo Dawgs! Sic ‘em! Woof woof woof woof woof!
Red velvet cupcakes (Adapted The Essential New York Times Cookbook, makes two dozen cupcakes)
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 to 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used about 3 1/2)
1 1/2 ounces red food coloring
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (I realized too late that I didn’t have any, so I used white vinegar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk (oops, I used the paddle!) or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Beat for an additional minute on medium.
Mix the cocoa and red food coloring together to make a paste (I used 1 ounce of liquid and a large squirt of gel food coloring, then added a few drops of water to make it more of a paste consistency). Add the paste and the salt to the mixture in the mixing bowl and blend.
Mix the buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl. Measure out the flour. Alternate adding the buttermilk mixture and flour to the mixing bowl, beating constantly (if possible).
Stir the baking soda and vinegar together (it will bubble up) and add to the mixing bowl. Beat to combine.
Spoon batter into cupcake pans, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs attached).
Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.
Cream cheese frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat to blend well. Scrape down sides of bowl and gradually add additional 2 cups powdered sugar. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.