...it seemed like such a good idea at the time.
There I was, pushing the running stroller down the grey November street, the air still just a bit too warm for the season, the clouds swirling over the mountains, toward the grocery store. My cell phone rang. It was my husband, wanting some news from home to cheer him up during his gruelling 11-hour Saturday shift.
I told him: QQ woke up from her nap on the wrong side of the crib. She's been contrary and hard-to-please ever since. My solution? A jog to the store for cupcake supplies.
"Cupcakes!" he said, and I could hear by the glow in his voice that he was profoundly jealous. Jealous in the way one can only be when one is stuck in the office, and one's partner is cozily at home on a grey November afternoon, baking with the baby.
"Cupcakes." I confirmed, trying not to gloat.
"Maybe I'll make some too, in the morning..." he said, wistfully. "Maybe we'll start a tradition. We'll eat nothing but cupcakes, three meals a day, on Saturdays and Sundays!"
"That," I pronounced, "sounds like a tradition of which Pippi Longstocking would heartily approve!"
And so it began...a brief uphill journey, through sugar and spices, culminating in a precipitate downhill slide into culinary ignominy.
...Did you get all that?
Anyway. Here's QQ in her November fleece, rolling around on the kitchen floor with the recipe pages that I found in Motherhood magazine.
It all started early this morning when, with M. at home supervising the QQ and the window-sealers, I decided to take Sam the Dog for a walk to the Sunflower market for supplies.
Sam has been a bit depressed lately thank to QQ's incessant tyranny, and needed some Mommy-time all to himself to restore his spirits. While waiting on the checkout line at the market, I was flipping through magazines when I came across the word "cupcakes". Suddenly, after our long, hard, stressful, sleepless election week, cupcakes - long reserved for birthdays and Valentines - took on a whole new meaning for me.
I brought the magazine home.
After QQ's cranky afternoon, I decided the only solution was to plop her in the stroller and head to the supermarket for ingredients. An evening of fragrant baking seemed like just the proper panacea for her discontent.
Good idea, right?
It would seem so. Until, that is, one faces the problem of juggling recipes, grocery lists, an evening crowd at the supermarket, an extra-wide stroller, a kitchen filled with dangerous objects, and a mischievous toddler... sans backup.
Here she is. Mischief, personified. Ready to overturn mixing bowls, pull kitchen knives from the dishwasher, stand up in her highchair, open oven doors and take baths in the dog water.
Halfway through my juggling and preparations, I realized that I had not, in fact, managed to collect all the necessary ingredients for successful citrus cupcakes. I had forgotten one or two essential elements. I had bought baking powder, thinking that we had baking soda already at home. Not so. As it turned out, we had THREE cans of baking powder, and zero boxes of baking soda. I had also neglected to notice that each and every one of the recipes required milk.
None of us are milk-drinkers in our household. We're not intolerant (well, QQ is a little. She prefers soy). We just don't drink it. All I had was rice "milk" and soy "milk".
The final fatal mistake was that I had failed to take into account that the particular cupcakes I wanted to make required 18 egg whites. EIGHTEEN!!!! I only had a single carton of eggs.
My only recourse was to combine two recipes, and substitute rice milk for cow's.
...might work, right??
In progress, it all looked good. And smelled good. The recipe called for lemonade and grated lemon peel, with a cream cheese frosting. I'm good with spices and flavoring (if not with the rest of the process..nobody ever accused me of being either organized or practical, much less "domestic") so I added a dollop of orange oil and some blood-orange soda to the mix.
The result tasted and smelled heavenly. I mixed to a smooth and fluffy consistency, doled out dough into baking cups, and (with only a small struggle to keep the baby from sticking her head in the oven) set them to bake.
After fifteen minutes, it was clear that my "substitutions" were a recipe for disaster. The cupcakes fell before they were halfway done.
I had a very funny picture, but somehow managed to erase it.
Meanwhile, the QQ was blissfully unconcerned. The kitchen smelled fantastic, she was wearing (as she prefers) only one sock, and she had her dump truck under control. She was a happy camper.
In spite of the clear and present knowledge of impending failure, I set to work mixing up the frosting. Who doesn't like homemade cream-cheese frosting, after all? A fragrance of orange oil and some grated lemon rind, and it was done.
In a halfhearted attempt at introducing something un-puréed to QQ's diet, I let her have her way with the frosting mixer.
In fact, I let her cover herself in frosting...rub it in her hair, behind her ears. I even dabbed some on her lip...in spite of her vociferous protests. She did not approve. She did not, however, gag, either...so that's progress.
Just as my baking catastrophe was coming to its crescendo, M. showed up on a surprise visit over his dinner break. Tickling the baby, he says, helps him unwind in the midst of a long weekend workday. It certainly helps the QQ to unwind.
I would let you listen to her husky laugh, but I am for some reason unable to set down the Nikon and pick up the video camera. I know...I know.
How she does love that daddy.
As for my cupcakes? Well, deflated and sticky as they were, the flavor was sheer perfection. I finished off a few of them just for laughs (filling in the deep hollows with large quantities of icing).
All is not lost. At least I know that, next time, if and when I am actually able to assemble the correct and necessary ingredients, these will be some stellar cupcakes!
Anyone want three cans of perfectly good Calumet baking powder? It's not something one can really sell on eBay.