Cupcake weekends...

...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.

Pure bliss.

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!

Next time......

Anyone want three cans of perfectly good Calumet baking powder? It's not something one can really sell on eBay.


sarahthefantastic said...

Yep. Familiar elements in that story for sure. There should be a completely different name for baking powder and baking soda. Eighteen egg whites is just insane. No one can be expected to forsee that requirement for anything! Glad they smelled and tasted good so you got almost all the benefit of the exercise.
ps. I think there's something you can add to baking soda to make it baking powder or vice versa. Alum it might be. Keep the stories coming! xoxo

Yoli said...

Maia, I am impressed, I cannot even boil water. I love her giggling photos, I wish I could her that giggle.

Vivian M said...

Who cares what they looked like if they tasted good? Yum!
I am impressed you were able to get anything done with that little monkey all over your kitchen.

Heather said...

I love that you powered through and finished the cupcakes even in the face of impending doom!

A Beautiful Mess said...

I hardly ever bake....it is chemistry class all over again:)

Now cooking that is a something else all together...no real measuring required. A dash of this a pinch of that:)

When Ben and Hannah were little I often went beyond keeping them at arms length when cooking or typing a paper....I would stick my leg out and keep them at "leg distance" so I could keep using my hands to get done what I needed to get done!!

Jan said...

Maia, We just LOVE,LOVE,LOVE reading your blog!!! Looks like "Mommy Amnesia" kicked in. Your cupcakes were still a success because you had a good time, they tasted good, the scents must have been heavenly, and there's nothing like the frosting on the cake!! Jan

Cavatica said...

You are, as always, quite the story-teller.

Funny thing, my word verification letters are s.t.o.r.i

Andrea said...

You have a beautiful blog and an even more beautiful family. I've spent about an hour on here, when I should be writing my paper. I LOVE your illustrations, such talent! I'm so glad I discovered you (I guess technically you did the discovering, but I'm thankful either way!) I'm from Denver originally, and I must say, I miss the warmth of Coloradans here in NYC.

Stefanie said...

What a magical childhood for Miss QQ! How I love to peek in on your family, such love, such FUN!!

Snowflowers Mum said...

18 eggwhites?

holy crap...I think I'd have been tempted to go buy some cupcakes and pass them off as my own.

Juliette said...

Can't believe you are drawing, posting and baking...
We don't use baking soda in our recipes in France. I discovered it when moving this side of the ocean. Love the pics of QiuQiu playing with the mirror. Your girl is blooming from all your love.