For the love of cupcakes

It was after 5 p.m. when I traipsed through the front door. My body longed to sink into the couch, and normally, I wouldn’t be opposed but I promised my aunt three dozen cupcakes by 7 p.m. Now, if you’ve ever baked that many cupcakes from scratch you’ve already done the math and you know I didn’t have enough time, especially if you factor in my lack of experience.

The shining kitchen counters and cold tile floor taunted me. Usually, a blank canvas and its infinite possibility thrills me, but this time it only reminded me how much work was left to be done. The untouched pile of cupcake ingredients lay in a disorderly heap in the corner, laughing at me as I suddenly realized I was in way over my head.

There were a lot of things I failed to account for in my time management here and they all quickly became apparent. I had never unwrapped 48 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats at one time, and in my head it was something that would only take three minutes. But, when you’re being chased by a deadline and they’re the only thing preventing you from putting 24 cupcakes in the oven, it takes FOREVER.

After intense unwrapping I covered the Reese’s with batter and put my fate in the oven. I couldn’t stand to sit and wait on them to cook (nor did I have time to) so I started on the next batch: Kit Kat Cupcakes. The two chocolate cake recipes followed the same basic outline so things got a bit easier for me…until I realized I made a terrible math mistake. I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I needed Kit Kats to stuff cupcakes with AND Kit Kats to top cupcakes with.

Panic set in and I abandoned all of my independence and shrieked for my boyfriend. If anyone could make me settle down and think reasonably, it was him. He listened to my incessant babbling; they were words no one but him could possibly comprehend at this point. When I finished he pointed out that even in mini Kit Kats there were two bars that could be broken into half, thus forming four bars. DUH.

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I’ll admit I don’t have the most common sense when it comes to, well, anything. And I lose every shred of reason when I’m in a hurry. With the problem solved and the next batch in the oven, I moved on to the vanilla cupcakes.

I have an awful confession to make…the vanilla cupcakes were what you call a doctored cupcake. I didn’t have the time or the skill to make something as simple as vanilla taste good. So, I threw in a boxed cake mix, added buttermilk and wrestled my conscience the rest of the evening (I promise I told my aunt).

By the time I had three dozen cupcakes cooling on the counter it was already 7:30 p.m. There goes being punctual. The party wasn’t until tomorrow and my family knows I’m chronically late so it came as no surprise, but that’s what bothered me most. I didn’t want to have the reputation for being late everywhere I go, especially when I’m being paid. I had to change that but I would have to save my personal affliction for another day.

Embarrassed by my unprofessionalism, I had to text my aunt and let her know that I would absolutely be finished with the cupcakes and at her door by 8:30 p.m.

I was so disappointed in myself. I  couldn’t carry on with cupcakes after this order. I had two and a half hours to bake and ice cupcakes and I just wasn’t talented enough to pull it off.

With that decision, I felt my eyes begin to swell with tears.  I couldn’t stop though, I knew I wasn’t cut out for this but I had to finish my order. This was the most important step for me. I was kicking myself for running late but if I could just make these cupcakes look incredible then maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

The icing was too thick. When I piped it on, it rotated the whole cupcake. I tried again with a second cupcake…awful. Again, with a third…awful. “Do not stop. You cannot give up. You have to do this,” I told myself over and over. Not that it should ever take two people to ice a cupcake but I was at a loss again and I was on the edge of a breakdown, so I asked for my boyfriend’s help again.

We each grabbed a bag and kneaded until the icing felt smooth enough to work with. He held the base of the cupcake while I piped icing and miraculously, we found our rhythm. This was it. After 35 more rounds and a few finishing touches I was jumping for joy.

In the madness of my kitchen and my own mind, I forgot I was a student, I forgot it was my birthday, and I forgot about the mental illness I was fighting.

Among other things, my boyfriend gave me a valuable gift on my birthday. Aside from showing me his unyielding support and crafty sous chef skills, I unwrapped a sign that maybe, my cupcake journey wasn’t meant to end just yet.

Stay tuned to find out more about Tristen’s journey as a cupcake-extraordinaire next week! If you missed her first column check it out here!

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