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Cupcake Wars!

I am not a baker.  Any time I’ve tried to bake something, even cookies, the result is usually edible but always a little bit “off”.  Being a perfectionist, and being in a family of wonderful bakers, I am always perplexed by the sub-par sweets that emerge from my oven.  I usually avoid baking at all costs and stick with cooking, which is something I am actually really good at (although a few ex-boyfriends may tell you otherwise).

I have a few hypotheses as to why I suck at baking.
  1. I have an unnatural, irrational hatred for eggs.
  2. I do not have a sweet tooth, and I am often found (and scolded for) scraping frosting off a piece of cake because it is, in my opinion, too sweet.
  3. I don’t like having to adhere to exact measurements when I’m playing with food; that is something that should be reserved for chemistry class.
  4. Baking results in high-calorie treats, which results in overindulgence, which results in a bigger butt, which results in a need for a trip to the Gap for a bigger pair of jeans.
At Christmastime, I helped Sara, my brilliant baker sister, make four batches of cookies.  I had some apprehension at first, because I was afraid of screwing up and ruining all her cookies.  Fortunately, she kept a close watch and taught me a few things along the way… and the cookies turned out perfectly!

 Last week, I came across a TV show called “Cupcake Wars”, which, if you don’t already know, is a competition between bakers to make cupcakes according to whatever theme the judges pick that day.  The cupcakes are colorful, unique, unusual, creative, and fancy.  I was amazed at the creations.  It looked like a lot of fun, not like the torture I perceived baking to be.

I declared to Sara that I wanted to be a professional cupcake baker like the people on the show.  Or at least try to bake cupcakes without having to use Duncan Hines.  I’m pretty sure she knew in the back of her mind that I didn’t stand a chance trying to make cupcakes by myself without something really bad happening, because she eagerly offered to have a cupcake-baking-day with me.  I was thrilled, because baking with my sister is a great time.  Baking alone is… not.  Not for me, anyway.

Between the Christmas-cookie baking day and today’s Cupcake War (which wasn’t really a war because we worked together), I learned a lot of basics from her that I’d never known before.  Like the fact that the order of operations is crucial.  Here is the method that I formerly used when baking anything:
  1. Crack eggs into the mixing bowl.
  2. Wash hands thoroughly to remove any remnants of egg from fingers.
  3. Dump all other ingredients into the bowl as quickly as possible so I don’t have to look at the eggs any longer than necessary.
  4. Mix with a mixer.
“Not good,” said Sara when I described my method.  One must cream the butter and sugar together first, and then add the eggs one-by-one, she taught me.  That’s a little bit of torture for an emphatic ovophobe like me, but I was determined.  So I did it.  And I did it well, except for one batch of frosting which needed egg whites:  Sara volunteered to separate them, because that was just too much hand-to-egg contact for me.

Our first batch of cupcakes were decadent mint-chocolate with mint buttercream frosting.  (Is it frosting or icing?)  Sara and I tried our hands with her first-time-out-of-the-box decorator, and the results were varied.  Sara’s were akin to classic works of art, while mine more closely resembled Picassos.  We sprinkled York pieces and shaved dark chocolate on top for added artistic flair.  It’s a shame that the York pieces didn’t come in green and white for Saint Patty’s Day, but a Penn State theme was okay with us.

The second batch were spice cupcakes with a dairy-free honey frosting.  We were both in awe at the satiny, almost reflective surface of the frosting and the super-smooth texture.  We sprinkled cinnamon on top so they didn’t look so plain.  These were actually more like muffins than cupcakes, so Sara and I decided that this particular batch would be perfect for breakfast.  It felt good to know that I could be guilt free tomorrow morning when I have one with my coffee, although I’m certain that I will feel guilty anyway.

Mission accomplished!  Another chrome accent in my life, so to speak, topped with frosting!

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