Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My first cupcakes

I almost didn’t upload these cupcakes. Uploading these cupcakes on the blog is an act of bravery.
Even as I type these words, there is an Auto-Correct mechanism in my head that is screeching into my ears, asking me to replace the word ‘bravery’ with ‘stupidity’.

You see, I spend a lot of time scouring food blogs, searching for recipes that seem doable. Recipes whose ingredients are easily available, where the ingredients are a kirana shop or a hypermarket away. I spend a lot of my Internet time, especially after the kids have been put to bed, admiring food photos and wishing I had that kind of magic at my fingertips.

At some level, I cringe to upload these pictures. My younger brother, Merwyn, of Merwyn’s rucksack fame, has done a good job of capturing the images. But there was only so much he could do, considering the general appearance of my treats.
The Delicious Dozen
In a world in which food photography is an emerging new discipline, where food is a thing to be fantasised about and gawked at, my creations are completely homely.

In a world in which the two words food and porn have begun to hang around together, my creations look like the edible equivalent of the boy/girl next door. Well brought up, courteous and nice, but definitely not someone whose posters would adorn your walls.

Certainly not worth uploading on a blog. Especially when all blogs worth their salt have such drool-worthy pictures. Pictures that make you hungry. Pictures that make you want to put your hand in through the screen and pull the dish out.

And yet, after all that nay-saying, here I am, and here is the blog, and here I am on the blog, uploading pictures that no self-respecting baker would dream of putting up. Simply because the longer I thought of it, the more advisable it seemed. After all, I’m no well-known baker. I have no reputation of excellence in sugary goodness to protect. Then why hide these pictures? Especially considering the fact that hiding these pictures would mean hiding the joy that these goodies brought to me.

Because just like food is never only about the food, dessert is never about the dessert alone. There are so many stories that piggyback on them, stories of calories not counted, of the laughter and delight of children, of the pleasure of doing something special for someone dear. Not to forget, the thrill of watching the cakes rise, the anticipation, the aroma that pervades the house and the sheer pleasure of baking.

I had woken up at 5 am, while the house was still asleep, to bake this batch. Once the kids woke up, I’d be too busy washing, bathing and feeding them. The baking activity went off well, despite the minor hitch encountered during the mixing process. The recipe, provided by Maria’s Menu, promised to make a very large quantity of the cake. Since time was of the essence, I decided to halve the quantities of all the ingredients and finish the task faster.

Now where any other inexperienced baker would have taken a little pencil and jotted down the exact quantities, as necessitated by the halving exercise, I decided to do the calculations in my head seconds before adding the ingredient in – all in the interest of saving the afore-mentioned Time. Big mistake!

For a while, all went well. Then just before closing time, I forgot about the cutting down and added as much water as the original recipe called for. Suddenly the pan began to resemble a flood-ravaged city. Water, water everywhere.

There are many moments in life when I long for an Undo key or at least a Last-Saved version. And this was definitely one of those moments.

The tension was released only after I succeeded in carefully scooping out the water. A mini-crisis averted, the rest of the baking went off without a hitch. The batter had been enough to bake twelve cupcakes and one round chocolate cake.

Next I prepared the icing and packed it into a little container. The cakes and cupcakes were meant for my brother’s birthday. Since I had to be on the road for an hour and more to get there, I thought it made sense to do the icing at his house.

Unfortunately, disaster struck, despite all those precautions. By the time we had traversed the 15-km pothole-ridden distance, the cake had folded up. Not folded up as in failed, although at first glance it seemed like that to me. Half the cake lay on its back, while two-thirds of a quarter of the cake had sat up, presumably to get a good view of what the rest of it was doing. The other quarter, meanwhile, had fallen face down on the sleeping half.

If, while sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you, you attempted to touch your toes, you would succeed in attaining the position that my cake had attained at this moment of time.

Meanwhile, there were bits of the cake that remained unmoved by this attempt at performing Yoga and they distanced themselves from the mainland. The sight was enough to drive me to distraction and I groaned. Not to be outdone, the cupcakes had attempted their own brand of acrobatics. Fortunately, they were a more hardy species, and they survived the activity.

Plated, not quite to perfection
My sister-in-law, mother of two sons, succeeded in untangling the mess that the cake was in. By the time she was done, the cake looked almost as good as new. We slathered some icing on the cake, and then garnished it with a generous sprinkling of tutti-frutti.

Next, I attempted to decorate the cupcakes. Having managed to quell the rioting on the part of the cakes and the cupcakes, now it looked as if the icing was in the mood to create trouble. My original plan had been to decorate the cupcakes according to the high standards set by Maria. I strove to attain the perfection of those swirls as they pirouetted upon the top of the cupcake, starting from the outer edge and nearing the centre.

But it was not to be. The icing stubbornly resisted my attempts to coax it out. A thin streak came out of the nozzle, but the bulk of the frosting congregated at the tip of the frosting bag, and refused to budge. Maybe it was too thick. Or shy.

Tutti-frutti saves the day
So then we did the one thing that I had managed to get a grip on: we loaded the cupcakes with tutti-frutti.

But no matter what it looked like, and I never judge a book by its cover, three of the little people in my life, and the grownups too, gave my goodies the thumbs-up. My daughter and my two nephews, loved the cakes and the cupcakes. My daughter even liked my creations better than the infinitely-better looking store-bought cake.

My younger nephew came up to me and said, “Aunta, your cupcakes weren’t nice,” and then as my face fell, squealed in delight, “they were SUP-ERB.”

My older nephew's feedback particularly warmed my heart. He said, "Aunta, the cake was very yummy. And the cupcakes were supradelicious (his own contribution to the English language. Mirriam-Webster, please include it in the next edition of your dictionary.). The tutti-frutti gave a nice flavour to the cake. The chocolate icing was also very nice."

But no matter what they look like (Hope springs eternal: a well-decorated cupcake is just one batch away), what is important is that these sure did taste really good. Maria,  take a bow!


  1. The experience is very interesting and narrated very nicely. The reaction of niece is a compliment. Take sportively and undertake more adventurous chances. Don't share pictures share the items also

  2. Thank you very much for your kind words. I am absolutely energised by the feedback and can't wait to bake my next batch. And I look forward to sharing better pictures next time. But how do I share the items, if you don't leave your name?
    Have a great day.

  3. Cynthia,Your article is very well written [as usual!]. You have added wit and humour even in your baking crisis! Though the cakes looked like the "kids next door", it appears that these were finger licking with your kids and nephew enjoying every bit of it.

    My suggestion to you is for the future, please do not only share the crisis experience but also the "Yoga posed" cakes, as hey, who cares for the looks, its the taste that matters!

    Happy baking!

    Love and best wishes,


  4. Thank you very much, Wilma, for the feedback and the suggestion. Next time there is a crisis, I will definitely click some pictures of the Yoga pose, so that you get an idea of the naughtiness that cakes are capable of.
    regards, Cynthia

  5. i loved eating the cake and the cupcakes
    Wudnt mind a second round


  6. Enjoyed the cake. It was very tasty and the best part - nice and moist. Am wainting for the red velvet cake.


  7. HI Rose, I am also waiting to try my hands at the red velvet cupcakes. I hope they turn out great, and make better pictures too.



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