Once upon a time I attempted to make cupcakes for Mike's birthday.
You may remember the annual Halloween parties we'd throw at the Nevada house and later at the Chandler house that would usually end up falling on or right before Mike's birthday. We'd have a crazy kegger and at midnight, we'd sing Happy Birthday and enjoy a slice (or three) of cake with our fancy red cups filled with Guinness (...and Newcastle...and Great White...and Widers...and Stella) Tasty.
The year we got married - and at the height of the cupcake craze - I decided that I would make cupcakes rather than buy the standard sheet cake, so as to impress all of our friends with my amazing cupcake making skills...something I somehow believed was instinctual among the female of the species.
I was to be the prime example of the perfect domestic wife... one who not only had vast prowess in the kitchen, but who could also carry the end of the flip cup chug line (through a straw. It's a skill.)
I had never actually made cupcakes from scratch, but I had a new hand mixer and I had made cakes before, so I figured it was just a difference of containers. I was going to make a set of chocolate cupcakes and a set of vegan pumpkin cupcakes. I got to work on the chocolate cupcakes, since they would be the easiest.
I burned half of them. Mistake No. 2.
Yes. Number 2.
No biggie, I told myself. And, no, it didn't matter that the chocolate cupcakes that were not burned resembled the Hunchback of Notre Dame more than an actual cupcake because I'd make up for it in the frosting.
Which I also had never made before.
But I'm good at following directions.
Mistake No. 3.
I whipped up the batter for the set of pumpkin cupcakes, poured them in their cups and set the time for baking. Meanwhile, I followed the instructions for the frosting to go on the chocolate cupcakes and poured that goop into my brand new piping bag and began piping away.
The piping bag exploded.
By this time, it was late afternoon. The party was that night and I was sitting in a kitchen covered by exploded frosting. Now I fully understood that Mistake No. 1 was thinking that I could make cupcakes from scratch THE SAME DAY AS THE PARTY.
I wiped the frosting off my sad sweaty face and said, screw it, I'll just spread the frosting onto these cupcakes. I made a second batch of frosting and got to work.
And then I learned - frosting melts on warm cupcakes.
Mistake No. 5.
I got so frustrated I ate a melty frosted cupcake.
And then spit it out.
The cake part was fine.
The frosting tasted like Cap'n Crunch vomited in my mouth.
Maybe it was the salted margarine I used INSTEAD of butter since I used all my butter up in the cake batter and that first round of frosting that now coated my kitchen walls. Maybe it was the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar I substituted for confectioner's sugar because I didn't have enough in my pantry. It really doesn't matter because it was DISGUSTING.
The timer went off and I scrambled to get to the oven to pull out my pumpkin cupcakes in time. - I'd have to deal with the frosting dilemma later. When I opened the oven I was devastated to see 24 fully baked cratercakes sitting where I had expected to see 24 cupcakes.
Apparently you shouldn't throw in that little extra pumpkin sitting at the bottom of the can into the batter to make the cake more moist. I became angry at the recipe - WHO USES 4/5ths OF A CAN OF PUMPKIN!? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THE REMAINING 1/5th!? I MEAN SERIOUSLY. I'm still mad. This may have been Mistake No. 6... but no. I get a bonus point for being LOGICAL. CLEARLY.
I took out those crater cake bastards and tasted.
For a muffin.
Mike had wandered down to check on me. He walked into the kitchen and saw... the danger room. I looked at him like an inmate in an insane asylum and said "TASTE!" and shoved a pumpkin flavored cake crater his direction.
THIS was Mistake No. 6.
I think he was scared. I mean, here I am - sweaty faced, covered in frosting and flour, crap all over the kitchen walls and shoving a heavy cratered brown thing towards his face. I'd be scared too.
He took a bite. And kind of nodded his head very politely without saying anything. "Hmm..."
In a dramatic breakdown inspired by Winona Ryder in Great Balls Of Fire, I tumbled to the floor and started crying and howling: "I'M A TERRIBLE WIFE", "I CAN'T EVEN MAKE CUPCAKES!" , "I'LL NEVER BAKE AGAIN!" "I'VE RUINED YOUR BIRTHDAY", "NOW NO ONE WILL HAVE CAKE", "WE NEED TO CANCEL THE PARTY!" so on and so forth.
Mike hugged me... kind of panicked because he didn't know how to handle his brand new clinically insane wife, but also kind of laughing as he assured me things would be ok and that the cupcakes did not matter. I'm glad he laughed... because even if it made me want to punch him in the stomach a little, it made me relax. He really wasn't all that disappointed in my lack of cupcake making skills and he promised I didn't even have to clean the kitchen.
He knows how to solve problems.
I still felt like a total dill though. Because I had spent the afternoon making a mess and then crying on the kitchen floor, it was almost time for the party and I had to get dressed. Mike ended up having to go down to the grocery store and pick up his OWN birthday cake and ask them to write his OWN birthday message on it and because I was so traumatized by the sight of the cupcake disaster area I couldn't even go into the kitchen to clean up my own mess so he really did have to clean the kitchen... ON HIS BIRTHDAY!!! I was useless. What the heck was wrong with me?
I have never baked a cupcake since.
As I'm working on Mike's 30th Birthday party now (he'll finally get his own non-Halloween themed party!) I've been tempted to give it another go since there are some really cute Star Wars themed cupcakes out there that would just be too expensive to have custom ordered and seem simple enough for me to make on my own.
As I begin this process, I reflect on the reason I haven't made cupcakes in the last 3 years and I wonder if I should even go there again. I've been convinced that it can be done. There are some things I've learned:
1. Don't bake the day-of.
2. Ask friends for help.
3. There is no shame in the Betty Crocker box mix and matching frosting. I'll scarf down a funfetti cupcake any day of the week and naysayers are welcome to make my cakes for me.
Also... and this is the big one... I'll have a back up plan this time.