A friend reached out and asked me if I had room to store some cupcakes in my freezer. Of course I did. Her husband dropped them off. I took the fairly large container with a note taped to the top and put it right in my freezer. Later she asked if I could bring them to a social we’d planned. Of course I could. Then she asked if I could decorate them. Of course I could—not.
Sorry—what? How did that happen? I think I was just bamboozled. But then my encouraging voice kicked in. Don’t worry girl. You’ve got this. They’re just a dozen cupcakes. That’s right. I’ve got this!
My mission should I choose to accept it.
I open the freezer and look at the container. The note taped on the lid isn’t a note of well wishes for a birthday party but decorating instructions. Ah-fuck.
It says “I’ve brought you deconstructed cupcakes. (that’s code for not-put-together—in case you were wondering). I figured you may have lots of treats around for your birthday and you may want the option to freeze some for later. You can freeze the icing too. Just throw it in the fridge, leave it on the counter until it’s soft and pliable and then whip it up. Or, you could curse me for this sugary gift and throw it all away…or give them to a friend and say you made them. I’ll never know. Anyway—enjoy!
Enjoy what, exactly?
Being a coward I place the container back in the freezer pretending I see nothing. Denial is a great state of being when you feel that in-over-your-head sensation stirring.
The time comes to deal with the decorating. I read the instructions again. I pause on the words “Whip it up”. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean just casually put it together? Like no big deal? Like a bit of this and a bit of that and boom you have Pinterest style cupcakes or does it mean get out the mixer and whip something—like literally. Whip? Would that need a special attachment on my mixer? This is the part in the story where I tell you that someone gifted me a Kitchen Aid mixer years ago and I returned it for a travel voucher. That’s where my head was and is at. Did I even have an attachment for my super cheap hand mixer that could turn this frosting into something light, fluffy and spreadable?
I reach out to my dear friend and she assures me that whatever I do will be fine, that the baker who made them is so talented that they will taste good no matter what. I feel reassurance and make the executive decision to skip the whip.
The frosting stays on the counter until it’s squishy—wait, no—until it’s pliable. I squeeze the Ziploc bag mashing it in my hands like a stress ball. I nod to my imaginary audience. It’s ready.
Now, how to get the chocolaty goodness onto the beautifully baked tiny brown cakes. I recall watching a Pinterest video where they cut the corner of a plastic bag and used it for decorating. So, eyeballing the plastic, I cut the tip from the corner of the Ziploc bag. Just the tip—just like the video. It is so small. This should work fine as a piping bag.
Bake like no one is watching
I start to squeeze. It comes out slowly. I can have an audience! I feel in control—but puufff the zipper breaks and this big blob of frosting flops out of the bag plopping softly onto the back of my hand. None of it hits the counter. It just sort of oozes. I snickered. Oh God! This is like fat me in the mid 80’s with my too tight blue jeans holding in my soft white belly, and then undoing the zipper with a pffft—relief from the mean denim girdle. Flash backs are painful.
I inhale deeply shaking the memory loose. I’ve come a long way in self-love. The smell of the chocolate brings me back. It smells great.
Taking a spoon out of the drawer I re-open the zipper all the way I push the excess frosting back into the bag. I make sure the zip is tight and this time I twist the bag certain it won’t split the seam again. I’ve got this. Minor setback. The frosting is still coming out smoothly, in a fine chocolate tube. It looks good. I carry on.
The first cupcake is kind of cute. There is a tiny seam in the frosting where I had to fix the zipper but otherwise it is Pinterest worthy. I smile as if I am being recorded.
I move on to the second one. Confident. I squeeze and spiral the bag, trying to get the same look as the first cupcake. However, the pretty tube of chocolate is getting bigger. Shrugging it off, I continue. I manage to finish the second one. It looks—alright. Unfortunately, I don’t think the tiny snip of a hole I made in the bag could handle the pressure of my firm grip. The hole opens.
Cupcake decorating goes PG-13
The frosting is no longer coming out in neat little tubes but more like logs. All of a sudden the bag lets out a ppfffttt—pfft-pf. What the hell? Did my frosting just fart? Oh my God! It did! I blurted a laugh, my forehead creases. The top of this one isn’t smooth and cute anymore. The next few cupcakes look like they’ve been topped with turds. They smelled of buttery chocolate cream—delicious—but they are ugly shit stacked desserts.
By now I have about half done. I encourage myself: Keep going. Whatever. It will be fine. So they look like poop. So what. There’s still some form to these. The self-talk is flowing much better than the frosting goodness.
Like any good marathon the half way mark is critical. I give a squeeze and my Ziploc bag springs two holes in the side. And out come two chocolate spaghetti noodles. Ah fuck. Always an optimist I figure I can use them somehow. Keep going. Again, I encourage myself. But the spaghetti noodles turn into fettuccine and then a lasagna ribbon. And it lands with a ploof.
I can’t give up. So I continue the self talk: I can work with this. I’m not giving up. I’m sure I’ve seen a Pinterest frosting flower made similarly. as another noodle oozes out. I maneuvered the bag over a couple of the cupcakes thinking my Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art will help me through. I can sculpt these drippings. I can do this. I can turn these ribbons into flowers. Another chunk lands—plop, half on the cake and half on the counter. Nope. I can not. Not at all. Fuck—again! There are still three cupcakes left. The imaginary cameras stop rolling. This does not need to be documented. I stick my finger in the one that looks the most like a turd and put it in my mouth. Oh. My. God. Yum. Okay. I have nothing to worry about. It’s too good to screw up.
I open the bag from where the good Lord intended it be opened and with a butter knife, (don’t tell Martha Stewart) I spread the frosting on as smoothly as I can. Then I take the remaining turds and spread those as well. Hello pooper scooper.
The whole thing looks like a very mediocre grade eight cooking project at best.
I am not good at baking. And that’s okay. I’m sure if I tried I could figure it out. I’m not dumb, but it’s not my jam. At all. Neither is jam for that matter. In fact it’s on my bucket list to learn to jam and can.
I think it’s okay to say “I surrender.” I don’t need to be good at this and that. And, the stuff I make doesn’t have to be perfect. At a meeting my publisher said “done is better than good” and today, looking down at these cupcakes I can’t agree more.
I can also appreciate without any qualms all the beautiful cake and pastry and cookie makers out there. Yay them!
And, lastly, my friend was right. These cupcakes were so good. The presentation didn’t matter. They were creamy and rich and delicious. I’m sure the flavor was enhanced by simply being with friends in the park and having a picnic.
Food always tastes better with friends even if it’s not pretty.