From Lisa Barnes
It’s 10:32 on a Monday night and I am seething about Nigella Lawson’s chocolate cupcake recipe. I am making cupcakes for my son’s birthday to share at his preschool tomorrow. When I realized the first batch did not look quite right (10 p.m.) I called a few specialty markets and bakeries to see what time they open in the morning. Even if the next pan turns out, it won’t be enough. But for some reason I still pursue the original goal, – even making the frosting. I am even contemplating making a new recipe.
The idea of buying them on the way to school, saddens me. Not just because I want to make my own son’s cupcakes, (and rarely do I do store bought) but because if I was simply going to buy them, I could’ve saved my time, energy and ingredients and planned to choose something great (not whatever happens to be in the case).
First of all cake is big for my son. If asked what he wants for his birthday he says “cake”. He never mentions a toy or an article of clothing, just “cake”. So how can I let him down? He’s sleeping right now and thinking I’m making his cupcakes. He’s even expecting to help decorate them in the morning. Plus my daughter’s cakes were so cute. I feel bad.
So about the cupcakes…maybe in England you’re not expecting fluffy cake for cupcakes. These are delicious but not even to the top of the paper liners (thus sad looking). Most cupcake recipes have you fill them halfway or two thirds full – so they have room to rise. Well these didn’t. In fact she doesn’t specify how high – just “pour batter into liners”. After the first flat batch, I tried to correct the error and salvage something. They are lovely and normal looking, because I filled the papers to the rim. Now I know, but I don’t have enough good looking ones for the whole class.
Which brings me to recipes and recipe writing. It is not fail proof. I know my recipes work, because I wrote them and tested them. However they are my instructions, I understand myself (most of the time). This is why cooking doesn’t always work for everyone. My instructions may not make sense to you and vice versa. Thus people can make the same recipe and have it come out different. There are so many variables with texture, flavor, and appearance. Unfortunately I didn’t have my own chocolate cupcake recipe and so I went to the “domestic goddess” – Nigella. So tonight she’s let me down, or I let myself down. Either way I’m bummed.
By the way my buttercream frosting is great (same recipe I’ve used for 10 plus years). I sample too much and need sleep. I’ll re-group tomorrow. I secretly hope the cupcake fairies will come and magically “puff up” my cupcakes. Maybe that’s what happens in all the lovely cupcake bakeries that have become so trendy in cities across the globe.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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