Posted in Doing the Thing

Candy Corn Cupcakes

What happens when I start searching for Halloween-themed recipes on Pinterest? I find lots of cute ideas for desserts and start making elaborate plans for baking cupcakes and brownies and a cake and Rice Krispy Treats.
Then I dialed back on the whole “sugar up my partner and coworkers” endeavor. I decided to bake a cupcake a week, and that has since been dialed even farther back to just one cupcake because of time and trying to eat healthier.

I was still planning on four different cupcakes when I bought the ingredients for the first (and only) ones I made, so it just happened that the design turned out to be Candy Corn. The cupcakes weren’t Candy Corn flavored, just colored. I used this recipe for the vanilla cupcakes and this one for the vanilla buttercream. Then I divided the batter in half before adding food coloring. I was relatively proud of myself because I avoided mixing the colors too much when I poured them.

The orange ended up being a pale after baking; the yellow didn’t seem to show up at all. And the powdered sugar for the buttercream made a mess of my stand-mixer and counter. Plus the only cupcake liners in my cabinet had white and blue stripes.

But my Candy Cane cupcakes were still cute. And they tasted A-MAZ-ING. Like, that cake recipe is going in the recipe box amazing. The buttercream ended up being super sweet, which tasted best when I hadn’t gone too buttercream-crazy on a cupcake.

I’m really, really happy with how these cupcakes turned out. Especially since they’re probably going to be the only Halloween-themed desserts that I’ll make this year.

Posted in Writing

Baking & Writing

I’ve mentioned that baking has become my newest hobby, and I recently decided to venture from cupcakes and cookies to full-on cakes thanks to a Pinterest recipe. (It’s this cake for those wondering.) The experience was… an experience. Full of I’m just going to wing it and well shit, that didn’t work.

Turning out a freaking tasty lemon cake and too sweet frosting gave me surprising insight into another process: my writing process.

It sounds like a leap—I know, I know—but let me unpack it.

The cake on Pinterest is called a Raspberry Lemon Cake. Mine was a Strawberry Lemon Cake because the grocery store didn’t have fresh raspberries. The recipe is supposed to produce enough batter for three 6-inch cakes. I barely fit all my batter in a single 9 ½ inch cakepan. The cake should’ve had a meringue frosting. I said f-it because it was 8pm and there was no way I was going to make f-ing meringue at that time of the night, so I bought a tub of frosting from Food Lion.

Whenever I start a new piece of writing, I always have a plan in my head. It may not be complete or very detailed, but I have a rough outline. A has to happen before B happens and B has to happen before C happens.

But stories and characters like to go awry. Maybe A needs to be cut entirely and E should really happen between B and C rather than after D. Or maybe a certain character decides that he or she would rather go chasing a story on zombies than finding their best friend at the hospital. (No… I’m not talking from personal experience here. What would give you that idea?)

Baking and writing require flexibility. The ability to say well that’s not going to happen and then finding a way to make the bigger picture still work. Odds are that it’s not going to look exactly how I expected or planned. It may be better. Or it may need some tweaking in the next go-around.

I’m okay with either outcome. Especially when it means I get to eat cake.

Posted in Doing the Thing

I Baked Macaroons for the First Time

My baking experience is confined to boxed brownies and bagged cookie mix. So deciding to bake macaroons after seeing a cool-looking recipe on Pinterest was ambitious–to say the least–and it would probably end in disaster. Let me explain a little: macaroons are a bitch to make. They’re super easy to under-mix, and the cookies are notorious for cracking while baking. The internet is awash with macaroon-baking horror stories.

I decided to make Nutella Macaroons anyway.

Because I’m following through on my goal of doing the thing; because I’m inexplicably overconfident in my baking skills;  and because Nutella Macaroons sound really freaking tasty.

I bought the ingredients, only for them to sit in my pantry for the two weeks it took for me find a day with spare hours to embark on the project. Then came a Wednesday with a bit of time not earmarked for anything in particular, and I started going through the recipe and gathering all the spoons and bowls and such when I realized that I need a new mixer. Why? I pulled the beaters for my hand-mixer out of the drawer and found rust where the finish had worn away. So I ventured to Walmart, found a cheap stand,  and headed home, ready to get to work.

I laid out my ingredients on the counter before scrolling through Pinterest for a particular pin that converted weight in grams into things like tablespoons and teaspoons. It wasn’t there. I went through my pins several times and searched every string of words even tangentially connected to “macaroon gram conversions.” Nothing. The pin had disappeared into a blackhole.

The irony of the situation was that I’d passed on a food scale at Target because it seemed unnecessary with that fore-mentioned pin. Plus I’d already gotten home from the Walmart shopping excursion, and I really did not want to go out again. But I’d gotten too far into the process to turn back. So I cursed under my breath the entire trip to Target and back.

It was late afternoon by the time that I finished setting out all of the ingredients and got to work. Then came more hiccups. Whisking the dry ingredients together isn’t a substitute for putting them through a food processor because the almond flour isn’t small enough to fit through a sifter. And it takes forever in the mixer for egg whites and granulated sugar to turn into meringue the consistency of soft serve ice cream. It’s also possible to DIY a pastry bag for putting the shell/cookie mixture on the baking sheets out of a Ziploc bag (and for the filling so long as the bag is CLOSED before being squeezed).

By some miracle, the cookies looked okay when I pulled them out of the oven. I assembled them on my counter before stepping back to look at them.

The macaroons were misshapen in general and refused to sit up straight on my counter-top; but they still kinda looked like macaroons if you squinted.

Yet they tasted delicious. There was just the right amount of airiness in the cookie along with a satisfying crunch. The chocolate of the Nutella filling balanced out the slightly bitter taste of the coco powder in the shell.

Baking macaroons is just as much of a pain in the ass and time-consuming as everyone says it is. But–and I’m probably going to regret saying it–I enjoyed it. I liked piping the cookie mix onto the baking sheets and making bigger macaroons than normal. I stared in wonder at the shells when they came out of the oven actually looking edible. And I halfheartedly cursed while trying to keep the Nutella-filling from flowing all over my hands because I hadn’t closed the Ziploc bag completely. (Who’s going to complain about having delicious Nutella on their hands? Not me.)

Baking macaroons was a success.  They’re not super pretty, and I made them the week that my dishwasher was on the fritz. But they came out tasting good, not just edible.

It’s going to be a while before I bake macaroons again. I’ve got to psyche myself up and find a free afternoon to get it done. But I’ve already found a couple flavors (S’mores! Blueberry! Raspberry! Chocolate Mint!) that I want to try. I like the challenge of it. Though I can’t promise that I’ll say the same thing next time I’m elbow-deep in meringue.