I know that someday you'll find better things.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cupcake War

Cupcake-baking has become more challenging than it once was. I know this because one time I saw a part of a TV show about the challenges of cupcakes. I'm pretty sure it even had 'challenge' in the title.

To be fair, I am somewhat of a cupcake novice. I only began eating cupcakes last spring after a friend introduced me to Sprinkles, but I've been around people who have made cupcakes before so it seemed like a reasonably achieveable Sunday afternoon activity.

Before I started, I researched the procedure because there was a good chance that the directions on the box were untrustworthy. Directions on packaging are notoriously untrustworthy, and anyway, I've heard there are different little tips and tricks that can be used to improve a box-mix experience.

Satisfied by what I'd learned and feeling pretty dang confident, I set out the ingredients and tools and got started. There were a lot of tips out there, and I intended to use them all. These would be the best cupcakes in history.

First, I replaced the 1-and-1/4 cups of water with buttermilk.

Next, I added two tablespoons of vanilla pudding mix.

Then, I tried to combine it, but the stuff simply would not become batter. It was thick and uncooperative, like soggy cookie dough, and it did not go willingly into the cupcake papers.

There were supposed to be 24 of them, but I gave up at 17. Redistributing was out of the question. I'd have to take my chances.

Patting the bottoms to remove air bubbles? Forget it. The little chocolate-colored mounds were like drop-biscuits in a NASA test-kitchen-- they were determined to defy gravity.

Frustrated, I shoved them in the oven and set the timer.

As I began to wash the dishes, I made the mistake of licking my finger, and it did not taste good AT ALL. How anything edible could simultaneously taste like silly-putty, sand, and sour cream confounds me, but I hoped the baking process would iron that detail out.

After precisely 19 minutes, I removed them so that I could use the tooth-pick trick to check their completion. Some-- but not all-- had puffed up significantly, and this created more confusion.

What does "clean" mean? Zero discoloration? Zero tiny crumbles sticking to the wood? The tip-makers need to be more specific or not say anything at all.

I don't even want to tell you how many toothpicks were wasted while trying to untangle this mystery. Some seemed "clean" but others seemed like they were still wet.

Was I supposed to remove the "done" ones and return the others to the oven? What would happen if you over-cooked a cupcake (or in this case, half the cupcakes?)

They all went back in for another 3 minutes, and then I took them back out and poked them all again. Trust me when I say the toothpick heap could be kindling for someone's next campfire. Not mine, of course. If I can't master cupcakes, I should not be trusted near open flames.

So, 17 of the most lop-sided, ugly, twice-poked cupcakes the world has ever seen are currently being allowed to "cool completely before frosting". Who are we kidding? I'm not going to waste perfectly good frosting on these franken-cakes.

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to "store loosely covered". What does that even mean?!

It's no wonder Sprinkles charges $4 per cupcake. Making cupcakes is a serious challenge.

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