Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cupcakes: A History

Before we step into another year, let's turn a few pages back to the beginning of November. This is where my current journey began. Sure, I have fiddled in the art of cupcakering using box mixes and colorful sprinkles before but only once had I actually attempted to make cupcakes from scratch and it was a complete failure. They were tough and sank in so much that most of the cupcakes were not even salvagable. Those that were only moderately wounded I just put gobs of store bought chocolate frosting on to cover the divots (yes, my beautiful fluffy ganache turned out more like hot fudge and not in a good way).
I'll be honest. This discouraged me so much that I was thinking of never making cupcakes from scratch again. I am glad that phase didn't last long or else I would have never discovered the complete satisfaction of perfectly round topped cupcakes gleaming at me magnificently from the oven. This is when I discovered, I love baking.

As I stated, baking did not come easy or naturally to me at all. The opposite was natural actually. Not many baked goods I made turned out no matter how thoroughly I followed the recipe.
How did people do it? I tried doing it the laziest way possible, trying to make it look easy. I tried measuring perfectly and being as precise as possible. Still, I was not having any luck.
So I turned to the thing I do best to help me in all aspects of life. I learn from others well. I realized I was trying and trying to invent baking, to reinvent the wheel, when I finally realized that I was unprepared and needed to do my homework first.
Research. That's what it came down to. I just thought I knew what I was doing because, come on, anyone can bake. In fact I found I was doing many things wrong. What seemed to be logical was the exact way to ruin my creation... but then it clicked. After understanding a bit of the science behind how baking works, my creations are turning out beautifully.

Here is what I learned:
1) The whole is only as good as the individual parts. Use the best ingredients. Set yourself up for success.
2) Everything has a purpose and must be added at the right time to allow it to work properly. Don't rush things.
3) Be Gentle. You can't beat the batter into submission.
4) Don't overdo it. Nobody likes a dry cupcake.
5) Preparation and the right tools can make things so much easier but are not necessary.
6) Always bake with a secret ingredient.
7) Red Velvet uses food coloring. Fake it till you make it.
8) Don't get mad, get glad. For every mistake you make, you are that much wiser. Take notes.
and most importantly
9) Always share.

I still have a long road ahead of me before I can become a self-proclaimed "master" of baking. Refining the spirit takes time and experience. It cannot happen overnight so I plan on enjoying the ride and cherishing the thrills of success as well as failure. After all, you never know when you won't be able to bake anymore.

Love Bakes

Today I embark on a journey of the soul. Baking is not just the sifting of the flour or the whipping of the butter. It is the refining of the spirit. I bake for me. I share for others.