A baker’s nightmare

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So, this past weekend my oldest cousin, Sarah, got married. Some months ago she asked me to make the cupcakes for the wedding and I was more than happy to oblige. Her guest list numbered about 230. Never having made more than a couple dozen at a time I did some homework. I spent some time thinking about logistical details. I spent some time on cupcake blogs and searching for different ideas and recipes. I spent some time baking test runs. I spent some time doing the math and figuring out just how much of every ingredient I needed, like 18 cups of butter and 40 eggs, for example. Needless to say, I felt confident and prepared as I began to bake the cupcakes Friday morning.

The first thing I did was burn some chocolate in the microwave . As smoke was pouring out of the microwave I ran the bowl of burnt chocolate outside and felt like a fool. What an ameture mistake! I felt like a fool despite the fact that I was distracted by a screaming 2 year old who just wanted some yogurt, darn it all, and the arrival of my SIL and nephew. I recall having a fleeting thought along the lines of, “I hope this isn’t how things are going to go today…” but I quickly dismissed the thought as I remembered all the prep work I had done leading up to baking day.

I finished the chocolate buttercream without any other incidents, ran to pick Lil up from preschool then came home and made lunch for the kids. Just as I was beginning to gather together ingredients for the cupcakes my sister, Kelly, showed up. After my kids monopolized her for a while she came to help me in the kitchen just as the first batch of carrot cake cupcakes we going in the oven.

16 minutes later those cupcakes had exploded all over the place. They went directly into the garbage. I was a bit confused but then I realized I had forgotten the salt so I figured that was probably the issue and put the next batch in the oven.

16 minutes later those cupcakes had sunk and were a fail as well. Kelly and I decided there may not have been enough batter in each cup because I had reduced the amount in each cup after the exploding first batch. I added a bit more batter the third time around and was confident that these were going to be perfect. As we waited we ate the failed carrot cake which tasted amazing despite not baking up properly. 16 minutes went by and when I checked the cupcakes they too were sunken in! I was so upset and perplexed.

I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what was going on. All my ingredients were fresh, I measured everything correctly and I had baked a trial run a few weeks before that came out perfectly. Thank goodness Kelly was there. She was my sanity saver. She suggested we move on to the vanilla cupcake and offered to go to the store for more supplies to make spice cake cupcakes instead of carrot cake cupcakes.

While she went shopping I put the first batch of vanilla in the oven. Around minute 8 I checked them and they were looking good. Around minute 16 I checked again and had a hot mess in my oven! Just like the first batch of carrot cake cupcakes these too essentially exploded over the sides of the cups and didn’t bake up properly.

I bawled. We were almost 4 hours in to baking and had not a damn thing to show for it! I called Kelly and cried to her while she was checking out at the store. Then I put a thermometer in the oven to check the temp because I finally came up with a plausible theory: my oven wasn’t keeping a consistent temperature. Duh! Took long enough to figure that out.

With Kelly leading the show we packed up all our baking supplies and my three little monsters and invaded my SIL’s kitchen. Her oven worked just fine and we even got some great neighbors to bake a few dozen for us as well! 5 hours later we had a mass of cupcakes and tons of frosting. We took everything back to my house, drank a few beers, piped the frosting and decorated the cupcakes. By 11pm we were finished and feeling good though we had a few dozen fewer cupcakes than I had planned on baking.

That quantity decreased even more when my asshole dog jumped into the car as we were packing up to leave the next day and landed on the boxes of cupcakes in the trunk! I went inside and cried again. Kelly cried a little too. Soon there after I think I opened another beer.

As it turns out, we had plenty of cupcakes for the wedding and even some left over since I had also baked sugar cookies on Thursday. Thank goodness I had my sister’s support and company and wonderful family and neighbors right down the street to help get the job done. Without them I would have been a hot mess just like the cupcakes from my oven.

In hind sight, with a reliable oven, I would totally do it again despite the fact that at the time I vowed I never would. There’s no planning for a faulty oven after all! A positive to come from all this is that it takes a lot more to shake me these days. I just figure if I got through that baking challenge successfully I can get through most things, certainly power struggles from my 2 and 4 year old which are my major challenges these days.

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