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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Friday, December 15, 2023

It’s National Cupcake Day, so guess what I thought would be a good idea?

I’ve had a craving for gingerbread ever since I made the cookies, but cookies are such a pain. They require a level of patience that is in short supply. You have to make the dough, wait hours for it to chill, then go through the whole rolling process, scraping it up where it sticks all over the place because gingerbread dough isn’t exactly forgiving.

So making gingerbread cupcakes seemed like such a genius idea. That is, until I tried to make gingerbread cupcakes.

First I had to find a recipe, which involved reading a thousand reviews that say ultra-helpful things like I haven’t made this yet but they sound great! Or I made this exactly as written except I used milk instead of cream and added cinnamon and left out the nutmeg and didn’t have molasses so I used ghee and turned it into a bundt cake instead.

Once I settled on a recipe, I gathered my ingredients, only to find out I was short of molasses by half. Molasses is the one thing, along with corn syrup, that you can count on being in your pantry for about 27 years before it gets used up. But not this time. I guess between the cookies and the cocktail syrup I used most of it.

Since there was a zero percent chance of me leaving the house to go buy more, I just balanced out the amount with honey. Then I put in more cinnamon, and had to use milk instead of buttermilk.

Or, as most recipe reviewers call it, exactly as written.

Time to cook!

I put my muffin tin in the oven, set the timer on my watch for 19 minutes and went about my business. I washed dishes. I watched some Survivor. I decided whether I really wanted to make dinner after all that or if I was fine just eating a cupcake or two.

Some time later I looked at the timer on my watch. It was stuck at 13 minutes.

This is the thing about the timer on a watch. It works great. Unless you need it to.

I can’t count the number of times that this thing has just stopped. I’m certain it’s because I bumped into some button or tapped something, but a timer that can get bumped or tapped and stop working is pretty useless, isn’t it?

So I had to guess when the cupcakes were done, which involved a lot of opening and closing the oven and stabbing them with toothpicks.

Most gingerbread cupcake recipes call for a cream cheese frosting. I did not have cream cheese.

Since there was a zero percent chance of me leaving the house to go buy any, I picked a maple buttercream. Fortunately, nothing about it required a timer.

I learned that the earliest reference to a cupcake was in a 1796 cookbook, in a recipe for “a cake to be baked in small cups.” The ingredients included molasses, allspice, cloves, and ginger, which sounds pretty close to a gingerbread cupcake!

Coincidence or karma?

The name of the cookbook? “American Cookery, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves and All Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake. Adapted to This Country, and All Grades of Life.”

That is officially more words than I have cupcakes.

The buttercream came out weirdly grainy. I’m sure there was science involved but it was fine until I added the maple syrup, at which point it completely separated. Was I deterred?

I’m not even going to answer that.

The original versions of cupcakes were not frosted at all, which begs the question: isn’t that just called a muffin?

Fun fact: the Guinness World Record for largest cupcake goes to It weighed 1,224 pounds, was 4 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and used 800 eggs.

It had two million calories.

I wonder how many Peloton miles that is.

When Ralph and I lived in Holmdel, we found a cupcake shop that opened in nearby Red Bank. You chose your cake, you chose your filling, you chose your icing, you chose your toppings. There was chocolate and vanilla cake, red velvet and carrot. There were cream fillings and jams. Chocolate frosting and vanilla, peanut butter and cream cheese. Cookie toppings and caramel, strawberries and candy.

This sounds fantastic until you’re standing at the counter and wondering if you want caramel icing with peanut butter filling, or peanut butter filling with caramel icing. These are big decisions.

Ralph and I tackled the problem by getting a full list of all the options and then sitting down at the kitchen table and writing out our favorite combinations. The next time we went to the cupcake shop we brought our menu with us and handed it to the person behind the counter.

They were so impressed that they asked if they could keep our list. They tacked it to the wall for everyone to reference.

Cupcakes are serious business.

We also went through a cupcake baking phase. We had a piping bag and everything, would make cream and fill them, would pipe little swirls of frosting on top.

It’s been a while since I baked cupcakes but today presented the ideal opportunity to revisit these perfect bites.

Even with the wrong ingredients they came out pretty darn good. And grainy or not, the icing was killer.

You’ll be happy to know I didn’t even wreck the kitchen.

The only thing I can hope for now is that Ralph doesn’t like them.

Photo: today’s glorious result.