Thursday, September 21, 2017

Zoe vs. the Pinterest Fail. Or, My Second-Ever Recipe Post

First, apologies for being gone from the blog so long. I imagine you were all pining away. It's weird all those search parties you guys must've sent out weren't able to find me. (Just let me have this!)
Not only was I on an official vacation for one of those weeks, but I was lazy the other weeks, and I'm afraid that took all my focus and strength.
And, as it turns out, I needed as much strength as I could get, because last week I decided to make Dragon Fire Cupcakes for Zoe's 7th birthday party.

Pinterest Fail! Recipe post

Zoe loves dragons. She has all the Lego Elves dragon sets, tons of books about dragons, zillions of stuffed dragons, and even a dragon figurine I bought in Epcot's English Pavilion that has a gem for its perch. Zoe swooned when she saw it as gems are her second favorite thing.
Maybe she actually is a dragon.
In any case, I am not a Pinteresty/arts-and-crafty/cake-from-scratchy kind of mom/person. But I came across Dragon Fire Cupcakes on the Internet and thought, These don't look like they'd be too hard to make!
Plus, hey, you only live once, so you might as well torture yourself to please a seven-year-old who hasn't learned empathy yet!
This was my first time using a pastry bag to apply icing. Previously I'd only ever used the tried-and-true dull-knife method.
And I needed to apply three different colors of icing: red, orange, and yellow, the main three colors comprising "dragon fire"---as every pastry chef and seven-year-old knows.
I'll share the recipe below but for now I'll just jump ahead to the tragic display of humanity that was me loading a pastry bag with three separate colors and trying to keep them separate and then trying to pump them through the icing-delivery-system nozzle thing that was supposed to create swirls of yummy-tasting, amazing-looking, verisimilitudinous dragon fire.
First of all: Ow.
I now respect pastry chefs a lot more than I did before. Did you know how much hand strength it takes to squeeze buttercream frosting through those icing nozzles? I wouldn't want to make a pastry chef angry is all I'm saying. They could probably crush your throat with one hand. While icing your funeral cupcake with the other.
The second thing I learned, albeit too late to avoid the day's drama, is how to have faith in myself. And by that I mean faith in my estimation of myself, and my skills, including where they fall short. As my inner motivational speaker often says, "Liz, you can't do this, but, sweetie, that's okay, you've got that gum-chewing while walking thing DOWN!" She is supportive but pragmatic.
So after I sloppily loaded the frosting in the pastry bag, getting most of it on my fingers, and pressed the bag down so the colors would feed relatively evenly (spoiler alert: they wouldn't!) I had a feeling, a presentiment really, that the pastry bag would explode, shooting frosting everywhere.
I was half right.
The pastry bag did indeed explode, but the frosting shot out in only one direction, onto my shirt, my dirty, tasty shirt.
I should've noticed that I'd been losing bag integrity, but I'd been so focused on the icing struggle itself. Varying pressure, placement, and wrist flicks be damned, I could not make the cupcakes look like they had on Pinterest.

My Second-Ever Recipe Post
The dream. The mirage. The picture that tempted me,
like flying too close to the sun tempted Icarus.
I couldn't even replicate these cupcakes' lighting. So pretty!

I'd watched five damn YouTube tutorials on icing cupcakes. How did they make it look so easy? Why didn't they warn me it was harder than it looked? How did that one lady ice cupcakes while wearing trumpet sleeves? Trumpet. Sleeves.
So the result was not what I'd hoped, and it took me so long I was unable to finish before Zoe came back from an outing with the Husband.
When she came in, she saw the sugary crime scene, and looked at me like, Explain.
I told her I was making Dragon Fire Cupcakes for her birthday and she looked at the cupcakes for a few moments before turning back to me, and patting my frosting-covered hand, she said, "You can't be good at everything, Mommy. At least you tried."
Empathy, after all.

Dragon Fire Cupcakes (as made by me)
Step 1: Buy a cake mix from the store and make the damn cupcakes. I did Devil's Food because that's the alias chocolate uses when it wants to seem "street." 
Step 2: Buy pre-made buttercream frosting, icing-delivery nozzles, pastry bags (I bought ten; I'm not going to tell you how many I went through icing 23* cupcakes because I like to keep a little mystery alive), food dye in red, orange, and yellow.
Step 3: Go back to store because you mistakenly bought two oranges and zero yellow.
Step 4: Watch online tutorials on how to add color to your buttercream frosting. Then do that part, after washing your cereal bowl from breakfast because you only had two clean bowls and you'll need three (which later turns out to be four).
Step 5: Watch online tutorials for how to load a pastry bag in general and how to load a pastry bag with three different colors. Try doing that. Get frosting all over your hands. Clean hands and watch another tutorial. Try again. Same result. Sigh. Press on. Literally. Clean up after bag explodes. Wonder why only the red's coming out. Make some red cupcakes. Why do the cupcakes look like they lost a silly-string fight instead of like they are made of dragon fire? Try a different nozzle. Not getting any better. Try different wrist movements. Visualize the word "finesse." Scoop frosting off cupcakes and get another bowl and then load that mixed-color frosting into a new pastry bag.
Step 6: Remember perfect is the enemy of good and decide that perfect cupcakes are as mythical as dragons. AKA, you're done.
Step 7: Load the cupcakes in an aluminum foil tray figuring that if they get messed up in transport you can blame how they look on that.**

Multiple choice. This cupcake feels:
a) underdressed, b) left out, or c) spared a weird fate?

* 23 because I left the 24th plain, or so I claimed; really I forgot to take it out of the pan.
**Probably my best baking tip.

You guys! Are you a lady who lives in the NY/NJ area? Need a night out? This Saturday night me and some friends are celebrating the release of Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat's new book: Working with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Cantankerous Clients, Micromanaging Minions, and Other Supercilious ScourgesJen Mann will be there and wants to see all of you! 

So please find some pants---whether jeans, sweats, or a tasteful pair of slacks---and join us for a fun night of tons of laughs. Tickets are $20 bucks and that gets you a signed copy of WWPIWTPITT (it's just too long to type again), food and drinks, and a raffle entry. Join us for a night of hilarious readings, a little shopping, and more! 

Saturday, September 23rd, 6 - 9 pm at the Madison Community House in Madison, NJ. 

(If you end up in Madison, Wisconsin, you went too far!)

Hosted by: Kim Bongiorno

Yours truly will be speaking along with other local authors who have contributed to Jen's 5-book New York Times bestselling I Just Want to Pee Alone humor anthology series, including:

Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying

Stacey Gill of One Funny Motha

Jennifer Lizza of Outsmarted Mommy

Elly Lonon of Buggin’ Word

Jen Simon

Shya Gibbons of Vintage Dreams With A Modern Twist

Zoe: 170; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may like my first-ever recipe post,
creatively named Zoe vs. the Recipe Post.

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

I promise that even if this blog someday explodes in your face, it will taste like ruined Dragon Fire Cupcakes, which actually tasted pretty good, considering.
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