cupcakes of love

by Sandra

I feel as if I’m getting sick again. Could it be? So soon? I recently got over a low-grade cold about a week ago, but today I have been sneezy and suffering from a runny nose and slight cough. Since I can’t tell exactly what this is, I think I’ll pop one of my roommates’ zinc lozenges and hedge my bets. It could, of course, be the after effects of a wee-bit too much wine last night. The reason for the wine? It was Stephanie’s birthday party. Which is the reason I made these:  orange carrot cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting, from the now-defunct Cupcake Bakeshop. The recipe is the same one I made for Elizabeth’s wedding last November. So, I guess that makes these “once a year” cupcakes, or as I’m thinking of calling them, “cupcakes of love.”

Why? Well, for one thing they’re quite time consuming. I had to begin prepping the night before, peeling and grating a pound of carrots; blending the fruit of three oranges into a pulp the consistency of which would put Orange Julius to shame.

And also, those candied orange peels on top—those are the things that took the longest, believe it or not. Describing their method would be too long and pedestrian to go into here, so I won’t. They weren’t difficult, just time consuming, and yet in the end, worth it. It’s an extra step that I didn’t do for last year’s wedding, and the festive look they bring to the cupcakes adds an important dimension that I wish I had been brave enough to mount the first time.

To be sure, these are not an everyday affair to make. It does take a special friend, a special roommate, to attempt such a project. I won’t lie and say that making them wasn’t fun—it was. The kitchen was abuzz with motion yesterday, as Stephanie and I worked elbow-to-elbow to prepare the rest of the menu, which consisted of macaroni and cheese, pumpkin and butternut squash soup, and various others. We shared mid-morning mimosas and the quiet concentration of two people lost in the methodicalness of making food.

However, it’s not only the time spent making them that I’ll associate with their “love quotient”, that’s merely half the equation. The other half came when Stephanie took a bite of the 31st “tester” cake. The look that came over her face, the one that reflected the pleasure she was experiencing in her mouth—of slightly tart frosting meeting with moist cake and the crunch of orange peel and pecans—was the look that truly is the reason I bake in the first place. That expression is my goal. I can bake all day long, but if there isn’t anyone to enjoy it, what’s the point? That was a look of love, and from my vantage point anyway, it looked perfect.