Baking Day 2: The Return of Homemade Cupcakes

Now that summer’s over, I get very bored during the week. I’m steadier on my feet (again) so I’m trying to walk around the house more. Occasionally, when the mood strikes me, I cook or bake. I explained about this hobby in my previous Baking Day post. At the very least it forces me to move about the kitchen.

Not only did I want to make more cupcakes, I also wanted to prove a point. My mom prefers box mixes. To her, homemade attempts are always too “dense” and “dry” in comparison. Don’t take this the wrong way, because my family does bake during the winter holidays, and I’ll reiterate that my cousin is a pastry assistant. But for birthdays and smaller holidays through the year, Pillsbury Funfetti cake works just fine.

I like the boxed stuff too once in a while. I also believe in making things from scratch when you have the time and inclination for it. Since I did have the inclination for it this week, I set out to prove that homemade cupcakes can be light and fluffy.

Google results produced this recipe for “Perfect Moist and Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes.” This sounded promising, and it calls for sour cream. How could it be dry?

So, I start to gather all ingredients, and as usual I’m missing one. Did you know you can substitute baking soda with triple the amount of baking powder? I do now. Learn something new every day.

I also separated egg whites for the first time. This was..interesting. Fortunately we only had four eggs so I couldn’t waste a whole carton. The first egg was a complete bust, entire yolk went in the bowl (I always crack eggs into separate bowls before adding them to the recipe). After putting that aside and getting a new bowl, I managed to get by with the last three. I realized it is very important to crack the egg in the middle so you have equal halves when shifting the yolk back and forth. Some yolk still ended up in the the bowl but again, I didn’t have anymore.

The spillage wasn’t too bad…

After saving the one egg white and four yolks for scrambled eggs, I followed the rest of the recipe. Fifteen cupcakes went in the oven and I crossed my fingers. Would there be too much baking powder? Would that troublesome yolk make a difference?

I wound up with this:

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I know, they look a little light, but I kept them in for twenty minutes and they passed the toothpick test. I worried extra baking time would take out some of the moisture.

After they cooled, I tried one…you know, quality control…

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Incredibly moist. Still a little more dense than box mix, but I don’t care. They’re sweet and delicious. If anything maybe next time I’ll  leave them in the oven a minute longer to brown the tops.

My mom’s verdict? “Did you save the recipe?” (Win!) I told her they were called “Perfect Moist and Fluffy Cupcakes,” and she said something to the effect of “they are that.” We agreed they didn’t need icing, but powdered sugar was a nice touch. When served like this they remind us of pound cake.

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Another successful Baking Day! Next week I’m thinking Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcakes, because who isn’t thinking of pumpkin?

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Frozen

Don’t worry, I don’t mean the Disney movie, and I’m not about to sing “Let It Go.”

…well, now I am since watching the music video, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

Anyway, by “frozen,” I mean those times we are frozen with fear and unable to take the next step. This has always been very literal for me, especially now that I’m recovering from knee surgery. You’d think I’d be back to normal after three months, but the thing is, much of the time I didn’t walk “normally” pre-surgery. I could walk on my own when I felt steady enough, but when I didn’t, I leaned on my stronger knee (ironically, the one operated on first) or reached for something to hold on to. I’ve been holding myself back the last few weeks because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t gaining any balance. So what if I leaned on my other knee instead of the post-op one? I did that in the past and managed well enough.

I’d gotten frustrated to the point of tears (again) because I couldn’t use my shiny new cane that I ordered from Amazon. It seemed bizarre that I couldn’t use it because I barely needed the walker anymore. If I shouldn’t use the walker, and I couldn’t use the cane, how the hell was I supposed to get around?

So, with that realization, I resigned myself to practicing with the cane and only using the walker if absolutely necessary. Not very encouraging three months after surgery.

Then a few days ago I used the treadmill for the first time in weeks, as part of my plan to walk more in addition to physical therapy exercises. I’d been making excuses because we have a foundation leak in our basement, and our treadmill is in the basement, so how can I possibly use it with all the furniture crowding it? Finally I asked Mom about moving things around so I could practice walking (as in heel-toe with equal weight distribution) on the treadmill. I didn’t think much of it but figured it could only help.

“Help” was an understatement. My mental state improves every day by walking with confidence on the treadmill, even if it’s at a snail’s pace and I lightly hold on to the railings for safety. I understand now that, hey, what do you know, maybe leaning on one knee more than the other does have something to do with balance. I also realize that my post-op knee is capable of supporting more weight than I’d thought, that I won’t fall as soon as I rely on it. Even if I do feel like I might fall, I’m capable of righting myself without frantically grabbing for the nearest sturdy piece of furniture.

I feel much more optimistic now. It wasn’t a miracle of course, as I still have plenty unsure moments and reach for furniture on occasion, even when using the cane. Now I try to thaw when I freeze up, and not allow my fear of falling to get the best of me. These days I’d rather risk falling than hold myself back from moving forward.