I am a sucker for Valentine’s Day. Attached, single, whatever – I love all the ridiculously sappy bits that come along with it. The tackier the better. Growing up, our mom used to go bananas for holidays (she still does) and Valentine’s Day was no exception. The details are bit fuzzy, but I remember there being lots of mini-heart confetti and cinnamon candies strewn all over the dinner table and bright red cloth napkins – folded accordion-style – atop each plate. There was even one year when she, my cousin, and I wore bright red lipstick to dinner along with big crêpe-paper corsages. We probably looked like a bunch of clowns, but when you grow up in a family of nerds, you don’t really notice those details.
We haven’t had one of those V-Day blow-outs in quite a while, but the sentiment has always stayed with me. Thinking back to those kitschy Valentine’s Days orchestrated by mom got me really jazzed about making mounds of pink frosting and heart-shaped cakes and cookies with shiny red sprinkles.
That, friends, was 4 days ago.
Now – on February 13th at 17 minutes past 9pm, having just arrived home, hungry, tired and achy – it’s fair to say the magical fairy dust of Valentine’s Day has lost much of its bewitching effect. The idea of buttering 2 dozen cupcake tins and facing a kitchen full of dirty dishes is not making me feel the least bit romantic. But I’ve stocked up on icing sugar and sprinkles and so I’d better make a go of it. Mom would have.
…skip to 1 hour and 42 minutes later…
So, allow me to share with you a very special rule of thumb when making the decision to bake something from scratch: never, ever, under any circumstances take on the task if you are tired, stressed, cranky, dehydrated or just generally irritable. Those feelings will inevitably find their way into your baking and wreak havoc. They have a way of attracting chaos and will hypnotize you into breaking things and injuring your extremities. Case in point: my attempt at making late-night cupcakes included one busted electric beater, 2 eggs less than required, an unruly oven and an uncooperative bag of sugar – all of which led to the demise of 48 tiny cupcakes.
After struggling at first with ingredient issues, I managed to put together a decent batter. But the first batch of 24 were soon wrecked by a temperamental oven and were unceremoniously discarded. At this point, I hadn’t given up – knowing that I still had enough batter to make another 24. I placed them in the oven, watched them vigilantly as they baked and after having taken them out, removed each one carefully from the tin like they were new-born chicks. With abandonment issues. I iced them with care, dotting every single one with a cinnamon heart, and set them aside on a platter for their photo op. Not long after, this second batch dove (icing side first) onto the kitchen floor in what could only be described as a tragically successful suicide attempt. I threw in the towel after that.
The lesson: baking projects are best left for moments when you have the time, patience and love to put into them. Otherwise, you might end up spending a disconcerting amount of time cursing and scraping pink frosting off the floor (at times simultaneously). Next time, do yourself a favour – order a pizza, pour yourself some vino and call it a night.