Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Saying It With Red Velvet Cucpakes (with cream cheese topping)

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways
to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water
in a far-off continent, devote the remainder of my days
to a catalog of restorations. But this morning, it was the matter
of scones that drew my gaze, and my feet remained
planted in the kitchen. One must never ignore the instinct
to create, is what I told myself, and soon the counter was stained
with flour, my hands sticky with dough, the house inked
with the smell of blueberry possibility, and I knew I was not wrong
This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering, my song.

(irreverent baking, Maya Stein)

I got the inspiration pretty late, because Yahoo printed an article on Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcakes and I thought, hey, what a wonderful Valentine's Day gift. Home made of course (as I told more than one of the recipients, I don't do store-bought, that ain't my thing).

Anyway making cupcakes entailed a visit to my favourite baking store. Because, besides the exotic ingredients like cream cheese and pecans, I also needed a mould. And voila, I found the perfect one - little hearts. I mean how cool is that for St. Val's Day, hey?

Here you have the batter:

And here you have the travesty of the first batch as instead of using butter or the cupcake paper to line the moulds, I opted for the expensive and highly ineffective "cake release". If you see this reposing demurely on the shelves of the Bangsar Grocer, don't buy it.

Even butter is better.

Anyway, I had mixed up the red batter (as above) when I discovered that I had taken down the recipe imperfectly. In short, I hadn't noted the number of eggs. And a thunderstorm earlier in the evening had fried our modem (it actually started smoking, though it had been turned off during the storm), so I had no access to the internet.

Who could I call at midnight? Nobody. Who could I text? I texted Chubs and then Addy. Both were still up and Addy, nightbird as she is, was on the net. She quickly looked it up for me, and voila, saved Valentine's. (OK that is a bit melodramatic, but that's what it felt like at midnight, confronted with a whole vat of bright red batter that I could do nothing about.

So, two eggs, room temperature.

I always say that when you're making cookies or cupcakes, the first batch is your sacrifice to the pastry gods. Then you modify the temperature, or the time, or whatever else you got wrong the first time and the next batches come out pristine.

It's sort of like a totem. Like my "cabbie, cabbie, come, come" dance I used to do, when standing at a taxi rank, bereft of taxis. And it always worked. Well, nearly always. And if Jackie were there too, she would do it with me.

Two heathens in the rain, going cabbie cabbie with one hand and come come with the other. (Ah death in life, the days that are no more).

Anyway here's the first unimpressive batch:

But they tasted great and their appearance improved as I got better at it. Having only one large bowl (oh, me of straitened or lazy circumstances) I had to wait till I had used up all the red batter, before I could make the cream cheese topping. Which explains why I only got to bed at about six in the morning. And woke up at about noon.

Note to self: If you're gonna make cupcakes, plan, plan, and then plan summore. Also ascertain you have got the actual recipe down before embarking on quest. Especially if the weather proves inclement.

This is what the finished product looked like:

I decided somewhere in the night to favour Arnold's vets with a cupcake each> I mean, these vets had been awfully nice to my doggie. And other than the reluctant paying of bills, what kind of appreciation did they get? And my little doggie was quite a favourite among them (for all his biting of the cage and howls and throwing up in the car whenever he recognised the road to the vet and massive abandonment complex). I decided to make a special label for the boxes with the vet cupcakes. It went something like this:

Basically I printed out a picture of the doggie (which you will find elsewhere in these pages) and on it I had:

Dear Dr...

Happy Valentine's Day and woof woof!


Sweet, no? So I arrived loaded with boxes piled precariously on a basket that was too small in one, dragging a reluctant dog who had just been sick in the car, in another. Something had to give.

The boxes did.

OK, sleeping at six, and then spending another half hour or so before the vet trip, printing out and painstakingly sticking labels, does not put one in the best of moods.

"Arnold!!!" I screamed. And Dr Prem came out just in time to see him get a tight smack on the butt. Arnold whimpered. More from fear that I was going to leave him there than from the smack. Although of course, it could have been both.

The receptionist came to help me with the boxes, which, I could see now, on top of everything else, were bespattered with rain, the cheap printer's ink running in all directions.

Ye gods and little fishes.

Anyway, Dr Prem good humouredly calmed me down and after explaining to me that he was both diabetic and a heart patient and would only be able to eat half a cupcake, tasted a bit of the cream cheese topping and pronounced it fabulous. Then he went to get Dr Melissa, who would be performing the flushing/draining of the wound (Arnold has a hole in the head which was full of green and yellow pus which contained a nasty bacteria known as proteus swimming inside - the head was punctured thrice, the hole drained and now we have to go for check-ups, so the vets can drain it and keep an eye on it, as young Arnold REFUSES to be left there). As Arnold was placed shivering on the operating table (apparently the past few times they did it, it was incredibly painful and he had to be muzzled to prevent him from biting), Dr Adah held him.

Dr Melissa said she was surprised than in just one day (I had taken Arnold back on Sunday, unable to bear how he clung to me and refused to get back in his cage every time I visited - kinda like me when I was four and my parents left me in the hospital for two weeks, and every night when they wanted to go home, I clung to them and howled the entire ward down) his wound had healed to such an extent and the swelling had gone down. The plasma came out clear. In fact, she was so pleased she said, I would only have to bring him back in a week's time. Good for me. I was still thinking about how I would clean up his puke. The last time he did it, it cost me about RM80 to get the car lemon-fresh.

Dr Prem stuck his head in the room, in the middle of all this, cupcake in hand, to tell me that it was simply the last thing in cupcakes (which was good as it was my first time making the cakes and whaddyaknow, it worked out). Anyway, after flushing the wound, they applied the antiseptic and the pup was good to go. He couldn't wait to get out and once back in the car, he stared out of the window intently to make sure we were taking the right road home, and then relaxed, smiling all over his doggie face.

The vets were my second port of call. Earlier I had given the first Valentine cakes to Nits, who ate one right off and asked me how I knew she loved red velvet cake. I didn't. I just thought heart-shaped red velvet would be better than chocolate on Valentine's. (Huh, what I love about these cakes is that everyone I gave them to, ate one right off)

After the vets and coming home to drop off the happy doggie and attempt to feed him (attempt, because I mixed his meds in the food and he rejected it disdainfully), I was off to NST to drop off more cakes (I love Valentine deliveries almost as much as Christmas deliveries and these were more fun as I had my car). Then, one more drop off for an aunt who wasn't at home (she was off having a Valentine's dinner with her favourite niece and nephew - isn't it wonderful how Valentine's has evolved?) and I was back home and exhausted.

When Julie came home with her boyfriend later, I offered him cake. Shan is not one to say no to cake. He had never had red velvet cake before and loved it. Gave him a sugar high.

Then it was time to slump exhaustedly in bed, trying to read Patti Digh's Creative is a Verb, looking at the pretty pictures, and falling, fast, fast asleep.

Happy Valentine's Day y'all.

1 comment:

perl hacker said...

And a happy V-Day to you too! Glad it turned out so well. :)