saying goodbye to my twenties seemed like a tragedy at the time, but when thirty rolled around, i settled right in. actually, i quickly discovered i liked it. after one full year of insisting i was twenty-ten, i passed up twenty-eleven and took hold of thirty-one with ease. my twenties were officially gone, but many friends around me were on the brink themselves. just this past week, one of my dearest friends in memphis joined the club with grace.
when i asked her what her favorite cake flavor was, she rattled off a long list of combinations. in the three years we've been friends, she has always beamed when it comes to anything confectionery. at the top of her list of flavor combinations was vanilla cake with caramel frosting and i aim to please so that's what i went for.
on pioneerwoman.com, i found this recipe for vanilla cupcakes:
and i found the caramel buttercream frosting recipe on foodnetwork.com. with both of these recipes, i did a tad bit of tweaking. my courage in the kitchen is growing and this helps my ultimate goal to step away from another's recipe and into one that is all my own.
making the actual cupcakes themselves felt about the same as making most cake batters and i was able to play words with friends on my phone in between steps like a multi-tasking queen.however, there was one major difference in that this was my first time using vegetable shortening in a baking recipe. once i had the cupcakes transformed from a doughy scoop to a perfectly rounded individual cake, i placed them on the cooling rack while i headed over to the frosting making phase of the process.
the caramel buttercream recipe began differently than any frosting i'd made up to this point. some of the ingredients were to be microwaved until it began forming a frothy, foaming, thick caramel mixture. then, i added that to the dry ingredients a little at a time and quickly noticed that the frosting was way, way too runny. normally, i wouldn't panic too much at this point, but let me back up a little.
my friend's birthday dinner was the very night of the day i chose to make the cupcakes. no big deal, i've got all day to bake and frost and delight in my finished product. so, i woke up that saturday morning and took a quick little rest on the sofa before i began baking and doing laundry. then 'you've got mail' came on tv and eh, what's a couple of hours of relaxing going to hurt? then i started blog-hopping and lunch-making and doggie-petting, eh, i still had a few hours until it was time to get ready to go out. so, at this point, i started making my cupcakes; which if you read above you'll know went just splendidly. back to the frosting...
after removing the caramel mixture from the microwave, i then (yes, then) read that it had to be completely cooled before adding it to the dry ingredients. what?! rather than panic (completely), i left the kitchen to begin getting ready. multi-tasking, my specialty. i knew i could do this. after about thirty minutes, i came back to find a still-hot bowl. oh no. my only option according to the angry clock on my stove was to put the warmness into the refrigerator and hope for a quick cooling.
while i waited (im)patiently for the mixture to cool to wrap-up the frosting, i put the finishing touches on the cupcake birthday flags. you see, i found an old book that i've kept in my classroom at work for many years that has never even been touched. it was just perfect to use for this project. the birthday girl and i have found kindred souls in each other while enjoying one good book after another. when i think of her, one of the things that makes me appreciate our friendship is this commonality. with that in mind, i figured mini-books were the perfect nod to our shared love.
now with time in a complete crunch, i had no choice but to use the caramel, completely uncooled, and that you see, is why i believe the frosting wasn't turning out fluffy as i had envisioned. once i finally did get it to a satisfactory consistency by using every ounce of powdered sugar i had in the house, i looked over at the sandy-colored cupcakes cooling and down at the sandy-colored frosting awaiting application and thought it was too dull as a combo. this gave me the opportunity to use my new gel food colorings and aqua was screaming to be added.
never one to be late, i frosted in a flurry and quickly topped each with a book flag before rushing out of the house. my wedged sandals that evening were higher than my hopes at the success of this baking adventure. however, when the table full of birthday guests and most importantly the birthday girl herself began their "mmm"s after biting in, i relaxed into my own cupcake. don't mind if i say, they're really quite delicious.
most importantly, the birthday girl enjoyed every last, and first again, bite.