Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hoping I'll be wiser, now that I'm older

The night before our brief spring break getaway, I had literally done nothing to get ready for the trip.   

I hadn't packed.  
I hadn't checked the weather to know what I ought to have packed.  
In fact, I hadn't bothered to go through the laundry to see if there were clean clothes of any kind for me to pack, regardless of the weather forecast.

There was no gas in the car.
This, by the way, is not a clever metaphor for my state of mind that evening. 
The tank of the car was empty FOR REAL.

I did not have a to do list.
For example:  1. Get Gas. 2. Pack.
Not even a mental game plan that would have involved making such a list as a first step.
Essentially, I had no idea what I hadn't planned to do and therefore had not yet done.

I was 100% blowing it off.

Instead, that evening I hung out with my brother in law, eating salami and cheese, leftover soup, and an ad hoc salad, commiserating about the lousy job market and watching our respective NCAA brackets implode over a big bottle of red wine.  A friend and her daughter arrived, tired, hungry and eager to catch up.  We obliged them on all counts.

Mid-sip and mid-chat, I looked up at the clock, and all of a sudden it was almost eleven. Wow. It was time to head to the airport and pick up my son.

Only when he was home, really home, safe and exhausted and sound, did it hit me.  

Oh crap, I thought.  I'm supposed to bring dessert*.

Better make three.  Apparently I've got to stay up doing laundry anyway.

NOTE TO SELF.  This may have seemed like the logical thing to do at the time, but you were wrong.  Your family will not be impressed by the extra plum tart** or the chocolate chip cookies you baked fresh that morning, mostly because no one has shampoo.  And it's just plain embarrassing to have to admit to your kids that you have no idea where your wallet is***.  Now that you are, at least on paper, a year older than you were that night, you'll know better.  You can have the wine and cheese, and friends, and brothers-in-law, but make the damn list.

And only make one dessert.

Lemon Drop Cupcakes

by Sharon Graves
If you make only one dessert for an Easter birthday brunch in the middle of the night, make this one. These are like little bursts of lemon awesomeness.  Moist lemon cake, topped with tart lemon glaze, finished with a lemon cream cheese frosting that is to die for.  Cupcake recipe adapted from this website (thank God google is open 24 hours a day, right?); glaze and frosting are the inventions of of my own addled brain.****
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 13-20 minutes
    For the Cupcakes
    • 1 1/2 c. flour
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
    • 1/2 c. buttermilk
    • 1 c. sugar
    • 1 Tbs. lemon zest
    • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    For the Lemon Glaze
    • 1 c. of powdered sugar, sifted
    • about 3 Tbs. lemon juice
    For the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
    • 1/3 c. butter, softened
    • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1 Tbs. lemon zest
    • 2-3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
    Preheat oven to 350. Line 48 mini muffin tins, or 24 regular muffin tins, with cupcake liners (these get a little messy, as I found out), or spray well with non-stick baking spray (probably a better idea). Set aside.

    There's lemon in all three parts of this recipe, so you should probably grab two lemons, zest them, and juice them. This should give you plenty of lemon goodies to work with.

    To make the cupcakes, place flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk together to blend. Set aside.

    Add the lemon juice to the buttermilk (you can do this while the buttermilk is in the measuring cup), and stir once to combine. Set that aside, too.

    Place sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed for a minute or two. This will release the lemon oil into the sugar, making things lemon-y from the get go. 

    Add the butter, and cream until fluffy, about 2-3 more minutes. Mix in the eggs and the vanilla, beating well for another couple of minutes until light.

    Alternate blending in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture. Start by adding 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then half of the buttermilk, then another third of the dry ingredients, the rest of the buttermilk, and ending with the flour mixture. Blend well after each addition before adding the next.  The batter will be quite thick.

    Using an ice cream scoop if you have one, or a couple of spoons if you don't, fill the prepared muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 13-14 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15-18 minutes for larger ones. The edges should be golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

    While the cupcakes are baking, make the glaze. Place the powdered sugar in a medium bowl, and whisk once to make sure any lumps are out. Slowly pour in the lemon juice, whisking as you go, until you have a smooth, opaque, but still pourable, glaze.

    When the cupcakes come out of the oven, let them cool in the pans for a couple of minutes, then spoon the lemon glaze over the still-warm cupcakes. (WARNING: It will drip down the sides, and, if you are using cupcake liners, may make the liners sticky and a little bit of a pain to deal with. I found this out the hard way, but nobody seemed to mind.)  Allow to cool completely. You can even refrigerate or freeze the cupcakes at this point if you like.

    For the frosting, combine butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium high until very light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice, and powdered sugar, and beat for at least 5 more minutes, until extremely soft, fluffy and creamy.

    Frost cooled cupcakes with the frosting. Feel free to add a sprinkle of white sugar crystals, or rainbow sprinkles, too! If the cupcakes were frozen or refrigerated before you frosted them, allow to come to room temperature before serving.

    * We were stopping for a family Easter/birthday brunch on the way up to Santa Barbara, and I'd mentioned I'd bring "cookies or something".  Somehow this, of all things, became an iron-clad commitment.
    ** Naturally, the container of beautifully frosted cupcakes got bumped on the way out the door, and they all smashed into each other and went upside down, smearing frosting everywhere.  I managed to somewhat fix them (see below), but that plum tart did come in handy.

    *** I met up with my husband and daughter 70 miles from home, only to realize in horror that I could not find my wallet, and had a vague idea that it might be back on the kitchen counter.  I was both roundly mocked and pitied by my entire family, until I discovered it under the seat of the car a day later, on the morning of my birthday.  Older, wiser, and luckier!

    Despite my inauspicious lack of planning, we had a great break. My dad and I celebrated our birthdays together for the first time in years, the kids goofed around a lot, the weather matched our supply of clothes (mostly*****) and we had plenty of dessert.

    **** Uh, oh. What if I'm actually becoming senile instead of smarter? Damn it.  
    ***** Clearly, we had to purchase this particular sweatshirt on the fly.

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