I am really not much of a cake-eater. The truth is, I would take a slice of pie or an oatmeal cookie or a scoop of ice cream or sherbet over a cake any day of the week. I just don't share the appreciation that most people have for cake. At some point, I even started getting cheesecakes on my birthdays instead of the bright pink, frosting-laden creations that most of my friends adored. Cheesecake suited me just fine, thank you very much.
Still, there is something so iconic and so cheerful about cake that it seems, even to a non-cake-lover such as myself, that a person ought to feast on it at least once a year, shouldn't she? So, I broke my cake-avoiding-habit and used Mandi's birthday as an excuse to both bake and eat a cupcake. Mind you, a traditional cupcake was not in the plans. The unnecessary sweetness of frosting was avoided altogether, ingeniously replaced with a cheesecake-esque filling. "This is what cake was destined for," I thought when I my eyes perused the recipe.
A birthday-based visit from Mandi gave us the perfect opportunity for a second baking adventure as a team. On the day that the cupcakes were to be created, the kitchen was transformed into a bakery of sorts. Now, when I say "of sorts," what I mean is that true bakers would have been appalled to work in a setting so remiss in culinary planning. I made a few poor assumptions prior to baking day, one being that I had enough of the basics like flour and sugar. We managed with the flour, but found ran short on the sugar. 1/3 cup short. Not enough for the delicious, much-anticipated cheesecake part of the cupcakes. "Brown sugar will have to do," I decided, handing Mandi the bag. She went along with my plan, perhaps secretly wishing I had better prepared for her birthday cupcake-making extravaganza. Looking back, however, I think it was less the sugar replacement and more the distractions of sisterly conversation that got us into trouble. I set the oven for the recipe-recommended time, erring on the side of caution and going with the lesser 25 minutes. Well, when a timer is set, it's just about a good enough excuse to forget commitments altogether. The timer, of course, has it all under control.
Chatting away, laughing, and enjoying the pleasant aroma wafting from the kitchen, we thought little about checking the progress of our baking cake. By the time I finally made my way into the kitchen, the timer was still counting down the final three minutes. So, it was with unfounded confidence that I peeked through our oven window. I screamed slightly. Burnt cupcakes! Or, if not exactly burnt, certainly overdone. Golden brown wasn't exactly the look we were going for here. As I pulled the muffin tin from the oven, I began to wonder if our joint cooking adventures were simply bound to fail. Perhaps Mandi and I are more focused when we cook separately. Afterall, Mandi did almost lose a toe in our last "team effort." Goodness gracious.
Disappointed in our efforts, we promised to repeat the recipe (this time in our own separate kitchens) during the week. Maintaining focus, watching the cupcakes closely, and removing them from the oven a lot earlier (aim for 15-18 minutes) resulted in success. And, I must admit that I have eaten more than just one cupcake. These little cakes are good enough for even me to love. Without the golden-brown, crunchy, slightly burned top, I'd even go so far as to say that these cupcakes won me over. Imagine that. Me being won over by cake. Goodness gracious, indeed.