Thursday, November 18, 2010

You've Got to Have Friends, and Cupcakes

The challenges we all face every day would be a lot worse if we weren't able to share our burdens with friends.  Whether we're overloaded at work and an office mate offers to lighten the load, or a group of friends decide to get together after work to reconnect, it seems that friends make life's journeys a little less difficult, and a lot more friendly.  This week, I've been reminded more than once that I can rely on friends to get through a day, a week, or even a challenging life transition.  I find myself now two months into an entirely new work environment, and it's been a huge change for my life, but it is not bad.  This transition even has the potential to be very good, but I'm caught between grieving for the old and familiar while maintaining optimistic hope that what is new will one day become comfortably old and familiar as well. It just takes time.  It's not easy to make big changes in your mid-fifties, and many people simply won't.  They might say, "I'm too old to make such changes."  Sometimes, we have no choice but to take that leap of faith and hope that we've made the right decision, to trust that "everything happens for a reason" and that, though difficult, the adjustments will be worth it.  That's what I am counting on, that I am where I am supposed to be at this point in my life, that I will adapt and grow in positive ways, and that I can rise to the expectations and responsibilities I've assumed.  Tonight, I went out after work with three friends.  We went to Gaffney's in Saratoga Springs, and sat long and lingered over drinks and an assortment of tapas plates.  As friends do, we analyzed the current events in each others' lives, and when it came time to look at mine, they all said they believe that the changes that are occuring in my life will prove to be the right thing. 

In the spirit of friendship, I made cupcakes for a woman in my office who lent a much needed helping hand.  The cupcakes were a gesture of thanks for her assistance yesterday, when she volunteered to take one thing off my desk and lighten my load, just a bit.  I asked her what I could do to show my gratitude, and she said that there was nothing I could do for her, but that her young daughter loved cupcakes.  I got up early this morning and arrived at work with chocolate cupcakes frosted in buttercream.    I didn't have a mix, so as soon as I woke up I Googled "one bowl cupcakes" and was delighted to find Martha Stewart's easy (and very well-rated) recipe for chocolate cupcakes.  It was so simple.  I mixed the wet ingredients into the dry and popped the cupcakes into the oven for 20 minutes, just enough time for me to jump into the shower and out.  I didn't have a fancy box so I cut one side off a box of Cheerios and made a  make-shift tray which held a dozen cupcakes just perfectly.  From my own "quality control" evaluation, I can tell you that the cupcakes and frosting were terrific, really moist and delicious, and I hope that Lynn and her daughter think so too!

Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes (slightly adapted)

Oven 350 degrees F
Makes 18 standard cupcakes

Dry ingredients.  Mix together:
3/4 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients.  Mix together and then add to dry:

2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 c. buttermilk (or 3/4 c. milk soured with 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar - 5 minutes)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and beat for 3 minutes. 

Line muffin cups with paper liners.  Fill 1/2 full with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until tops bounce back when lightly pressed. 

When cool enough to handle, remove cupcakes from pans to continue cooling on wire rack.  When completely cooled, frost with buttercream.

Buttercream Frosting

1 bar (8 tbsp.) butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk plus more to thin to desired consistency

Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla extract and mix well.  Add confectioners sugar alternately with milk.  Beat well.  If too thick, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired spreading consistency.

Photo:  my cupcakes, with sprinkles!

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