Kitchen Kapers

Hope I’m not using the title for the second time or the tenth time.  Lord knows I have kitchen stories all the time.  This time my tome originated on Sunday at family dinner during a wind storm that blew the heck out of Cousin Sue’s giant Douglas fir in her back yard.  No one lingered after dinner…we were all afraid we were going to be crushed by a limb.  The gusts of winds were not unlike those that home…it is that at home, we simply do not walk the dog near any trees.  In Portland, that is literally impossible.  Huge, giant trees tossed around like a they were made of gossamer or silk.  Waving wildly as if they were happily dancing a tango for our enjoyment.  Dramatic moves one minute, holding a pose the next.  We ate looking to the heaven’s.  Not a lot of eye contact going on that evening.  Take a bite, look up.  Take a bite, look up.

But I digress.

The kids were playing corn holes and squealing in delight whenever the bean bag went in.  They never looked up except to look at us so we could clap at their performance.  As this was transpiring, I asked Kristen, Sue’s youngest daughter, if she would like me to bake each twin a cake like I did last year.  “Well, I talked to the kids and they put in a request for a dinosaur cupcake pull-apart cake, color with turquoise, and with “confetti inside”.  

I didn’t know there was such a thing so I said, “Sure.  I can try it.”   She showed me some pictures on the google machine.  

What was I thinking?   I took one decorating class at Diablo Jr. College in the 90s and was flabbergasted to learn that those beautiful roses and intricate icing creations were made partially from Crisco shortening.  I dropped the class.  Crisco?  Who uses Crisco anymore…it is beyond unhealthy?  If roses were made of hydrogenated fats, I could live without them.  This kid will stick to buttercream icing or glazes or…well, anything but Crisco.  I prefer bacon fat over Crisco.  

OH, there I go again.

On Labor Day and Tuesday, I planned my attack for the project.  Since my cupcake pans are in Morro Bay, I borrowed my cousin’s.  Then I tried to find YouTube instructions, written instructions for dinosaur cupcake pull-apart cakes.  There were very few.  One woman on YouTube was a hoot.  She was so chirpy, “Hi, I’m XYZ and I’m here today to show you how to make dinosaur cupcake pull-apart cake.  Kids love them.”  She smiled profusely and as she segued into the instruction, the camera man caught her doing a lips up to down maneuver…it reminded me of Melania and Ivanka at the RNC.  And then she was off to the races.  Way too fast, not enough detailed info.  The article I found, and there may have only been one, was better but still lacking for me, the dinosaur cupcake pull-apart cake novice.  I saw two possibilities.  I googled bakeware shops.  Actually found one south or Portland in the burbs…Tigard, OR.  So, given we live in the age of Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table, restaurant supply outfits, and Amazon, I was beyond amazed to find a well-stocked store that had more that I needed by a mile.  Oh, and who can forget Kitchen Kaboodle.  It’s a big cookware and home furniture store that lives only in the NW.   I purchased food coloring, a box to transport the cake, colored tin foil that Rayman taped on to the flat board they have for such a job.  The cake was biggish and needed something more than the bottom of a turned over cake pan, for instance.  Old trick that looks, unglamorous.   So, the flat board was my first requirement.  I also bought two tips for applying the frosting and passed on the pastry bags…it was just one project.  Food coloring was required.  Eyes were purchased.  A 6-pack of half eye balls, a tiny package of string licorice (for the mouth).  That may have been it.  Oh, cupcake liners…can’t forget the cupcake liners.

Once inside the bakeware shop, I picked the brain of the masked blonde woman behind the counter.  She knew her stuff.  She also knew the merchandise.  I was full of questions.  She had the answers.  She even reminded me to put a bit of frosting on the bottom of the cupcake so it would stick and the cupcakes wouldn’t get out of wack, a technical term used in the trade.

We then hit the grocery store on the way home and I bought everything I needed except the butter.   Good grief.  FORGOT the butter.  The cupcakes and the frosting were all butter, or so it seemed.  Sometimes, I do not know where my mind goes.  On vacation?  Taking a break?  Lost in space?  No butter.  It would be like forgetting the lightbulb when you bought a new lamp.  Or forgetting to put bubble bath in your bubble bath.  Who takes a bath anymore in CA?  We don’t have the water.  

That was on Tuesday.  

Today, Wednesday, was party day.  I had to perform.  The heat was on.  No, really, the heat was on at 350 degrees.  I brilliantly selected a vanilla cupcake recipe that couldn’t be doubled so I had to prep everything in double.  Made one batch and then the other…and I learned as I went that it was just as well, doing it twice.  I only had so many cupcake pans.  Dumb luck.  So I had two bowls of dry ingredients, two of wet ingredients and two bowls of egg whites with vanilla.  I don’t know how it happened, but I didn’t screw up the cupcakes.  So, then the icing.  Rayman went to the store for more butter.  1 c.  unsalted butter, 590 to 840 grams of powdered sugar,  2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. Salt and whole milk (1/2 c.).  Beat to a pulp.  Made it nice and smooth.    Didn’t screw that up either.  In both cases, I had recipes.

The cupcakes once cooled, required surgery.  I had to drill out a 1-in. Hole with a sharp knife, pull it out, and dump sugar sprinkles into the hole, and then recap the hole.  There were 22 cupcakes.  With that done, the actually frosting could be applied.  I had no idea if the icing I had made was enough of do the job.  They said it would cover an 8-in. Two layer cake.  

Ezgi showing us the sprinkles of her cupcake.

So, I took a wild leap, made a management decision, and moved some of the frosting into one bowl (maybe a scan fourth).  I had two colors with no directions to follow, I was just SWAGing it it.  SWAG stands for Scientific Wild Ass Guess…it is a technical term from the 60s, and as I consider its derivation, I come to the sudden realization that SWAG is the precursor to LOL etc.  And so is SNAFU.  Okay, this is crazy…SNAFU has been around since Christ was in the army. Ultimately, everything old is new again.

But I digress.

How much coloring should I use?  Decided on 3 shakes of the teal food coloring.  But I decided to add two more.  Looked good.  Going in slow is often a good tactic in life.  Once I did that, I found a picture of a dinosaur cupcake put-apart cake on the google machine and tried to mimic the same layout.  At this point the rubber meets the road.  Applying the goop.  

The lady in the store mentioned that I should buy a number 10 tip for the cupcake tops, and a #6 tip for the stand-up scales on the spine of the dino.  She told me to snip the corner of a storage zip-loc bag and insert the #10 into the hole, load the bag and apply it in a concentric ring starting on the inside and moving to the outside.  Here is a picture of me trying to do that.

My mistake was cutting too big of a snip and the #10 went right thru the bag.  Not wanting to ruin another zip-loc. I made another attempt on the other corner of the same bag and what do you know…it worked…for awhile until somehow the frosting started emerging from the big hole and the #10 tip at the same time.   OMG.  This is when I discovered that the #10 tip was a silly idea.  I whooped up the frosting emerging from the first hole and slammed it onto a cupcake.  I’m here to tell you that it was just as good an application as the other.  Of course, this was long into the process but it reminded me of when scientists discover things by error.  I think 3M stickums were a mistake.

It was sorta like that.

Anyway, after you gruelingly apply the frosting thru the the #10 tip, you then take an off-set spreader, and smooth the icing.   By this time there is teal frosting everywhere.  On the kitchen counter.  On the spreader, on Rayman, on the chair…I’m sure some must have gotten on the chair.  But the mission was going along okay.  It vaguely looked like the body of a dinosaur.  It had a tail, a head, and a neck goiter.  And then I applied an eye and a mouth.  Then I applied some mini chocolate chips for the claws and visual interest down the tail.  I was disappointed but determined not to throw it in the trash.

Then I moved on to the #6 slant tip.  That made more sense because it was suppose to form a tip at the tip.  I used 2 and then another drop of the food coloring which was named…electric yellow.  This time I used a smaller zip-loc, loaded the bag and did my thing without any further instruction from what I had received from the blonde lady with the mask at the well stocked bakeware store.  It didn’t look good at all.  But by this time, the party was too close to run out and buy a cake as a replacement.   So, it was complete.  

At this point a few more observations.  Don’t do this unattended.  Rayman was vital.  He opened the bag for loading, he gave me his opinion on a few things and they were all helpful except when he suggested I put my spatula where the sun did not shine…I’m kidding, he didn’t say that.   He did the most shocking thing of all…he took a picture of me when I wasn’t looking.  He never does that except that time in the bedroom.   He took the picture without my asking.  That’s like your husband bringing flowers for Valentine’s Day without being reminded, say.

“It’s coming out of the other hole”.

Kept on going.

When I told my cousin that her daughter had asked me if I could do this cake and I accepted, Sue said, “And you agreed to that?”   I fell on my sword by saying, “Well, there’s not a lot going on…it gives me something to do for the kids.”  

Well, as unaccomplished at the cake looked, the kids loved it.  They didn’t notice it was teal, not aqua.  They didn’t notice the goiter.  The yellow things on the back of the dinosaur didn’t bother them either.  I think they loved it.  

Queuing up for cake.




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