Making Cupcakes with “Kate the Great”

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Last week the kids and I spent several days with my parents in Michigan. After a back and forth planning session trying to find a stretch of days that worked for both us and them to come for a visit, at the last minute we were able to work out a time to go. With the kids’ musical practices gearing up for the home stretch and my parents always seeming like they’re going off somewhere for a few days, it almost didn’t work out. I’m thankful that it did, however, since our visit also overlapped with my aunt’s, one of my dad’s sisters from Texas. We hadn’t seen her since my brother’s wedding back in 2006 (meaning she’d never met Chloe), so I was excited at the prospect of catching up with her. She, on the other hand, had no idea since my dad wanted it to be a surprise. It was.

After the initial shock, she and the kids seemed to hit it off. Chloe was a bit reserved at first, but by that first evening, she and Aunt Katie (or “Miss Katie” as Chloe called her off and on) were looking through cooking magazines together and chatting about all sorts of things. As they perused the pictures of food, they began talking in hushed tones about secret things. We tried to play dumb as they talked loud enough for us to hear.

The next day, the two of them set to work on their secret project. In my parents’ small house, however, it’s difficult to keep anything hidden–let alone in the main room of the house, the kitchen, and not to mention that I had to run to the store for the supplies and Mom had to dig up her muffin tins and other ingredients. But Chloe was oblivious to all of these details and as far as she was concerned, they were making a special treat for the unsuspecting family.

The first step, of course, was to mix up the batter.

Next, any baker worth her salt will lick the beaters–for quality control.

Since Chloe is still rather vertically challenged, Aunt Katie had the bright idea to move the workspace to the floor where they could both reach the tins and fill the cups. Brilliant, although I think it was a good thing that my dad was outside working during this step.

During the baking process, I overheard them discussing the finer points of ensuring that each cupcake was properly cooked, and how to use a toothpick to check for doneness. Chloe was hysterical insisting that toothpicks were for cleaning teeth, and I think they went through a couple that she used for just that purpose while expecting to also check the cakes.

After the cupcakes cooled, the girls were back at it, this time decorating the tops. They had a long discussion regarding whether they would make them all pink (Chloe’s first choice) or different colors (“colorish” as she says instead of “colorful”) and finally they settled on colorish. Their final design sort of evolved as they went, I think, but they had lovely results.

Here they are in the early stages of decorating:

This is after they’d warmed up to the decorating tool.

And here is the finished product!

As is usually the case, there was a bit of icing left over after the cupcakes were decorated, and true to my childhood memories of my Aunt Katie, she turned to a little fun. Her idea of “fun” was to decorate my kids’ faces with icing. They *loved* it and I think she did too.

After enjoying hamburgers for dinner (note the charcoal grill in the background), it was finally time to enjoy the treats. The girls presented them to us with much pomp and ceremony:

Somehow I didn’t take a picture of Chloe with her face decorated, but here she is with her very own cupcake.

A well-made chocolate cupcake, with just the right amount of sweetness on top was a perfect way to end this summer day.

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