Wednesday, April 9, 2008
For weeks, Nico had been planning the festivities, which were meant to be a big SECRET and SURPRISE! "Your birthday is almost here," Nico would remind me, "and maybe you will get flowers! It will be a SECRET!" Then later, he would tell me, "Soon it will be your birthday! And maybe you will get CUPCAKES! It will be a SURPRISE!"
Sure enough, as part of my birthday celebration, Vic and Nico baked cupcakes for me. Nico had, apparently, picked out exactly what kind of cupcakes he wanted me to have. He chose a recipe from Disney The Magic Kitchen Cookbook. The cupcakes were supposed to be angel food cake, but somewhere, something went seriously awry.
When it was time to taste the freshly baked creations, I noticed that the cupcakes looked a little misshapen. Then I took a bite. Trying my best not to insult Vic nor crush Nico's spirit, I tried to temper my comments.
Here's a transcript:
Me: [gently] Did you bake these?
Vic: Yes, of course.
Me: I mean, did you cook them?
Vic: Yes. What do you mean?
Me: I mean, did you BAKE them?
Vic: I said yes.
Me: I mean ... did you turn on the oven?
Vic: annoyed] YES!
Me: [checks oven to see if it is warm] Hmm. OK. So, I'm not sure what happened here.
Vic: Well, this is angel food cake. It's not like regular cake.
Me: But this doesn't resemble angel food cake. Do you know what angel food cake looks like? I mean, like the texture and stuff?
Vic: Well, yes, these came out kinda dense. I know. They are dense cupcakes.
Me: They're not just dense... they don't really resemble cake in any way whatsoever. But thank you! Thanks for making them.
Vic: Yeah, they kinda remind me of some Asian pastries I've had before.
Me: No, no. They don't remind me of anything remotely similar to a pastry. But thank you!
Vic: They're dense.
Me: They're not just dense.
At some point during this exchange, Nico had left the room. Later, I found out that he had eaten one cupcake and then abruptly left the table. Vic had offered him another cupcake and Nico responded, "No, thank you!" That should have given Vic a sign that something was wrong. Nico does not turn down cupcakes - normal ones, that is.
When Vic was out of earshot, I tracked down Nico and asked him what he thought of the cupcakes. "They tasted yucky," Nico whispered. "No, they weren't yucky," he corrected himself. "They were NASTY! He shook his head. "They tasted EMBARASSING!" He punctuated that last comment with a vigorous two thumbs down gesture.
For a long time, I couldn't find the words to describe the "dense" cupcakes. Finally, I put one in a Ziploc bag to show my friend Bethany. A dutiful friend, she examined the contents of the bag. "I don't understand," she said. "Walk me through this." I explained what I thought happened and Bethany poked and prodded the cupcake. "I've got it," she said, finally. "It has the shape and consistency of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, only it's white, covered with a bit of whipped topping, with some shaved coconut on top."
Bethany theorized that not enough air was stirred into the mix and that the batter was not whipped into stiff peaks before it was baked. Thus, the batter collapsed and coagulated into a semi-solid state that resulted in an end product that was almost the exact opposite of the desired outcome of a light, airy angel food cake.
The next morning, as Vic was helping Nico get ready for school, I heard Nico say, "Daddy? Let's never, ever make cupcakes again."