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Posted: February 22, 2013 3:33 p.m.
Updated: February 25, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Being reared by a mother who was a wonderful cook, I rarely had the chance to do so, Mother’s idea being for me to watch her do it. As most teenagers, I had little time for this inactive pursuit. Finally, Mother allowed me the honor of preparing a cake with her being the watcher. Since the cake to be baked was a pound cake, I thought this was a one-step procedure requiring little effort. How wrong I was! Mother had no mix master or electric appliance; the cook beat and beat and beat by hand. I had a much different idea of how long the batter needed mixing to no avail. When the batter pleased Mother, my arms were sore, and I was exhausted. Then I became a very reluctant culinary artist. If my mother were living today, she would be prouder of the sweepstakes and blue ribbons I have won in a cooking competition (to get the funds for my daughter’s Girl Scout uniform) than she would of my Ph.D. Cupcakes, however, were and continue to be my role to fame.

I have three grandchildren, two 17 months apart. When all three were in grammar school, I baked cupcakes for their classes, SEAGUL classes, and after-school activities -- about 200 to 300 cupcakes per occasion. The worst part of the preparing cupcakes was the wrapping. I wrapped each in Saran Wrap, securing it with a tie. This activity went on after or before teaching school and doing my household duties. Then I would put them in counted rows, taking one or two extra in case some child dropped his. This procedure caused trouble for the little ones’ teacher since the children saw no reason why they should not get the extra ones. The teachers also felt the necessity to have the children write a “thank you” note. I read each; however, my favorite one embarrassed the teacher because one angel wrote, “Only one thing was wrong with the cupcake; it should have been bigger. Maybe you should make each of us two.”

Cupcakes can cause trouble. My grandson B. -- in grammar school -- wanted his cupcake without icing. I checked again with each of them to make sure -- icing for two and no icing for one. Can you imagine my surprise that coloring the icing pink would cause trouble? He pitched a fit, saying, “You knew pink was my favorite color.” Having brought only three, I said to J. and S., “Maybe you will share yours with B.” -- no indeed, they would not! I think he and I both learned a lesson. Anyway, butter cream icing is butter cream icing, no matter the color.

On another occasion I had the cupcakes wrapped and ready when I noticed J. doing what I thought to be squeezing the cupcakes. I reacted immediately, looking ahead to some child who would cry about a mashed bakery offering. He replied, “Nana, I’m just seeing which one is the biggest.” No baker has ever had a better compliment.

When I went to school to ask permission to bring cupcakes, each child greeted me with the biggest smile and said, “Hello, Mrs. Wilson.” I never corrected the name. After all, each of my grandchildren has the surname Wilson; their Nana’s should be the same. One little boy, very pleased, asked, “Are you bringing cupcakes.” I replied, “No, T., your grandmother already is doing so.” I was shocked when he made an unhappy gesture and said, “Oh no,” hers are not as good as yours.” Years passed and I was surprised to receive a high school graduation invitation from him. His mother, also a teacher, called me to apologize, saying she had asked him to whom he had sent his (limited) invitations. His reply was “I’m hoping she will send me some cupcakes for graduation.” The mystery was solved, and I made cupcakes for his whole family plus sent him a graduation present. Who else ever received such a compliment?

My cupcakes are not the bought kind. They have pound cake batter and decorations. For Easter, I make baskets of them with colored pipe cleaners being the handles and a peanut M&M being the egg. I even made nests of dyed green coconut for the nest, that is, until J. assured me nobody likes coconut. Today, the nests are icing. For Valentine’s Day, I place a tiny red heart from icing on each and so on. For Christmas, I decorate with a wreath replete with red bow and berries. For Halloween, I use orange icing topped with a candy pumpkin. I think I have just as much fun making them as the children do eating them. I would not, however, do any pound cake batter if I had to mix it by hand!

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