Friday, July 20, 2012

Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes: When you send them out without you

Daughter #1 left the roost for two nights yesterday.  Last year, she did a one night sleepover on campus at our local day camp, which is only a 10 minute walk from our home, and she loved it.  This year, the same day camp takes the slightly older kids on a wilderness camping trip for two nights and three days.  I said good-bye to her Wednesday morning, and I will not be seeing her again until Friday afternoon.

I asked her if she wanted to go, since it would be camping, something she has only done once, and it was done with me nearby.  She was quite keen and eager to go and wouldn't be dissuaded.  I had some doubts, for Daughter #1 is a strange combination of independent and helpless.  She can figure out complex situations and work through difficult emotions and feelings but she can't get her own food in a buffet line.  I wasn't sure how she would fare on a camping trip, so once she told me she wanted to go, I decided to prepare her a bit.

How to Survive Away From Mommy

Step 1.  Learn how to pack your own essentials.
Campers were given a list of things to prepare and since I was extremely busy (I actually was), I told her to take care of it.  I gave her a bag and the list, a few ziploc bags and told her to figure things out.  She did.

Step 2.  Learn how to stuff your own sleeping bag into the appropriate bag.
This job stymied her for a bit because the bag seemed so small compared to the volume of the sleeping bag.  I told her to start slowly and keep on stuffing.  She did it and 8 minutes later, she had stuffed the sleeping bag into the bag and there was the sheen of sweat on her face.

Step 3.  Learn to take inventory and keep track of your things.
We borrowed a very nice sleeping pad from a friend and I basically instructed Daughter #1 that we COULD NOT lose it.  She had to keep track of everything that was hers - her duffel bag, her sleeping bag, her pillow, her sleeping pad.  All of it, she had to keep track of. (I did get a bit crazy with the label maker and label a bunch of stuff, but still.)

Step 4.  Learn how to get your own food.  When it's time to eat, no one is going to serve you a perfectly arranged plate of food. (I know that this is partly my fault.)  Think about what a balanced meal is, what mommy would normally put on your plate (protein, starch vegetable) and try and make healthy choices for yourself.

Step 5.  Always go places with another person.  Find a partner to go to the bathroom, to go back to the campsite, to go anywhere.  Do not travel alone.

Daughter #1 survived my intense survival-away-from-mommy crash course without any tears and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Under my breath I thought that it was far easier keeping her under my own room, under my own protection, than sending her out into the wide world without me.

And that's when it struck me.  How much have I been preparing Children for their eventual leaving of the nest?  I had much hesitation about this camping trip, simply because I was worried that she wasn't ready.  Did I prepare her correctly?  Did she have the right emotional tools to deal with being without me?  Was she confident enough to handle herself on her own?  A stream of questions poured in and out of my brain, and I worried, I did not prepare her ENOUGH.

But then again, we never can, can we?  We will never prepare them enough for the outside world.  We never feel we have given them all the perfectly right tools to meet every single sticky situation.  We want to protect them from horrible things, from harsh realities, from sadness, but our desire to do so prevents them from being prepared.

Mostly from this experience, I realized that I'm not prepared.  I'm not prepared to let her go.  She's only 8 after all, but two nights, three days is a long time to be without a child.  The house is way too quiet without her presence, and suddenly the days are far too empty and missing action.  The piano is being played only half of the time, there is only 1/3 the amount of fighting that normally happens, and I'm even less motivated to cook since there is one fewer mouth to feed.  I'd like to keep my family all together for a little longer I think.

With all of my new found free time with one gone, I decided to make these little cupcakes as I ruminated on all the ways I haven't prepared Children for the real world.  Thankfully the scent of lemons, strawberry and sugar distracted me from the harsher realities of parenthood and I began to relax in the euphoric smell of sweetness.  These little strawberry lemon cakes can be enjoyed without frosting and the lightest sprinkling of powdered sugar or can get the fully pampered treatment and be topped with a delicious strawberry cream cheese frosting.  Either way, the taste is pure summer, absolute fun, and total yumminess.

Note:  Freeze dried fruit generally come with a pack of silica gel on the inside.  REMOVE this before pulverizing.
Strawberry Lemon Cupcakes
Makes 30 regular cupcakes, 60 mini cupcakes

Lemon Cake
2 cups regular sugar
2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs (taken out of the fridge the same time as the butter)
1¼ cup buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a food processor, pulverize together lemon zest and sugar. (Doing so releases the lemon oils.)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, blend softened butter and lemon sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until well mixed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is well blended.

Add half of flour mixture and mix until just combined. and add half of buttermilk and mix until just combined. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add remaining half of flour mixture, mix until just combined and then add remaining buttermilk. Mix until just combined.again. At this stage, the less you mix the better for your cake. (too much mixing makes for a tough cake.)  Remove mixer blades, and gently fold in strawberries with a spatula.

Divide cake into prepared muffin tins. Bake for mini cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, regular cupcakes for 22 to 24 minutes, or until cake springs back when gently pressed with fingertips. Cool for 20 minutes, then remove cake from pans and cool on wire racks until completely cool.

Strawberry Frosting
Makes enough to frost 30 cupcakes

1 cup of butter, slightly softened (room temperature for about 20 minutes)
8 oz of cream cheese (room temperature for 5 minutes)
1.2 oz (34 grams) freeze dried strawberries, pulverized in a mini food processor (but not too far ahead of time, otherwise they will begin to absorb moisture)
5-6 cups of confectioners sugar

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, mix butter until it is softened and uniform. Add cream cheese and beat together until it is uniform. Add pulverized strawberries. Add 3 cups of sugar to the mixture and mix. 2 more cups of sugar. Mix again until mixture is creamy and spreadable. Add more sugar if necessary, otherwise prepare to frost cupcakes.

You can frost with a knife, or you can using a pastry bag and a 1M Wiltons star tip to make the rosettes. Start in the middle of the cupcake, hold the tip perpendicular to the cupcake (pointing straight down) and swirl outwards.

Printable recipe

inside the cake, before I ate it.

Freeze Dried Strawberries - Trader Joe's has these for $3.49 for the pack.  If you can't get there, try Target, Walmart, or Whole Foods

I got these mini cupcake liners (pictured above) at Sur La Table.

I am thinking I will get these since they are so cute for mini cupcakes.


LadySaotome said...

Have you heard the song "In My Arms" by Plumb? It perfectly expresses how we want our children to be safe & happy. Honestly, it's so hard letting go (my only child is 8, also) - I don't know how my parents did it!!

Jackie said...

Hi Joanne

If the butter is only at room temperature for 20 minutes, isn't still going to be cold. Also, with the cream cheese at room temperature for only 5 minutes it will be cold.

Joanne Choi said...

Hi Jackie - good questions. I've found that working with colder butter and colder cream cheese is favorable when making cream cheese frosting. If you have it too warm, the frosting tends to be almost gooey and not frosting like. It is harder to work with (in terms of piping and spreading) but the texture is more appealing.

herbivoresheaven said...

The cakes look beautiful, especially the vibrant pink icing!

It sounds like your daughter was well prepared for her adventures. When we're kids, we have no idea how much our parents worry, have we?

Lucy Hill said...

Nah I got no tools like this. But I will look for alternatives! I mustn't miss this one.

Javelin Warrior said...

On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday - and I love this post so I'm featuring it as part of today's roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and I'm happy to be following along with your creations...

Joanne Choi said...

Thanks Javelin!! I always appreciate extra exposure! Thank you for including me!!


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