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Hiccups Happen

So I had this super-fun idea for my birthday party: a cupcake bar! I’d make three different cupcakes, a half batch of three different frostings, some fun decorations, and let all the guests make a couple of fun cupcakes to frost, decorate and take home with them.

Four batches and four hours later (including shopping time), I had a very nice batch of 12 gluten-free carrot cake cupcakes.

I also had these:DSCN1743and two batches of these, the first of which became a literal bowl of crumbs when I attempted to remove it from the pan:DSCN1745I know I didn’t forget the leavener, and the vanilla ones weren’t gluten-free, so my hypothesis is that my baking soda’s too old.

It’s fairly easy for me to get discouraged by hiccups, and three out of four batches of cupcakes turning concave is, I think, a pretty irritating hiccup. Especially considering that I spent a pretty good chunk of time and money preparing for the party.

But you know what?

It was okay.

I thought of a student I tutored as an undergraduate writing consultant. To this day, the essay she wrote has stuck with me. The author had worked for a number of years as a caterer, and recounted an absolute fiasco of a wedding. The bride and groom had spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a wedding at a castle–yes, a castle in the Kansas City metro area–only to have the bride discover she was unable to fit into her shoes. (Why you wouldn’t try on your shoes before your wedding, I have no idea.) The author recounted that the bride was so crabby and embarrassed to have to descend the grand staircase in flipflops that the whole wedding turned out to be a really awkward and miserable affair.

The author of the essay made a wise observation. Weddings are not about shoes. They’re not about castles, or how much money you spend on the catering, or how many guests you can invite, or how fancy your dress is. They’re about bringing people together to celebrate love. And if that’s what you’re focused on, the few hiccups which inevitably come up in life aren’t going to ruin the day.

I spent much of the day before my party decorating the apartment, cleaning, and assembling noms. I got a  bouquet of roses and an unfamiliar purple flower at Trader Joe’s (at Trader Joe’s prices, of course!).DSCN1748I also hung up this blanket I found when I was sorting out old stuff from the YMCA lost & found.DSCN1740Because I think 24 is definitely not too old to be a princess. ?

And since today’s Wednesday, here’s what I snacked on while I was making cupcakes and setting up the apartment:


Cheerios with soy milk and banana

Oat bran peanut butter cereal

Oat bran cereal with peanut butter and cane syrup

Trader Joe’s salad with kale, broccoli slaw, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and chicken, acquired on my shopping excursions.

When my cupcakes fell, so did my heart. (Yes, that was exceedingly cheesy.) I was running out of time before the party. I said to my sweetheart, “Can we just cancel the party and hang out?” (I was mostly kidding.)

But he said, “No. People are still really going to enjoy the party.”

And he was right.

For food, I got a large meat and cheese tray and a few loaves of TJ’s artisan bread. I made a fruit and veggie tray with bacon cheddar ranch dip (purchased, not homemade, unfortunately) and also picked up some raspberry lemonade and limeade–my parties are real ragers, guys. My sweetheart made lots of latkes, and a couple of friends brought snacks! There was plenty of food to go around.DSCN1749 DSCN1750Friends from both my creative nonfiction program and swing dance came. We played fishbowl and telestrations, two of my favorite party games. I got to talk one-on-one with almost everyone who came, and a few times, I laughed so hard my ribs hurt.

And dessert was fine. Since I had picked up some fun cupcake toppings anyway–nuts, mini chocolate chips, raspberries, and colored sugar–I turned my cupcake bar into an ice cream sundae bar. There were still the carrot cake cupcakes that turned out just fine, plus I went ahead and served the concave cupcakes. I called them cake cups! People scooped their ice cream into them.DSCN1758 DSCN1760I was discouraged by my cupcake baking hiccup. It was a pretty big hiccup. And sometimes the big hiccups even hurt.

But they don’t last long. And they rarely if ever hurt us in ways that last. I still got to spend a lovely birthday with awesome friends–which is what birthday parties are really about, after all.

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  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried something new in making cupcakes and this has happened, so discouraging, but they always still taste good. The idea of a cupcake bar is so cute, I love it!

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks! Maybe I’ll try the cupcake bar again sometime.

  2. When life hands you baking fails, turn them into a new fun party dessert – you’re one smart cookie with a truly wonderful and encouraging boyfriend. I’m glad you enjoyed your party despite the “fails”. Over the years I’ve come to see this in most every situation in life: it’s about the people, not the food/outfit/location/whatever. Looking at it this way life is simply better.

    1. Joyce says:

      It’s awesome that you’re able to focus on the stuff that matters!

  3. Kat says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the baking mishap but can I just say, I love that you call it a “hiccup” and not a “fail” because you are totally right – these things happen!
    For my hubby and I’s 1 year wedding anniversary I decided to make us a super fancy dinner and after we were going to eat our frozen wedding cake. Well – I totally BOMBED the dinner. We both hated it. Even the vegetables were awful! So we had cake for dinner. Not a total loss 😉

    1. Joyce says:

      I tend to think in terms of failure–but, when it comes to cupcakes, I’d say the stakes are low enough that “hiccup” is an adequate phrase. Sorry about the anniversary dinner. That sounds like the sort of thing that’s miserable at the time but makes a great story later.

  4. Ellie says:

    I’ve had baking fails like that. Once I was making oatmeal chocolate chips cookies. I was so excited that my mom let me use chocolate chips instead of raisins…that I forgot to add the flour! They came out so thin, but I still ate them because they had all the right ingredients.
    I’m sure your cupcakes were delicious. When I looked at them I thought the cavern in the middle was great! More toppings!!!

    1. Joyce says:

      Ha! I’ve had some oatmeal cookies come out really funky too.

  5. Emily says:

    Love this… It’s not the failures that define you but the attitude that you take when they happen! 🙂 I love the concave cupcakes, cause I could imagine filling them with all sorts of good stuff. And it’s so sweet that your sweetheart encouraged you not to call off the party. You have a great cheerleader!

  6. Cora says:

    So the baking nerd in me is kind of fascinated as to how/why multiple batches would have went concave the same way. So strange!! Think of it as a science experiment – maybe you’ve actually come across a new invention. Cupcake cups to put your ice cream IN sounds pretty damn brilliant to me.
    Talking one-on-one with your guests and laughing until your ribs hurt are the BEST gifts you can ask for. Way better than perfect cupcakes. And these will be the things that people remember and look back on with fond memories. Wish I could have been there!

    1. Joyce says:

      Yeah, it was pretty weird. Especially because the recipe for each batch was so different. I think it was the baking soda–the carrot ones didn’t have any soda, just baking powder, and they turned out okay. I wish you could have been there as well!

  7. Oh man, I’m the WORST at baking so I can totally relate to how you felt! And unfortunately sometimes I let hiccups like that ruin my mood! I’m glad you still had a fun time celebrating 🙂 Obviously the cupcakes aren’t the most important thing so I’m glad you didn’t let it rain on your parade!

    1. Joyce says:

      I can relate–it’s easy to let little things really get us down.

  8. Quill says:

    As I was at your party, I don’t know what you were really intending to make, but I’m glad it turned out the way it did, even if it may have been a “hiccup” or “fail for what it was intended to be, it was extremely good for what it was. I’ve found in various things I’ve done, quite often while cooking, I’ll screw something up but actually wind up liking what came of it, or even intentionally doing it that way later on – if I can figure out what it was that I did “wrong.” This isn’t that uncommon of a scenario, in fact many important inventions and discoveries came from screwups. Likewise, many of my favorite recipes I’ve developed over the years have made major improvements by lack of needed ingredients, requiring that I improvise, and finding that the improvised version was better than what I would have made had I had the correct ingredients. For example, running out of bread when making tuna melts, and using bagels instead – haven’t used bread for that recipe in years, bagels all the way now.

    1. Joyce says:

      Bagel tuna melt does sound awesome! I love tuna salad on bagels.

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