For those who are kind enough to read this blog, but don’t actually know me may not know that I am a special education teacher in a large, urban district about 30 miles to the east. My caseload is supposed to max out at 9 but I have 12 this year and all 12 are “mainstreamed” into general education classes, with me and my aides providing support for them. This sounds much, much easier than it is. I have a few kids on my caseload who were born addicted to drugs (“crack babies”, if you will) and I can tell you right now–that messes you up. Being born addicted to crack creates innumerable problems later on in life, but it does not affect your ability to be a sweet and normal kid. I have a set of twins on my caseload who fall into this category–sweet, sweet, loving, adorable, give me hugs every time they see me kids. They ain’t getting a lot from home so we do what we can at school. I baked something for them a few years ago (when I had them the first time) and they remembered it ever since. So, I like to bake for them when I can.
Their 11th birthday was earlier this month. The night before their birthday, I had to tell them “Ms. Smith has plans! Will bake the next night!” which really meant, “Ms. Smith goin to the brewpub and drinkin’, boys!” but of course I couldn’t say that. I did bake something the next night and that is where the trouble began.
I decided to make chocolate cupcakes. I used a standard recipe, mixed everything up and poured it into the little cupcake holders. I had enough batter such that I could even make a small cake in a small cake pan. I put them in the oven, set the timer and went about my business.
Just before the timer dinged, I decided to check on my masterpieces. There was, to put it mildly, a bit of a problem. The cupcakes and cake had burst up and then quickly sucked themselves back into themselves. I realize that now would be a great time for a picture but I was so distressed that photographing this disaster was the furthest thing from my mind. So please, if you will, use your imagination. There was cupcake batter caked all over the pan but the actual cupcakes themselves had deflated and were actually concave. The cake had done the same thing. It was like some giant hand reached under the oven and pulled everything down into the Hell of Baking Disasters. I thought I was going to cry.
You see, I am one of those people who only sees humor in things after the dust has settled. Some people would have laughed merrily, photographed it and la-da-da’ed away. I am not that person. Upon seeing a disaster, I immediately go into “Ms. Fix It” mode. Thus, I threw the cupcake pan in the sink and immediately went looking for a new recipe. There was no way in hell I was going to school the next day without something home baked for those kids. I recruited Jeff to help me and we set about trying to make this right.
There were a few problems though. I was out of chocolate (I had some chocolate chips that I used for the original cupcakes but that was it), I only had one egg left, and the brown sugar was almost gone. This lets a lot of recipes out, I found. Luckily, I have the most awesome cookbook in the world, Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters. As usual, these girls helped me out.
I found a recipe for something called Frosted Pan Hermits which is a fancy way of saying “blondies”. The recipe only called for one egg. It called for raisins but Jeff found some dried cherries so we used those. Neither chocolate nor brown sugar was required, so we were good there. Jeff made sure I had calmed down and then skedaddled back to the safety of his recliner. I measured and mixed and spread in the pan. Then I just had to wait to see the unseen hand from hell would return.
While I waited, I asked The Internet whatever might have happened to my cupcakes?? It turned out that I probably used too much baking powder. You see, baking powder creates some sort of chemical reaction that sets off gas or something that causes the baked good to rise but if you use too much it rises too fast and too quickly and then it sucks back into itself. All in the house that Jack built. I am such a spazz that I could easily see myself putting in too much baking powder and causing the disaster. I accepted this as the explanation and, upon reflection, realized that perhaps this is why baking powder tins come with that handy little thing that lets you level off the teaspoon. The Clabber Girls are smart, they are.
The blondies came out delightfully with nary an implosion to be found. I gave them to the twins and also to a friend of mine who had a birthday party that weekend. All parties reported back positively (although, to be far, the twins will shovel down school cafeteria food so take that with a grain of salt) and my baking self esteem had been restored. THEN, I could laugh about it. It was pretty funny, after all.
Frosted Pan Hermits:
1.5 cups of flour plus 2 T for later (I used Westwind Milling’s unbleached all-purpose)
2 t baking powder (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ONLY USE TWO TEASPOONS AND NOT A GRAIN MORE!!!!! PLEASE!!! I BEG OF YOU! GOD BEGS OF YOU!!!! PLEASE!)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c plus 2 T butter
1/2 c milk
1 c raisins (I used dried cherries that I got from By The Pound)
1 c chopped walnuts (didn’t have them, didn’t use them)
Spray a 9×13 baking pan with whatever magic spray you use. Combine 1.5 cups of flour, TWO TEASPOONS NO MORE NO LESS of baking powder, the salt, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Cream the butter and brown sugar in your KitchenAid mixer. Add the egg. Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the milk. Mix the remaining 2 T of flour with the raisins (cherries) and add to the batter.
Pour into pan and spread out evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes.
If you wish to top off with the frosting (I did, since I have confectioners sugar I need to get rid of), you can do so fairly easily:
Mix 2/3 c confectioners sugar, 1/8 t salt, 1.5 t butter, 1 t vanilla, 2-3 T milk to moisten. Mix it up until it is of frosting consistency. Spread onto the blondies when they are warm and spread evenly. Some of it will kind of drip into the blondies, making for a lovely, gooey experience.
I love having recipes that you can make even if you don’t have some ingredients. I have a couple good shortbready recipes that don’t need eggs. And meringue recipes are great if you don’t have butter (or flour). Personally, I think dried cherries are so much better than raisins anyway!
My mom had a brief hospital stay when I was upper elementary, so I decided to make cookies for her. I made sugar cookies, cut into hearts – only I used baking soda instead of baking powder, or maybe vice versa. They tasted awful!!
I got an email recently from a woman in Oregon who had made Florence Fabricant’s Orange Cake recipe from a NYT cookbook, and it called for 1/4 CUP baking powder! Needless to say …. She had then searched online to figure out what had happened, found my posting from A2.com about making the recipe (without the typo), and subsequently wrote to me to share her story of the exploding/imploding cake. If you don’t laugh about these things, you’ll just cry!
wow. Too funny! I’ve never heard of that before.
Great story! Way to persevere for the kids!
I’m a TA @ Bryant and get more hugs in a day than I can count. I wish I could bring in baked goods! Think I’ll make this recipe today; I was looking for something to bake! : )