First up: These photos were not taken by husband Z. There was no artful styling nor meticulous framing because it was not the time nor the place for it. When a cake order threatens to become the mother of all cake disasters, the last thing you think about is photos for your blog.
I’d thought the hardest thing about making 130 cupcakes for my church’s kids camp was the baking. Oh hoho, how wrong was I. The baking did take an epic 10 hours (including the time I took to walk out to the petrol kiosk to get more eggs, and the time I sat on the loo to wrestle one of those agonising, face-scrunching, knee-buckling stomach aches). It took this long because I have only a domestic oven, and inside it only one wire rack. I had forgotten to order a second rack in time for my baking marathon, which meant that I had to bake the cupcakes at an excruciatingly slow pace of 12 at a time.
When I finished at 7.30pm, I had to shift all 130 with me to my parents’ because my apartment was about to be renovated so we’ve moved there for a few weeks. How do you pack 130 cupcakes in the most efficient way? By stacking them up in three nifty boxes, of course, and putting them in the car boot.
But when I unpacked them at my parents’, this was what I found:
Seven of them were completely damaged. In my previous post, I had made a chest-thumping declaration that I’ve found the softest, fluffiest cupcake recipe on earth. Quite obviously, I forgot about it soon after. Because only a sucker would stack the softest, fluffiest cupcakes on earth on top of one another – four levels high at that.
Not only were seven of them irreparably crushed, most of them had circular indents from the weight of cupcakes above. So what started out as perfectly level cupcakes ended up looking like poorly made, sunken fiascos. Thankfully, the buttercream swirls I was to pipe the following morning would cover the multitude of sins. I’d also made a few extra pieces so I could still meet the 130 quantity.
Next problem: How do you store 130 cupcakes in a single layer overnight, such that no lizard/rat/rodent can get to them? To illustrate its enormity, 130 cupcakes cover the entire surface area of a round table that seats six people. Well, I could put 40 of them under my mum’s biggest plastic food cover, and another 36 inside cardboard boxes. But what about the remaining 54?
I was about to start foaming at the mouth when Z, putting on his Sherlock cap, looked around and said simply: “Put them in the oven lah.” Yes! The two racks in my mum’s oven could accommodate all the rest. Sorted.
At this point, I would like to sidetrack and encourage all parents of under-achieving kids with this note: There is always hope. My Z failed his elementary math at O level, but look how well he’s turned out! What a problem-solving sleuth, this hero.
Anyway. The next morning, I woke up bright and early, excited to put the finishing swirls on the cupcakes before a guy from church comes to collect them at 2.30pm. Then, the window grille man called. His four workers, along with gigantic glass windows tailored for my six rooms, were waiting outside my apartment.
“What? I thought they’re coming tomorrow,” I cried.
“Oh, sorry. It’s today. They’re there now.”
My mind reeled. I have to open the door for them and keep an eye on them all day. Which means I have to pipe the cupcakes back in my apartment, right smack in the middle of renovation chaos.
So the cupcakes were stacked up again in the three boxes (really, there was no other way) and taken back with me to the apartment. I don’t blame one of the Malaysian workers for looking confused when the foreman told him the xiaojie (me) wants a free room to “make cake”. Trust me, I could choose a better time.
So as the workers tore down my windows and grilles outside, creating what resembled a Sahara-like sandstorm, I was in my guest-room piping cakes. It was a Charlie Kaufman moment right there.
A few more cupcakes were damaged enroute, so I could produce only 127 in the end. After the church guy collected them and left, I heaved a huge sigh of relief and looked out my windowless windows. I can so not bake cupcakes for a long, long time.