If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again

What is self-esteem anyway? Feeling good about oneself? Feeling competent and confident? Who knows. That’s why many years ago psychologists reconsidered the construct and came up with domain-specific esteem. For example, I view myself as a competent psychologist (i.e., I have high work esteem) and writer but do not consider myself a capable athlete or artist.

That’s the theory driving my graduate thesis in a nutshell. I promise never to talk about any aspect of my boring research again. You needed this background to understand today’s post on baking esteem, however.

I held myself in high regard as a baker, until last week. I had mastered bread and cookies and cakes and squares and I felt fairly competent in this domain. My challah was coveted far and wide by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Then I was tasked with baking two kinds of cupcakes for a birthday party. I decided I would try to replicate my friend M.’s renowned sour cream chocolate cake with mocha icing–her cake has an even larger following than my challah–in cupcake form. Let’s just say the batter was to die for. (What am I doing eating raw egg? I know, I know. Are you expecting me to give up batter just because I have leukemia?)

You know this story isn’t going to end well. I overfilled the muffin tins, not realizing there was spillage until I smelled burning. Yes, my batter runneth over. A cookie sheet strategically placed beneath the muffin tin stopped further oven-floor coverage, but the darn cupcakes would not set in the middle. I left them in the oven as long as I possibly could, but not long enough. I’m first to admit they were an abject failure.

Undeterred, I tried to bake my second batch, this time lemon flavoured. The batter was spectacular, a perfect balance of sweet to tart. Although they baked through, again the cupcakes sunk in the middle. I was becoming increasingly frustrated.

Onto the internet I went–I may not search the internet for health information, but I’m on there constantly researching recipes and cooking methods–first for tips on baking the perfect cupcake, then for a fail-safe chocolate cupcake recipe. I found the aptly named “Easy Chocolate Cupcake Recipe”, which by now we’d all agree I needed. Easy or not, these also sunk in the middle.

The Crisis Manager arrived home while I was mid tantrum. She took one look at the first batch, choked down one underbaked bite, and turfed the whole lot. This turn of events was particularly upsetting because the batter had been so darn tasty.

Then the C.M. whipped up some excellent cream cheese icing, which she used to fill in those sunken middles before frosting the tops of the remaining two batches. A few strategically arranged edible flowers, some fresh raspberries, and a bit of toasted coconut later, the cupcakes not only passed muster, they garnered praise.

Following this trauma, I may need some time to rebuild my baking esteem. I’ll attempt a few fail-safe recipes like cookies or squares to start, but I’ll be leaving the cupcakes to the experts.  Thankfully I have my work and writing esteem to fall back on. All is not lost.

Three types of cupcakes, one with flowers, one with raspberries, and one with toasted coconut

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4 thoughts on “If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again

  1. Glad your improvement with the icing, flowers and fruit did the trick – I’m sure many an expert baker has done the same thing. Keep your baking head up high girl – you rock!

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