- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

CONCORD, N.H. — Parker was sick and wasn’t getting better. So we baked cupcakes. Sure, it was more complicated than that, but what’s important is that my son is well. And the cupcakes were excellent.

It started Saturday morning, when Parker woke up sick. When he didn’t improve, we called his doctor.

We followed his advice, but still he didn’t improve. It was oddly comforting and terrifying when he told us to get Parker to the hospital.

Wedged between a rugby player with a sprained ankle and an elderly woman who had fallen, we tried to comfort our toddler as he alternated between screaming and whimpering for “wa-wa.”

When it still didn’t stop, the doctors admitted him.

My wife and I stretched out on cots beside our 1-year-old’s hospital crib while he grew feverish and entangled in his IV. I had never felt so stupid and helpless and angry.

This really does come back around to cupcakes.

Sunday was up and down. By the end of the day, up was winning, and we were allowed to bring Parker home.

That’s when down took the lead, and that’s why we spent Monday morning at the doctor’s office.

By late afternoon, Parker was up again. This time to stay. Holly and I finally felt relief. We also felt we were sputtering out. We hadn’t slept since Friday. We needed sugar. She wanted cupcakes.

We owe much to Martha Stewart. On the Web site for her Martha Stewart Living magazine, she includes a recipe for easy golden cupcakes with a vanilla butter frosting from Billy’s Bakery, an amazing shop in New York.

Holly and I had visited the shop a couple years ago while she was pregnant with Parker. We had had cake — huge, moist, delicious slices of cake — for breakfast. Comfort food defined.

We needed comfort, so while I occupied Parker, Holly baked a wonderful batch of Billy’s cupcakes.

Then we traded, and I made the frosting, a sweet blend of butter and powdered sugar.

Though we had to hide when we ate them — Parker would have wanted some, but we didn’t trust his tummy just yet — they got us through that long night and the next.

It’s almost a week later now, and Parker is back to eating and playing and laughing.

Just seeing him smile again makes me want to cry. I can’t imagine how parents whose children suffer chronic illnesses cope.

I hope somebody bakes them lots of cupcakes.

Billy’s vanilla cupcakes

This recipe takes 2½ hours. The recipe is from Billy Reece of Billy’s Bakery in New York City.

13/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

11/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 recipe for Billy’s vanilla frosting (recipe follows)

Colored sprinkles for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees..

Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt, and mix on low until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. With the mixer on medium, add liquid ingredients in three parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition.

Beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 to 20 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool to the touch, remove the cupcakes from the pan and return them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula or butter knife to frost the top of each. Serve at room temperature. Do not refrigerate. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

BILLY’S VANILLA FROSTING

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Food coloring, optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add 6 cups of the sugar, milk, and vanilla.

Mix until light and fluffy. If needed, gradually add remaining sugar to reach desired consistency. Add a little food coloring to some of the frosting, to vary colors. Makes frosting for 30 cupcakes.


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