Cupcakes for Emily

on 11 November 2009

Years and years ago I was working for a small financial company (now DEFUNCT) in downtown Seattle. I worked in customer service and spent most of every day on the phone with moderately dissatisfied customers. I blame this experience for my distaste for the telephone in general nowadays.

But while working there, I encountered several very cool people. One of those people was Rosanna. Rosanna was this amazing baker. And she had a plum tree in her yard so in the summer we would get all of these amazing plum treats. But in the FALL! she would bring in pumpkin cake.

mmmmm. Pumpkin Cake.

Her's is AMAZING. So when my birthday rolled around (in January, natch) and she asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I didn't even think about it.

"Um. Pumpkin Cake, Rosanna, Pumpkin Cake."

She brought me one and I got to take the leftovers home to my family. It was official. We were all in love with this most delicious dessert. So, when I finally submitted my notice to leave (and go back to school, natch), I asked Rosanna for one parting thing.

Her pumpkin cake recipe.

It did not come easily. She COMPETES with this recipe. AND WINS. So, she relinquished it under the strictest of terms. I couldn't share it with anyone. NO ONE. It was to be put in the M shaped vault and locked up for LIFE. And using it for competitions, however small or local or ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY they may be was FORBOTEN.

Now, anyone who really knows me knows that I can not, CAN NOT keep something GOOD a secret. (It's why I'm generally the last to know about pregnancies, moves, job changes, etc. I just can't help myself! When something good is happening I feel COMPELLED to share it!) So, very very gradually and with copious amounts of GUILT, the recipe began to leak out. First to my Mom. Then to my sister. Both worthy women who make this cake every Autumn.

And then we moved to Durham. And the next year we met Brad. (Sorry Brad, but!) And then something EVEN BETTER happened and we met his amazing wife Emily! See, Brad was in Chris' program at school, and we heard that he had moved out to Chapel Hill, leaving his wife and 3 kids (the youngest just a couple of weeks old) in Utah to join him a bit later. We had him to dinner--feeling sorry for him and all, and over dinner he told us about Emily.

As soon as he said, "My wife has red hair." I thought to myself, "She and I are going to be great friends!"

So, a couple of weeks pass and then we saw Brad walking in to church with this small parade of darling children and this gorgeous redhead walked in with this teeeeeeny tiiiiiiiiiny baby and I thought to myself, "Ah-Ha! That must be Emily!"

That Sunday I did something that I NEVER do. I walked up to her and introduced myself. And you know what? We became great friends.

That Autumn I made pumpkin cupcakes as per usual, and I took half the batch over to Miss Emily and her brood of awesome chickadees. And I continued to make them per her request for the next two years.

Then came the awful day when we found out that Brad was packing up the Wonderful Emily and their delightful family and moving them 3000 miles WEST to some Wild West settlement in California. I cried. And then I emailed the recipe for the cupcakes to Emily. And then I made her a road trip care package, for I would miss her heartily.

And then we moved. And I do miss her heartily, but never more than this past weekend when I made pumpkin cupcakes for the first time this season. I so wished to have her in my kitchen keeping me company, so as a virtual baking experience...

First you have to rustle up some really cute, cheap child labor!

Then, you sneak up on your recipe.
Like all works of genius, this one can be a bit of a diva.

Assemble your cast of characters.
Make sure the super secret character is hidden in the back.

mmmmm. Cream the pumpkin and brown sugar. Frankly, anything that starts with CREAM is going to be delicious, whether we are referring to the Noun or the Verb.

While that's getting creamy, make sure you mix up all your dry ingredients.
They all have a similar sense of humor so they get on smashingly.

After all the sloppy wet ingredients are creamed and happy, you add in the stodgy dry ingredients. They help hold this party together.

Then you fill the cupcake papers. Now, you could probably get 24 cupcakes out of this recipe, but they would be skinny cupcakes. Nay, anorexic cupcakes, sad, pitiful, size 0 cupcakes. And we don't want those too, too skinny cupcakes here. We want only VOLUPTUOUS cupcakes! Plump cupcakes! Plus-sized, REAL WOMAN, curvaceous cupcakes! So I make 18 instead of 24 and we're all the happier for it.

After they come out of the oven and you're transferring them from the cupcake tins to the rack to cool, remember to drop one on the floor.

This one you get to eat warm and UNfrosted, and oh man it's good.
(What? My floors are clean. Mostly.)

Be careful who you share that cupcake with because then he'll come back all Oliver Twist on you with the please, sir, we want some more!

(His father dressed him this morning. I would never have put him in a dark brown onesie with navy pants, but alas, I was sleeping in so I shall not complain.)

Now, you'll take some room temperature butter, cream cheese, vanilla and confectioner's sugar and whip that up until it becomes more than the sum of its humble parts. Schmear that on those pillows of pumpkin goodness and here's what you get:

17 perfect pumpkin cupcakes. Ok, maybe there are only 16 in this picture because another one may have been consumed warm and unfrosted after experiencing the bliss of the first one...the one that fell on the floor. Anyway, the number need not matter, what matters is that these are glorious relics of autumnal pleasure, and as I eat them, I think of my friend Emily.

And I miss her.


SH said...

I very much miss your pumpkin cupcakes!! :( Do you think they mail well??

And p.s. I miss you too ... badly!

Jill said...

oh miiiiisss!! i LOVE pumpkin goodies! i'm a SIster!! oh pleeeeese share?!!? those look stinking awesome. and i have a red head baby who has high possibility of it being curly (does that give her any sway). she's asking too, hear it? fewo uiyyfyd koo fg fdf g

Emily said...

You are way too nice. Those cupcakes look amazing and I can practically taste them just thinking of how they melt in my mouth.

I miss you...

Katrina said...

this was just a cruel tease to flaunt these babies and then not share. ;-)

Tori said...

I've just recently (as in, the past two months) started to REALLY like pumpkin. I want a pumpkin cupcake...I even have a pumpkin that would probably yield the perfect amount of ooey gooeyness for just one batch.

Whimsy said...

I'm with Katrina. You are brilliant, my friend, but so very mean!