I will draw a curtain over what happened after my mother unplugged the TV. Suffice it to say, we did not speak for days. It was one of our six worst fights ever. She used say to me, I can't wait until YOU have a daughter of your own and I hope she's as blah blah blah and blah blah blah as you are! Furiously. Perhaps while brandishing a wooden spoon and chasing me out the front door.
You're wondering if I'm kidding. I'll leave you to wonder. But I can assure you, if my mother did chase me out the door with a wooden spoon, and I'm not saying she did, I fully deserved it. We were very different people. She was (then) stern, judgmental, and baffled by me. I was (then) resentful, rebellious, and baffled by her.
In recent decades we both softened and grew very, very close. I miss my mother more than I can say, and think of her hourly. But I have spent the last 13 years waiting for her curse to come true, for the epic battles between Isabel and me to commence.
Recently, though, it dawned on me that while various misfortunes lie in store for me, as they do for all of us, a dysfunctional relationship with my daughter is unlikely to be among them. Isabel is well into the Abercrombie/eye shadow/Gossip Girl phase but there's still this rainbow over the two of us that's been there since she was seven or eight. I had no idea this was even possible.
Anyway, that's my long way of introducing the cupcake bake-off we held the other afternoon, during the brief hiatus between the end of the school year and camp. A cupcake bake-off is my idea of a good time and it turns out Isabel feels exactly the same way. We're trying to find the perfect cupcake recipe and we were sure we'd do so by the end of the escapade.
We did not. Although we had a very august tasting panel, it reached no firm conclusions except that we must work harder to achieve a cupcake that tastes like Thomas Keller's but has the texture of Duncan Hines.
Ranked from best to worst cupcake:
1. Thomas Keller's vanilla cupcake from Ad Hoc At Home. This estimable cupcake, which calls for the whites of the eggs rather than whole eggs, was a bit dry. But the vanilla flavor was intense and perfectly articulated.
2. 1-2-3-4 cupcakes. This is the formula underlying many butter cake recipes: 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 4 eggs -- plus 1 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and some vanilla. The resulting cupcakes were richer and moister (more moist?) than the Keller cakes, but lacked the purity of flavor.
3. Susan Purdy's yellow cake from The Perfect Cake. This is a modified 1-2-3-4 cake, and was hard to distinguish from 1-2-3-4, but everyone liked it slightly less.
4. Duncan Hines mix. My husband's favorite. All other tasters were put off by the
factory fragrance, including two 9-year-old boys. On the plus side, these were fluffy and incredibly light. Placed on a scale, the mix cupcakes weigh about a third less than any of the others. So how do you get the airiness of mix with the flavor of homemade? Ideas?