As some or most of you know, I am by trade a journalist and so my curiosity never dies. That said, I wanted to introduce my interview series with other people about their experiences in that most noble endeavor: cooking.
Amanda's Hokie Hi-Hat cupcakes: meringue dipped in candy melts to create "the DQ effect."
Newly Domesticated: Why does baking appeal to you?
Amanda: I love baking because it allows me to check out of my busy, complicated grad school life and focus on manageable steps that I know (or hope) I can handle. Baking and blogging about it makes me feel good at something. Cupcakes are the perfect baked good because I can be creative with flavors and decorations without a huge amount of risk; since I’m still following basic recipes, I’m not as on-my-own as I am when cooking.
ND: What are your earliest memories of cooking?
A: Cooking was always my sister’s thing. She had the Easy Bake Oven and the dreams of culinary school, and I didn’t really want to be involved in the kitchen. I remember one particular time in middle school when my aunt was trying to teach me how to make a pie. I was adamant about not being a pie making person, and I think — again — I just shoved my sister in the direction of the kitchen and got away with it. I used to think I just wasn’t a good cook, but I realized that wasn’t really true in college when I started cooking for myself.
ND: Are you self-taught or were you educated?
A: I was all ready to say self-taught, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I’m blog-educated. My mom taught me some of the basics about cake and icing, but since I didn’t really start baking until I lived alone, I’ve learned the most from food bloggers. I have a tab on my iGoogle homepage for cupcakes and one for cooking, and I check them about half a dozen times a day. It’s a little bit out of control, but I just can’t get enough! Some of my favorites are How to Eat a Cupcake, Pioneer Woman and Cupcake Project.
Outside of my foodie blogs, I have quite a growing collection of cookbooks. Over the past year, I’ve started reading them like novels. Old cookbooks are the best. Even if I don’t make any of the recipes, I really enjoy reading the ingredients and instructions. I laughed at myself the other night when I realized I was reading a cookbook in bed before going to sleep. So, even though I’ve not taken a course on baking or cooking, I guess I’ve been getting an education from a number of sources.
ND: What do you like best about cupcakes?
A: I love the size and portability of cupcakes. Since I take most of my baking projects to other people, they have to be easily moved, stored, and eaten. I used to just drop them off in the English Dept. with a post-it note advertising their flavor(s), and that would be impossible with a messy cake that had to be cut and plated and blah, blah, blah.
Cupcakes are also really forgiving. In each batch, I have between 12 and 30-some chances to make a really cute cupcake. I can make 15 really awkwardly decorated cupcakes, photograph the 3 successful cupcakes and no one has to know that I practiced on most of them.
And let’s be honest, things are just cuter when they’re small.
And people are less likely to refuse a cupcake because they are “being good.” It still happens, but not nearly as often as when I bring other sweets. Okay… I’ll stop listing the cupcake pros now.