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October 14, 2009

If you are even moderately familiar with the jargon of the day–or the fall line-up of television sitcoms–you have probably heard of the term “cougar.”  I’m not sure if I can sum it up here, other than to say this is a term that has been coined to describe a woman of a certain age and marital status, who is on the prowl for a man, preferrably a younger man, with whom she can put to use her yoga-toned and botox-honed body. I cannot, legally, be considered a cougar because I am married.  Because of that, I am not on the prowl for a man, other than the one who stands between me and that feline moniker.  My husband, that is.  And, P.S., I love him for that, and so much more.

Moving on, though, a new phrase has come into my awareness, via a friend with two small children and one on the way.  After the first several weeks at their pricey preschool, she noticed a lot of the mothers who, but for the presence of a husband, looked and maybe even acted a little like this mythical cougar.  However, these moms were not on the prowl for men, so much as the bottom of the next glass of wine over a nice plate of gossip while sneaking a smoke on the patio during naptime.  Moms with babysitters who could drive themselves home, allowing mommy to stay out until the wee hours with her gal pals at the trendy tapas bar in the next borough.

And so, my friend and her friends did what every good American does, they created a stereotype for this worn-out yet put-together, designer labeled, puffy-eyed, sleek-haired mom. The P.O.W.

Partied Out…(ahem, the last word rhymes with “more” and starts with “W” of course)

I neither judge nor condone this kind of labelling.  I just laugh my head off when I hear it. Oh, and post it for all the Internets to read.

Now, the month of September is a busy one in the kitchen witch household.  In our family of four, it marks the celebration of one wedding anniversary and three birthdays.  The adults in this house (also known as parents) don’t do much to acknowledge their own birthdays (my gift this year: a bag of Pop Chips, a RitterSport chocolate hazelnut bar and a Diet Coke–which I just found out came from our own garage fridge. I don’t really drink Diet Coke, but the others “gifts” were spot on. The point is, not a whole lot of planning and hoopla went into this gift.) The real reason my birthday was noticed at all was due to the presence of the “under seven” set.  My two daughters love birthdays, any birthday (strange little girls that they are), so my husband bought those items for the girls to hand to me with giant smiles and goodwill all around. And that was that.

However, you’ll notice that I said September marks three birthdays in our family.  If two of them are allotted to adults (they are) that leaves one a child’s birthday. My oldest daughter turned six in September and I kid you not, what my husband and I omitted in our birthday celebrations, the eldest received in spades.  Exhibit A: she had four days of parties.

The first, on Thursday, was her kindergarten class celebration.  As the kitchen witch, I will always send my kids to school parties with homemade treats, as I can control what goes into them.  Plus I love, love, love making cupcakes (which are also perfect for classroom birthday parties).  The theme of her official birthday party (planned for Saturday…just hang in there) was “Wizards of Waverly Place” (My husband thought it up and then headed for the hills once she agreed.  He didn’t learn so much as one magic trick, the stinker.)  So in keeping with the Wizards theme (for the official party), these are the minicupcakes that I made for the 17-something children/teachers in her kindergarten class on Thursday.

mini vanilla cupcakes with handmade chocolate witch hats

mini vanilla cupcakes with handmade chocolate witch hats

This is where things get confusing.  Before my husband came up with the Wizards of Waverly Place theme, he mentioned casually (yet, in front of the birthday girl) that he had seen a demonstration on tv on how to make Dora cupcakes.  My baker’s heart went pitter-pat and before my brain could pull the emergency brake, my mouth was saying, “We could do that!”  (also in front of my daughter). Which prompted her to demand a Dora-themed birthday party.  And though probably more age-appropriate than the eventually agreed-upon WofWP, I could not bear the thought of a Dora-themed party.  What would the games be? Would the other girls turn their noses up at a Dora party? Wasn’t she too old for Dora?  To avert big disappointment, I suggested that I would make Dora cupcakes for her to bring to school on Thursday.  While this compromise rendered the intended effect (distracting my daughter from the need for a Dora-themed home party), it also presented some logistical problems.  How to make 17+ Dora customized cupcakes in less than a week when I’d never made them before. 

My husband demanded a face-to-face, wherein he shook me by the shoulders until I agreed to rethink this offer.  In an unexpected gesture of goodwill from the school district, on Friday of my daughter’s birthday week, the school had a half-day, leaving all of the neighborhood kids free for a little lunch party at our house (still not the “official” birthday party, mind you).  So, I bargained with her: Thursday you can take in witch hat cupcakes (see above) and Friday we’ll make Dora cupcakes, as it only entailed six customized cupcakes.

This is a photographic journey of the making of those cupcakes:

Create outline with dark chocolate, fill in with milk chocolate.  Do not let children help! It is frustrating and messy.

Create outline with dark chocolate, fill in with milk chocolate. Do not let children help! It is frustrating and messy.

First attempt at decorating Dora.

First attempt at decorating Dora.


A gaggle of Doras

A gaggle of Doras

Now we're starting to get somewhere.  Can you spot the differences? (Hint: white behind the chocolate chips for eyes.)

Now we're starting to get somewhere. Can you spot the differences? (Hint: white behind the chocolate chips for eyes.)

Before her mouth was outlined. Can't decide which I like better!

Before her mouth was outlined. Can't decide which I like better!

If you visit you can find the template for the hair, as well as instructions on how to decorate Dora the rest of the way.  As the instructions call for artificial food coloring and fruit roll-ups, I used some trickery to achieve my Dora cupcakes while maintaining their all-natural state. 

First, I pulled out some frozen raspberry puree, and attempted to reduce it on the stove.  This happened more quickly than I expected, so if you try it at home, keep an eye on it.  I actually had to add a splash of water to the pan to release the raspberry juice that had adhered.  I put this into some vanilla buttercream for the mouth.  Then, I added some raspberry puree and cocoa powder to some vanilla buttercream to make the skin-tone frosting.  The hair is melted and piped milk and dark chocolate.  The eyes are vanilla buttercream triangles, with a regular size chocolate chip pushed into the triangle (tip down).  Then I added some milk chocolate and buttercream details to the eyes.  The nose is a small swish of milk chocolate, but that was difficult to get right, as was the milk chocolate outline of the mouth.

All in all these cupcakes were fun to make, and I gather even more fun to eat.  But they are a little messy and hard to make look perfect.

But wait!  The birthday week wasn’t finished there!  On Saturday, we hosted the “official” party, which ended up being very small due to the barfing disease running through one of the families invited.  Their absence meant three less girls at the party.  Along with Wizards activities (wand-making, black nail-polish manicures, running around the yard like crazies), each attendee decorated her own cupcake to look like a witch.  (In all honesty, I had desperately wanted to make an all-natural green-tinted buttercream for the witches’ faces, but lost my gung-ho for the whole thing on Saturday morning.  I just couldn’t decide whether pureed basil or mint would do the trick.  Weighing the chances of it tasting odd against the chances that the girls would even care that their witch cupcakes had plain old buttercream faces, the scales tipped in favor of plain old buttercream faces.)

Here are two of the youngest girls’ efforts (which in reality are two of my efforts):

candy corn pointing in.

candy corn pointing in.









candy corn pointing out.

candy corn pointing out.

So, the “official” party was a great success, mostly because I happened to plan just enough activities for 1 1/2 hours, leaving room for cupcake eating, present opening and general mayhem to round out the day.

On Saturday, when my daughter found out three of her friends (the barfers) weren’t coming to her official party, she said, “Why are we having another party?”  So you can see that even she was feeling the drain of three days in a row of cupcakes, buttercream and adrenaline.  By this point, we were facing Sunday, which was my daughter’s actual birthday. Guess what?  More cake, in sheet form, with Ina’s fudge frosting on half and vanilla buttercream on the other half, to mollify the folks at church who would be eating it.  This was a first for me, sheet cake and its preparation. I used the yellow butter cake recipe from this post, baked it in a half sheet pan and froze the baked, cooled cake until the night before I needed it.  The cake suffered not at all for the freezing.  Which is nice to know.

I will admit, I never tire of cake and frosting.  It is the food of the gods.  Okay, maybe not.  But I love it, and I love making it.  However, this particular stretch of cupcakes, chocolate decorations, buttercream and candycorn has left me feeling a little…fatigued.  Partied out, one might even say. 

Which causes me to hang my head with the realization that at the end of September, I joined the ranks of the P.O.W.’s who have gone before me.  There just wasn’t any booze or tapas involved.  This time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 7:32 pm

    WOW – I would not even have attempted those Dora cupcakes. You are a brave woman and a rock star mom!


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