Reward has forever been for me the shameless upshot of a pleasant day. Seemingly I cannot have the one without the other. I love a celebration! Whatever the reason (perhaps my exuberance is rooted in a bipolar personality) today marks the culmination of a series of personal coups. I have lately succeeded to fulfill what by most standards would no doubt be considered utterly tiresome accomplishments, things like getting through routine medical attendances (though in light of our current healthcare system that may not be an entirely meaningless achievement), at last having adjustments made to tatty pieces of jewellery (the collection of stuff that lingers unnoticed for years in dusty bedroom bureau drawers), handing off a dilapidated heirloom inherited from my grandfather to my niece for posterity (finally admitting it will never work), repairing a scuff on my car (one of those incontrovertible vexations), that sort of thing. While none of those events amounts to anything much, their performance is nonetheless relieving. Frankly these days my agenda even given the most generous rendition is far short of astonishing. So checking off almost any incident no matter how inconsequential is for me a palpable victory. If nothing else it constitutes a re-enactment of the days when I had things of necessity to do. The result? Cupcakes. The combination of artistry and sugar. As I quipped to the chap in the bakery department this afternoon, sweets are an addiction. What more appropriate response to achievement than a substance that can cause diabetes, obesity or death! The moment of unrepentant and blind submission!
The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796 when a recipe notation of “a light cake to bake in small cups” was written in “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons. The earliest documentation of the term was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie ‘s cookbook.
In the early 19th century there were two different uses for the name cup cake or cupcake. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, “Ramekin” or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has remained, and the name of “cupcake” is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. While English fairy cakes vary in size more than American cupcakes, they are traditionally smaller and are rarely topped with elaborate icing.
Indulgence of almost any description can be dismissed or rationalized for an equal number of varied reasons. Laconic philosophical pronouncements such as “Life is short!” or the more imaginative “Time flies whether you’re wasting it or not” are all that is required to legitimize the most obscene digression or indiscretion. Regrettably the rave of answers to the festival of life is frequently attended by disappointment. Cupcakes are not the answer.
My mercurial moods bolstered as they are by petty triumphs and sugar (lubricated by gallons of black coffee) cause me to make correspondingly sweeping judgements. In the moment of my gusto I mistakenly imagine that the depth of my insight is in synch with the speed of my precipitous deductions. But more often than not I am disillusioned. I am instead reminded that we’re all frail, that we see in others what we see in ourselves (a sobering recognition at the very least) and that it really doesn’t help to control one’s destiny to do anything other than control oneself (a levelling and undramatic end all said). The summation of my temporary absorption is usually leagues from my putative purpose and always less uplifting than I might have preferred to align with my initial effervescence though nonetheless instructive like any other of life’s hard lessons.
There is always some unanticipated event which shakes down any clinical view of the world. Yet as disruptive as the unfolding of the future may be, if embraced it assures a novelty far more scintillating than any cursory abstraction one may form when eating a cupcake. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that even an innocent pleasure though benign is a pale reflection of the complexity and texture of life. Life isn’t forever pretty and sweet like a cupcake. Indeed its ingestion can be just as unsettling, to the moon and back in an instant.
“The future is no more uncertain than the present.”
Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892)