I’m going to a surprise party tomorrow. I won’t say more than that at this point, in the off, off, off chance the guest of honour reads my blog between now and then and puts it all together. For this unexpected soiree, I offered to bring cupcakes, since they’re relatively simple and I knew transporting them would be easier than moving an entire birthday cake across the city.
When I shopped for supplies earlier this week, I was excited to find Reynolds StayBrite Easy Release Baking Cups. The package promised “vibrant colours that won’t fade,” and that there was “no need for a muffin pan,” and I was free to “simply place on a cookie sheet!” (enthusiasm on the original packaging). Although I am immediately offended by companies who use what they feel are clever misspellings on their products –StayBrite my big toe!– I bought the things in a beautiful black and white damask pattern. I hoped the elegance of the cupcake paper might add a little special flair to our afternoon.
Outside temperatures were forecast to hit about 30 degrees today, so I waited until the late afternoon to start baking. I have a go-to method for cake that has never, never failed me. It’s the same approach I’ve used for several wedding cakes and numerous birthdays, and I knew the cupcakes would turn out dense, rich, and fabulous. My goal was to finish the part involving the oven as quickly as possible, since it’s hot enough inside the dollhouse today without keeping the oven fired up unnecessarily. Since my oven is rather stupid, it will fit only one muffin pan at a time, and I am reluctant to bake batter-based things that need to rise in batches,especially on such a sweltering day: the second batch inevitably rises poorly after waiting its turn.
Luckily for me, Reynolds’ wrapper assured me I could bake the cupcakes on a cookie sheet rather than in my bulky muffin pans. Inside these pretty little cups is a foil liner, which the package told me would prevent them from discolouring, and which apparently made them stiff enough to hold their shape on a cookie sheet. To maximize the real estate inside my oven, I simultaneously baked a dozen cupcakes in a muffin tin and the other dozen on the cookie sheet. All of them were in the fancy pants wrappers.
I escaped to the living room for a few minutes after popping things into the oven, because the living room is on the shady side of the house and is generally slightly less eyebrow melting than the rest of the dollhouse. About six minutes later, The Electrician came back in from working on a masculine project outside (it involved gloves and a chainsaw) and commented, “I think you’d better check on your baking sweetie. Something is burning in there.”
In theory, it was impossible that my cupcakes would burn a quarter of the way through their baking time. I went to check anyway, and realized very quickly what a mess I had on my hands.
My beautiful muffin cups were not, it seemed, suitable for using on a cookie sheet. The cupcakes rose as they should, but the cups did not contain them. As a result, the chocolate batter ran over the tops, dripped, and burned rapidly on the cookie sheet.
They also looked horrid. The tops were flat and uneven, and no two cupcakes had the same diameter. I photographed some of the more presentable specimens.
There I was, baking when I knew better on a very hot day, and half my cupcakes were hopelessly deformed. When I peeled back the damask wrappers to check on the cake itself, the bottoms of the cupcakes I baked on the cookie sheet were shiny and scorched. They smelled sour and burned, too.
The dozen cupcakes that I baked in the muffin tins were much better, and did not burn, even though they were baked on the same rack of my oven for the same amount of time.
I did notice, as well, that the StayBrite Baking Cups that the package promised would not fade with baking were discoloured from stunning black and white to a shabby-looking harvest gold with black on the bottom. That was the final straw. I already needed to make another batch of cupcakes, since I promised two dozen for the party and the first attempt was only half successful, and now the ones that could be suitably iced and were edible looked like they were wrapped in tacky wallpaper from 1976. Did I mention the butter in my cupboard is currently liquid? Yeah. Baking in this heat is not ideal.
Infrequent disasters happen in the dollhouse kitchen. Remember when I made chlorine gas out of dish soap? I suppose odd little accidents can happen to even the most practiced and careful cooks, but it frustrates me beyond belief when a company toots its own horn and gives false information about how to use its products.
I’m also far less than impressed that I paid three dollars for 36 useless muffin papers. When I read the product claims on the package, I thought the price might be reasonable if the StayBrite baking cups did what they promised. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed, and I spent enough to buy two hundred regular muffin wrappers.
The Reynolds company will be hearing from me immediately after I publish this post.
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