The Good Old Days… and Cupcakes

We are living in interesting times. When I woke up on Friday morning, I really didn’t expect to flip on Morning Edition and hear that the Leave side had won the Brexit referendum. (Apparently, a lot of people who voted on the Leave side didn’t expect it, either.) I confess I was never totally clear on what that was all about. Politics generally leaves me feeling a bit stupid, and as an American I can’t pretend to fully understand the British mindset, but the assassination of MP Jo Cox by a Leave supporter made it clear even to us ignorant non-Brits that the whole thing was a mess of huge proportions. Maybe that’s why I expected that Remain would win, and things would go back to normal, or normal-ish.

Come on, UK – aren’t we Yanks creating enough turmoil in the world right now?

Just kidding – I have enormous sympathy for the folks in the UK as they go through this upheaval. At the same time, I can’t help but think of it from my U.S. perspective. To me, as a member of the liberal elite (ha ha), the parallels between the Leave campaign there and the Trump campaign here are eerie. On both sides of the pond, it partly seems to boil down to a longing for “the good old days”, though what exactly that means is never spelled out. There are theories, not very nice ones.

As the writer of a blog that deals, at least in part, in nostalgia, I have to say that the past is at best a mixed bag. It’s only human to have a selective memory, keeping what pleases us and tossing the things we’d rather forget. That’s sort of what nostalgia is. The thing is, even if time travel were possible, we couldn’t go back to a time where the things we remember fondly are there, but the not-so-good things are absent, because that time does not exist. (I’m assuming here that we’re moving back and forth through time in the same quantum universe. If we can move between alternate universes as well, then all bets are off, of course.) Back in “the good old days” people took the bad with the good, just as they do now.

Anyway, since we haven’t figured out how to manage time travel (hell, we haven’t even sorted out the pesky paradoxes), we can only move forward in time and try for the best results from what’s happening now.

Which is not to say we can’t enjoy a little nostalgia from time to time. Or nostalgia and cupcakes. I’ve been thinking of trying to make poke cake for a while, and since this week on the editorial calendar is a “free week”, it seemed like a good time to do something fun. If cupcakes aren’t fun, I don’t know what is.

decorated cupcakes on a Fiestaware plate

Glam Cupcakes á la Freak Mountain

I started out with a box of white cake mix – probably the first time in decades that I’ve used a boxed mix, but I’m not sure what a white cake is, really. I have to admit I was seduced by the dead easiness of whipping up the batter. Even better was using an ice cream scoop to dole out the batter like they do on Cupcake Wars, which is genius, and I wish I’d known to do that as a kid when I was making cupcakes more regularly.

cupcake cut in half to show streaks of Jell-O

Poke cupcake, dissected

When the cupcakes were cooled, I “poked” them with fruit punch flavored Jell-O. For frosting, I didn’t want to use Cool Whip because I wasn’t sure how well it would keep (or travel, depending on what we decided to do with the cupcakes). Instead, I went with the White Mountain Frosting recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. It’s boiled-sugar-and-egg-white based, essentially a marshmallow icing, but fluffy and not too perishable. White Mountain Frosting was a reprise of the “napalm” experience of Fruit Flavor Marshmallows, except that this time I was working with a mixer with a spatter guard, so the hazard was greatly reduced.

The glam theme was inspired by the foil cupcake cups, and by Vince Noir’s glam ski suit in the “Tundra” episode of The Mighty Boosh, which we’ve been re-watching in the summer TV lull. Those silver dragées are getting s little hard to find, but luckily they’re available at a local spice shop.

So finally I was pleased with the look, but as far as eating them? Man, these cupcakes are sweet. But we can’t stop eating them – just like in the good old days…

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