magnolia cupcakes

The rest of the cupcakes Saucy made for Roxy's NYC-themed sweet sixteen celebration were simply inspired by the treats from Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street. It was the cupcakes from Magnolia (and being featured on Sex and the City) that were responsible for the renewed popularity of Duke's favourite little treat! Before cupcakes were featured on blogs and specialty stores opened all over North America, patrons stood in line for hours to taste Magnolia's sweet cupcakes... there was even a limit as to how many could be purchased by customers.

What makes Magnolia cupcakes stand apart from the others is the signature swirl of the buttercream frosting. They claim it takes forty hours of frosting cupcakes to perfect the Magnolia swirl.

This is a very quick look at the actual decorators at Magnolia working away:

Here's another helpful little video:

Well, Saucy's were close... but no cigar. She's going to work on perfecting her swirl and she'll keep you posted.

Swirl-perfect? No. Delicious? Abso-frickin'-lutely.

big apple cupcakes

If you've been a regular blog reader for some time, you'll know exactly who Saucy is talking about when she tells you it was Roxy's birthday this weekend. Her parents are taking her to New York City for her sweet sixteen celebration and asked if Saucy could come up with an NYC cupcake theme to celebrate. Here they are... Roxy's big apple birthday cupcakes.

Saucy adapted these from What's New, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. She made a few modifications but here's the basic how-to.

Yes, they're ugly at this stage. They have to be ugly before they get cute.

After baking and cooling a batch of red velvet cupcakes in nice red baking papers, top each cupcake with a half of a mini doughnut using some frosting. Place in refrigerator for about an hour while you do the rest of your prep... they need to be fastened on top well for the frosting and dipping step.

Once firm, frost the entire cupcake top and doughnut with red icing. The book suggest using store-bought frosting but Saucy prefers homemade buttercream and suggests that you use the red (no taste) colouring paste from Wilton to tint it. You don't need to worry about making it super red, you'll be dipping the frosting in red sanding sugar. Saucy found that amount of sanding sugar to have a bit of a bitter taste to it, so she's glad she used the no-taste gel to start.

Lastly, fashion a stem by cutting and rolling a piece of Tootsie Roll candy. Saucy used spearmint gumdrop leaves to decorate instead of the recommended rolled and cut Starburst fruit chews. It was quicker and dare she say, cuter.

She made one more type of NYC-inspired cupcakes for Roxy's celebration... to be posted here tomorrow. What would you dream up if you had to make cupcakes to represent the greatest city on earth?

butterfly fly away

This past week found Saucy waiting for Judgement Day, to see if the Rapture would free her from yard work and the piles of laundry that needed tending to. Her theory was sound: she put off as many chores as possible just in case. Saturday came and went with nary a messiah or an artificial intelligence Terminator, and she realized it was time to get to work. The weeds weren't going to pick themselves.

Saucy and The Secret Weapon did find some time last week to etch a beautiful butterfly for Pepper to have poured into her new concrete kitchen countertops. Because if the end of the world is approaching, you may as well head into the studio and make art.

What follows is by no means a tutorial... just the highlights from one day in the studio with one Dad and daughter on the day before the end of the world.

A piece of zinc was located in the stash, scored, and cut to size.

Saucy used a little sandpaper and water to give the surface a texture for the photo emulsion to stick to.

Under darkroom light, the photo emulsion paper was cut and adhered to the scuffed-up zinc. Just to be sure, The Secret Weapon used a little brayer to press it on firmly and Saucy even ran a heat gun over it.

You can't see the next step because it was just too bright - the zinc was laid under the butterfly artwork Saucy printed onto clear mylar (if you look closely you can see it on the table in the first picture) and exposed to a bright UV light using a crazy vacuum table to hold it in place. This took several minutes... it's like suntanning at a salon. The lights are bright!

After exposing the plate to the light, you can see the negative image of the butterfly appear. Saucy gives it another swipe of the heat gun just to make sure everything is fastened right... before dropping the piece of metal into a bath of baking soda and water:

Saucy wants you to notice that she and The Secret Weapon used environmentally friendly etching methods, even though the world as we know it was about to end.

The baking soda quickly washes away the part of the emulsion that wasn't exposed to light - the part that was protected by the black printing on the clear mylar. It's kind of like magic. Eventually all of the emulsion dissolves and the plate is ready for etching.

This is the best part. Almost immediately the etching solution (mordant) attacks the part of the metal that was protected from the UV light. You can see the image as it blackens... and later...

... the solution mixing with the metal is actually creating copper! Chemistry is beautiful. Using a little brush, you can brush away the excess to reveal the image and check your progress. Saucy and The Secret Weapon visit while the etching takes place and eventually they agree at a point where the image is nicely etched but not too deeply.

After removing it from the bath and rinsing it, The Secret Weapon carefully cuts out the shape of the butterfly. A few tiny blades snap from the pressure. Once the butterfly is released, the edges are filed smooth.

The zinc butterfly still needs to be polished with progressively finer grades of sandpaper. The final polish is actually with a piece of paper from the laser printer - that's so fine!

Saucy's hands get a little black and dirty! All for a worthy cause.

Before applying a light dusting of copper pigment and some lacquer to the finished piece, The Secret Weapon solders a hook-like contraption on the back of the butterfly. This will ensure that it never loosens or pops out of the concrete countertop it will inhabit in Pepper's beautiful new kitchen reno.

Well, at least Saucy did a favour for a friend before the Rapture (didn't) happen. She overheard someone at the grocery store saying they'd gotten their affairs in order just in case and that seemed reasonable enough. She and Veto decided at the very least to drink the last bottle of port on hand and she had her highlights touched up a week early, on the off chance. She wasn't overly excited about the end of the world but she was, however, pretty pumped about the thought of never having to shave her legs again.

What about you, Dear Reader? Were you disappointed to miss any looting parties post-apocalypse? Saucy had her eye on a fabulous pair of shoes... there has to be a bright side to the End of Days.

macarons demystified

For a long time now, Saucy has been wanting to tackle the elusive baking task known as the French macaroon, or Parisian macaron.

After reading some blogs and cookbooks, her little bit of research told her to be careful. They might be one pastry difficult to master. It appeared that many of the recipes online were complicated and the ingredients confused her. Why did some recipes call for almond flour and others for ground almonds? Of course most French recipes are metric... but exactly how many egg whites are in 90 grams? Just the thought of solving these simple problems left Saucy putting off the great macaron attempt... until today.

Would you like to know how simple they are? No, really. Don't worry about it. Saucy has you covered.

If you follow these step by step instructions, you'll have a sweet pile of Parisian macarons to share with your peeps. Go ahead, start gathering fancy little tins and boxes now. You're going to need them. This is going to as popular as cupcakes, people.

Here's your shopping list:

1 and 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds (super white, no "skins")
3 extra large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Gather up:

a pastry bag with a the biggest round tip you can find
a silicone spatula
a silicone baking pad or some parchment paper
cookie sheets
cooling racks
your courage
... and something to fill your macarons with - for her first batch, Saucy simply used some raspberry preserves she had on hand. Let's get fancy later.

Tip One: Plan Ahead

You can't make good macarons on a humid day. Because they have to sit on the counter and cure before you bake them, your kitchen can't be hot and sticky. You either need air conditioning or you'll just have to wait. Today was perfect for baking.

Also, all of your ingredients need to be at room temperature, most especially the eggs. They'll work best for this recipe if they "age" a bit on the counter overnight. That sounds a little yucky (Saucy agrees) so instead of separating them and leaving the bowl to age on the counter overnight, Saucy left three extra large eggs out on the counter for a day or two with the other ingredients. This morning, everything was a "go."

Tip Two: Process, Don't Whisk

Saucy was worried about exactly how fine her ground almonds were. She got out the food processor and gave them a good healthy beating just to be sure. It was at this point that she added the confectioners' sugar to the almonds, even though the recipe said to simply whisk the sugar and nuts together. She reasoned that this would create a kind of superfine almond meal, and it did. This could also be done well in advance and set aside.

Are you ready? Let's try this.

In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Bump the speed on the mixer to high and gradually add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar to the whites. Continue beating on high until whites are stiff, glossy and form nice firm peaks.

Next, fold the mixture of almonds and confectioners' sugar into the egg whites using your silicone spatula. You want to ensure the dry is incorporated into the whites but don't overfold. The batter should appear somewhat fluffy.

Outfit your pastry bag with the large round tip and fill the bag with the macaron batter.

Tip: Use the largest pastry bag you have on hand. You should be able to load the whole batch into one big bag and get piping.

You don't have to work quickly here, but you have to work smart. Decide how big you want your finished macaron to be and pipe out a disc onto the parchment paper or silicone. Don't pull up and away to create a little peak with the batter... you want the disc to be somewhat flat, so drag the piping tip slowly away from the cookie as you finish it. You can even dab your finger in cold water (sparingly) and tap away any peaks... but do it sooner rather than later.

Let the piped macarons sit on your counter to "age" before baking them. This should take about a half hour to an hour. You are allowing the cookie to form a "skin" or a "shell" before baking. The macarons will also spread out a tiny bit and flatten down... perfect. Don't panic when they flatten out, that's a good thing. It's not that your meringue is bad, it's that your macarons are aging and will bake into a perfect shape:

Voila! Bake at 325 degrees (with the door of the oven propped open a tiny bit if you can) until they are completely dry, about 15 minutes. See that little ruffly part on the bottom? That's the macaron foot, it's desirable. The aged "shell" of the cookie rose above the rest of the batter that oozed out when baking, creating the delicate ruffled effect macarons are best known for.

Well that, and their fillings. And the fact that they're so damn pretty. And yummy.

It's a win-win-win.

They're super-easy to slap together after completely cooled. You can use buttercream frosting if you have some on hand, make a smooth chocolate ganache or you can get crazy and try something else.

Saucy wants to warn you. It's gonna get a whole lotta crazy around here. She's got the macaron fever and she's got it bad.

Well, that was almost too easy. Saucy feels silly for putting it off for as long as she did. All this time she's been feeding you cupcakes and you could have been enjoying something decidedly more French.

what saucy knows for sure

On this, Saucy's 36th 39th 44th birthday, she wonders what she would say if Oprah asked her "what she knows for sure."

What, if anything, does Saucy really know as she begins her 45th year?

And after last week's accident...

And she did. Seconds before the impact she said "I love you" the girls as they flew out of the car and headed into the school. The idea that "I love you" could be someone's last words is powerful, don't you think?

Dear Reader, it's Saucy's birthday today. She knows for sure that's she's grateful to be alive, she begrudgingly accepts her cellulite and the +3.50 reading glasses she had to buy this year, she's a lucky duck with a good family and dear friends. She knows that cupcakes lead to cellulite and she's not planning on quitting soon. She made peace with it long ago.

She knows that money can't buy happiness but it can buy ice cream and that's pretty damn close. She knows that glitter is the herpes of the craft room and that you are a victim of the rules you live by.

She knows that the best part of a birthday is thinking about the future and she's glad to have Veto to share it with. She is content.

a mother's day prayer

From Bossypants, Tina Fey, 2011.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the crystal meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – and adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need not lie with drummers.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a bitch in front of Hollister, give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


Thanks for all of your comments and messages - Saucy is hurt and sore but just fine! She was only shaken, not stirred, after her traffic accident on Tuesday and she's off and running in her usual 300 directions... only with a few bruises.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! xo

irrational thoughts

Exactly twenty four hours ago Saucy was in a horrible car wreck. Don't worry, she's just fine. She miraculously walked away without a scratch and one of the cute firefighters on the scene said "you've been touched by an angel today, girlie."

She didn't see it coming at all. She'd dropped of Loopy and Beegie off at school after lunch - Loopy brings at least one Cheerio home every single day for lunch. She drove away on her usual route. About two blocks away from the school parking lot, she was broadsided by a car traveling too fast down a side street. The driver didn't even hit his breaks, he just ploughed right into Saucy's door, pushing her Jeep Compass about twenty feet across the intersection.

The following account are the incoherent and irrational thoughts that went through Saucy's mind from the moment of the impact. Keep in mind, she did not see the car coming or it would have been much more terrifying.

The white stuff was the airbags releasing on each of the side doors. The smoke was the powder from the airbags... it smelled vaguely like cigarettes. The impact was so strong and so instant. It took Saucy a split second to realize what exactly had happened. There are no words to describe the sound or the feeling of the impact, it was on her driver's door.

Yep, Saucy drops the f-bomb, even in her thoughts. Especially then. It seemed appropriate as the reality of the situation sunk in.
And people, it really, really was slow motion. Like, super slow-mo in a movie or something. Plus, it took several seconds for her car to be pushed across the intersection, giving her time to have other thoughts:
And that was a sobering thought indeed. She's not lying. She thought that. The car was still kind of moving at this point and glass was breaking. The sound of the breaking glass was the scariest.

No, the scariest part was when the seat belt opened and released Saucy to fly around a little bit before final impact. She caught some serious air, just over the steering wheel. The steering wheel airbag did not release and she does not know why. She totally hit it with her stomach. Her stomach must be pretty soft and flabby.

Saucy did not go through the windshield. Before the front passenger side of her car hit the post, the wheel hit the curb, bouncing Saucy back down into her seat. She kind of jammed her hip into her console between the front seats before she landed. When the car finally stopped, hitting the power pole on the corner of the street, she heard the other car's brakes screeching and she figured that (because it happens in movies) something else was coming her way and that would be that. She could hear the soft, soothing voice of an ultra-conservative radio kook.

That was a sobering thought, indeed. For the record, Saucy occasionally listens to Dr. Laura in the afternoon because you know how much she likes to give advice and she is always interested to see if her advice is close to the "expert" advice of Dr. Laura. It usually is, but it's not peppered with conservative rhetoric.

Back to the accident. The other driver was trying to get out of his car and she could her him screaming and crying. She was looking up, through the open sunroof of her car, afraid to look down. With all that screaming, it had to be bad. She looked at the trees and the blue sky and thought,

Well, clean enough. Clean undies after last night's bath. But certainly not matching... very unlike Saucy.

The crying and screaming was getting more intense outside but Saucy looked down to see that she was very much intact. There was no blood and all of her limbs were attached. She blinked and realized it was hard to see because of the dust and the airbag powder and it made her eyes sting. She looked out at the man who hit her car and she saw the terror in his face.

Saucy managed to carefully climb out through the passenger door. The other driver and another man in a nearby house pulled her from the driver's seat and then the hysterical driver of the other car grabbed Saucy as though she was a distant relative he hadn't seen in thirty years and he sobbed and held her tight and kissed her all over her head.

It was all a little dramatic. Saucy found her phone in the rubble of her purse contents flying all over the car and reached Veto. He ripped the paper bib off his chest and dashed out of the dentist's chair and raced to the scene. Coming from a downtown office tower, he arrived at the scene at the exact same moment as the emergency responders. The fire station is about two blocks away from where the accident happened.

Saucy was checked by paramedics and firefighters for injury and everyone agreed that she was fine and it was a miracle. One of the rescue workers saw Saucy beside the car and said he figured she'd been the passenger and he expected the driver hadn't survived - he was surprised she was the driver.

The cars were towed and the other driver was charged. He has admitted fault to the insurance adjustors and the police and faces his own troubles over this, including the fact that his new car was destroyed. Saucy and Veto gave him a ride home and he complained about the fine, having to attend traffic school, and how much he loved that car of his. Whatever.

Saucy managed to remain pretty calm. Her thought process was odd... but it is what it is. It wasn't until Veto almost had her home that she thought the most important thing of all.

... and then she burst into tears.