This week, I had the chance to do one of my favorite things: bake cupcakes. The bookends of summer in my life are birthdays, and a friend asked my sister and I to make cupcakes for her day. We were more than happy to enlist for that duty. Cupcakes are serious business around here.
Of course, baking while the house is under construction was a new experience. As the mixer whirred and bowls clattered, the workers drilled and sawed, and we had a right proper racket between us. From time to time as we filled the paper cups or scraped out the last dough from the bowl, one of the painters would walk by and comment. Later when we were frosting them, our contractor’s son leaned into the kitchen to let us know that the crew was leaving for the day. Seeing us busy with our piping bags, he said that they’d wait until tomorrow for their cupcakes. For a minute, I thought about giving him one as thanks for all the difficult work they’ve been doing on our house, putting up with all its oddities and frustrations. Then I thought, not everyone likes gluten-free cake. And then I thought, that’s such a small piece of cake for such a big sentiment.
But I realize I do this kind of thing all the time. Really, a lot of us do. Giving small objects a richness of feeling and importance, I mean. I found early on in my baking career that I love making treats for other people, possibly more than cooking a meal. With cake, I like to think it’s time and kindness baked together. The frosting on top is consideration and creativity. When I hand a person a cupcake that I’ve made, I want to say to her, you are worth all these things.
On the one hand, baking is an art. It can be aesthetically pleasing to make beautiful food, enjoyable to make delicious food. On the other hand, baking is an art. It should be able to speak to other people and make them feel. And that’s why I can’t give it up.