Saturday, September 4, 2010

Case Study 70: "The Cliffwalk"

It was a blustery January day when I first walked around the perimeter of the Cliffwalk.  Three and a half miles of stone path against the bluffs of a New England shore. It was wild, gray and cold, but somehow I felt warm, a feeling I attributed to either being in love, or an inevitable human reaction to standing where the icy path meets the trembling ocean surf.

Growing up, we're always told that life isn't about the desination, it's about the journey along the way. But as I get older, I keep thinking about the chapters in my life as little paths of their own. Occasionally, a path is unclear. At times it's even a dead end. But sometimes, if I'm lucky, when I stand at each destination, which might not come until days, months, or even years later, I see the path clearly.

"The Cliffwalk" is a rocky road cupcake, chocolate and with bits of marshmallow and chopped walnuts, topped with a vanilla buttercream and chocolate chunk.  Chocked full, messy, a bit precarious, it's an undoubtedly decadent disaster. 

A year and a half later, I stood alone at the start of that same shoreline path on a sun-soaked July day. It was near evening, and the sea breeze was surprisingly cool, so I sat behind a shield of cerulean hydrangeas, dripping from a run while the others had fallen into an afternoon slumber back home.  They were friends, acquaintances, and one veritable soul sister, brought together by as much a constellation's turn as the decision to just not give a shit about making sense of it all.  Though I had been there before, I felt no déjà vu.

You see, people and places come into our lives for a reason, and they leave our lives for a reason as well.  These parts of the journey, the entries and the exits, aren't always smooth.  And so we fixate - on the various paths, on the potholes, and on the crumbling spackle we've used to cover the cracks as we go.   We forget that we control the direction of our feet and the strength to regain balance when we trip.  We close our eyes and get the hell out of there, without realizing that there might be some really great things left to see.

The truth is, life is one rocky road. As I stood there that summer day at the start of the Cliffwalk, by choice and by fate, I took my first steps on a new path on Aquidneck Island.  And I remembered that whatever beauty I might find at the end of the road was rolling against the horizon to my left all along. 

Rocky Road Cupcake

(Makes 18 to 24)

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons safflower oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
10 marshmallows, chopped into small pieces

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
2.Add eggs, warm water, butter, milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed. Fold in nuts and marshmallow bits.
3.Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

2 sticks butter
4-6 cups confectioner sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla.
2. Add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and mix until combined, mix in half of the milk.
3. Mix in remaining confectioner’s sugar, adding more milk depending on consistency and preference. 
4. Frost cupcakes, and enjoy the ride.

1 comment:

Vintage Sparkle said...

These just look exquiste! How do you get the icing to look the way it does? Is it with a special piping bag? Or a fancy piece of equipment? xx