Sunday, April 29, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

As much as I have been trying to cling to the beautiful visions of my holiday, my recent weeks' real life has been giving me many challenges.  Perhaps it is always like this after a holiday.

One post-holiday routine I have adopted with the hope that it will keep my mind calm is a return to baking.  Once upon a time I baked two loaves of bread every Sunday.  That time was way back in the last century (how I love referencing the last century!)  It's been a very long time since I have bought yeast or kneaded dough.

My current weekend baking involves cup cakes.  As this baking wish began, I could not find the two "muffin" tins that I felt might be somewhere in my kitchen cabinets.  I am not very tall, and exploring the upper reaches of these cabinets involves my bringing my old folding metal step stool from the depths of a closet to the narrow channel of my kitchen space.

I could not be bothered.  I ordered a new twelve cup muffin tin on line.  In anticipation of its delivery I bought some paper muffin tin cup liners.  The next day I discovered the whereabouts of my two,  now perhaps considered vintage, muffin tins.  I explored some recipes, checked a copy of the Magnolia Bakery cookbook out from my library, consulted some Nigella Lawson cake recipes on line, and bought additional butter, sugar, vanilla extract and a lemon.

On the next day off I had a little baking frenzy and made some basic cupcakes, and iced them with a plain frosting flavored with lemon zest.

I was quite impatient with the wish to apply the icing.  The cupcakes were not quite cool enough...the icing ran a bit.  No matter.  It tasted great.  I put half of this baking endeavour in the freezer.

One of the freshly baked lemon-iced vanilla cupcakes was shared with the evening doorman in my building's lobby.  He's a fan of my Christmas cookie distribution, but also seemed pleased with the April sampling.

How delightful it's been to know that I've home-baked little cakes for dessert when returning nightly from rather overly full work days.

Today was another day off.  I tried a different cake recipe, and began an exploration of the richness that only can be bestowed by chocolate frosting.

Today's baking results are really good, if I say so myself.  Again, six of the batch now rest in the freezer.

Just underneath my little celadon plate are some of the Hockney-exhibition-related books I ordered from good old Amazon after returning from London.  I like the book cover colors against the quiet of the china plate.  The chocolate icing just speaks for itself.

Keeping with the Yorkshire landscape theme of the Hockney show, I am currently reading a new crime novel by Peter Robinson, entitled Before the Poison.  It is set in Yorkshire, a place I have visited several times and whose beauty I appreciate.

It's been a sunny, chilly weekend here in New York, and aside from baking I've had the pleasure of many phone chats with various friends and relatives, and some e-mail catching up with folks here and abroad.  I confess that I somehow never got around to doing some very needed vacuuming.  Ahh, it will have to wait.

Tomorrow I return to work, and expect that this week will be full bodied.  How wonderful to know that every evening will offer the prospect of a home baked, chocolate iced cupcake.

I hope that each of you will have equally appealing prospects ahead of you this week.


  1. a hockney exhibition? wow how lucky are you to go to that!!! I hope he comes down under so that I can see it too been a fan for a long time of his work.

  2. The cupcakes look wonderful! As for the vacuuming -- it can wait -- for the dust is always with us.

  3. Frances, I can just imagine you, after a long and hard day at work, heading home with a spring in your step at the thought of your own home-baking. We have to do whatever it takes to get through the work week - and those little cupcakes would work for me too!

  4. a very good idea! having yummy baked treats waiting for you at the end of the work week would make it a bit sweeter.

    i've seen some of hockneys work in a privately owned collection, what a privilege that was! stunning.

  5. The cupcakes look delicious! I know what u mean about getting through the week, I have little things organised for each evening so I have something to look forward to whilst at work. And this evening we are off to my friends for tea. Double bonus an evening with friends And no cooking!

    Hope your week goes well.


    Ps I saw a hockney exhibition in his yorkshire hometown as I used to live there!

  6. Wish I were close enough to call by for a cup of tea and a cup cake on one of your pretty plates! They look more-ish.

    Husband has told me that the Hockney exhibition, recently at the Royal Academy, will move on to the Guggenheim in Bilbao - a great opportunity for anyone who missed it in London (me) to see it in Spain!

  7. I know exactly what you mean about by trying to keep hold of that holiday spirit, Frances, it's something I try to do too. I think one of your cupcakes would make me feel quite festive!

    We didn't manage to buy tickets for the Hockney but a dear friend and went and described it as one of the best she'd ever seen.

  8. Yum...and so impressed at your 'last century' bread baking Frances...we had beautiful hot and sunny weather here all weekend, and I felt particularly smug as my old home town had torrential the vaccuming had to wait here too and I put a hammock up in the garden and relaxed with a book, something I rarely get a chance to do...bliss. Have a lovely week.

  9. I think I'm experiencing some of that post holiday feeling too and some days have felt like a real struggle (not helped by endless rain here in the UK) I hope your cupcakes helped... they look delicious.

  10. Frances, your cupcakes look so delicious! I think it would be very cheering to know one was waiting after a day at work.

  11. The cupcakes sound great! And I love the idea of freezing some so that you can have a fresh one every day. Such a simple idea, but one which I am embarrassed to say never occurred to me!

    Thanks for another interesting post.

    Hugs, Carol

  12. Lovely cakes...I could almost taste them. Hope your return to work is steady. JOan

  13. 4 oz each butter, white sugar and BeeRo cake flour
    pinch salt
    half tsp vanilla
    2 eggs

    all you need for perfect cup cakes/fairy cakes.....


  14. We are in the midst of an egg shortage in the UK due to the new EU rules about battery hens. Some cake manufacturers are considering egg substitutes.

    There is nothing so homely as the smell of baking, I can almost smell those lemon cakes! mmmmmmm.

  15. Mmmm, these look yummy! You just can't beat a bit of home baking - and it does't have to look perfect to taste perfect.

    It's good to be good to yourself! Enjoy!

  16. Now I feel you should be introducing Hockney to your baking: that would be the way to prolong your holiday - oh! and eating a cupcake for breakfast, just the sort of decadent and royalist thing we do all the time in the UK. Bring the woods of Yorkshire to your icing, design the cupcake on your iPad. Paint a picture with brightly coloured cupcakes; a tree, perhaps, with cupcake fruits, photographed from different angles in the morning mist and enlarged many times. Then hung (speak nicely to your doorman); and charge people to look at it.

    By the way I came across an Eileen Fisher advertisement the other day in the UK press. I thought perhaps they had crossed the Atlantic to chase you for I have never seen one before.

  17. Your cupcakes look delicious. I have not baked any in years but have seen a couple of blogs, just on cupcakes. I should not feel sorry though as in New Orleans last week we had some tasty bread pudding with praline Bourbon sauce – yum. Nothing like a little sweet tasty thing to enjoy life even more.

  18. Your cupcakes look delicious Frances! We always enjoy preparing them too. It's sort of soothing. Wish I could have tasted your cupcake with the lemon topping!

    Happy new week.

    Madelief x

  19. Frances, your little cakes look lovely, but Chris is the cake-scoffer in this house! We've been making sourdough bread since before Christmas now and haven't had to buy any commercially-baked bread at all. I did enjoy the cup cakes we were given on our 'Sex & The City' tour when we were in NY though!

  20. Cake to come home to ... nothing better :D

  21. Hi Frances, hope your week was as sweet as your daily cupcake :-).

  22. Dear Frances, how did I miss this post? These cupcakes look completely delicious. With the awful weather we continue to have here, I also find myself in the mood for baking. My problem is I can never be as disciplined as you and would certainly scoff an unhealthy amount of your cupcakes in one go, rather than sensibly freezing some!

  23. Today was a very wet and cold day. Like you I took comfort in a large piece of sticky toffee cake and ice cream at a cafe. Sometimes it is just what you need on a grey day.
    Now I am pleased to hear you are enjoying some sunshine.
    Did you find the oak apple or gall, hard to believe this makes the brown ink. So many things to experiment with, have you managed to use your inks.
    I spent a while in a book shop flicking through the very colourful Hockney book. It must have been interesting seeing it all, I watched online a short tour of some of the rooms.
    Enjoy the cakes, they look tasty. A nice treat. X

  24. From New York to Yorkshire! We used to live in the latter...

    I love the look of your cupcakes, and also your style in writing about the process!

    Thanks also for your kind and caring comments. I am indeed resting, and have sent my husband off to a party alone, as I felt I couldn't handle a big gathering this weekend.

  25. Your cupcakes made me smile. What a contrast to a busy New York life. I love the picture of the lemon ones on the blue and white plate. Very desirable!

  26. I love the sound of your lemon zest cupcakes. Im so pleased you enjoyed the Hockney exhibition , we live next to the road in the exhibition - woldgate. I used to pass him every day with his silver truck with it's cameras! I was reallly impressed by the pictures and bought far too many postcards!

  27. So good to find you Frances and Your cupcakes look delish! Your book recommendation is one I will definitely look into!

    2012 Artist Series featuring the gifted Decorative Painter Theresa Cheek

    Art by Karena

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