Cupcake Wrecks

There should really be an emergency brake for life. Even a “check engine” light would be nice, for a bit of advanced warning when trouble is imminent. At bare minimum, airbags should come standard, right?

The signs become obvious only in hindsight, when we pick through the rubble to find where it all went wrong. Rather than one origin, one point of failure, an endless array of tiny fissures mar the surface of an otherwise solid foundation. Not cause for alarm by themselves, nothing that could ever bring down a building alone, but together, in concert, they set the stage for a crippling domino effect.

Overworked, under-slept, massively stressed, straining under oppressive deadlines, I still found myself incapable of simply saying “no.” Sound familiar? Each new opportunity sounded better than the last, and how could I possibly turn down good work? Passionate about what I do, I was living the dream, inundated by more jobs than I could handle! Everything was fantastic! Everyday was packed to the max, from the moment my sweet pup jumped on my head at 5am until I collapsed back into bed at midnight. The to-do list was endless, but I loved all of the work. If not for those harsh time constraints, it would have been perfect.

Perfection is a fallacy at best, a dangerous delusion at worst.

Suddenly, but of course, unsurprisingly, the careful cloth I was weaving began to unravel as the stitches became more hurried, sloppy, and periodically missed the mark.

Preparing for the San Francisco World VegFest a mere week after being added to the roster of speakers, I hurried to bake a hundred mini Self-Frosting Peanut Butter Cupcakes to accompany my demo, sharing some basic baking tips out of Sweet Vegan Treats. Sweet and simply, this was easy stuff; a recipe I’d been making with great success for over a decade, to great acclaim. For whatever reason though, everything was going wrong. Perhaps I had been distracted by the photo shoots scheduled for later in the day, or client emails that begged for attention. Pulling the first pan out of the oven, I was shocked to discover that I had forgotten the frosting swirl- The single most important part of the whole assembly! What’s more, my beautiful little cupcakes had transformed into bizarre biscuits, shaped like mittens, of all things. What on earth? I could only ask myself in dismay and disappointment. Where is your head, girl?!

They were ruined, beyond repair. Hastily, I slapped on shoes, taking off at a dead sprint out to Berkeley Bowl, hunting fresh ingredients to begin anew. This could still be salvaged. There was still just enough time…

Violently shaken down to my knees, the pavement suddenly rose to meet me with unforgiving impact. I instinctively gripped my battered knees, but it did nothing to the lessen the tremors. The very bottom has dropped out beneath my feet, as the ground shook angrily below. It was another earthquake, but not just another; it was the big one that everyone had warned about. The catastrophic event that California had been overdue to experience, that we should have expected from the start.

I looked up towards the hills, assessing the damage, when something even more devastating caught my eye. The volcano sitting high on the horizon, long dormant, now spewed glowing cascades of molten lava, thick and syrupy, down across the land. Smothering homes with abandon, the fires began to spread from bone-dry brush along the way, and smoke as thick as grey cotton filled the air. It was coming my way.

Scrambling on top of the nearest car to delay the inevitable, I watched as magma washed away carefully planted succulents lining the streets just ahead, swallowing each helpless plant whole as if they were the salad course before the main meal. I distinctly recall my final thoughts, as the tires began to melt from the sheer intensity of the heat: Well, at least I don’t have to do the cupcake demo tomorrow…

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