This is what kept me up last night:
1) Money worries- I know, everyone has them.
2) Hubby- He doesn’t have insomnia over money worries. He should be up at night pacing, budgeting and sharpening pencils. Instead he is in bed. Snoring.
3) Snoring. See above.
4) Middle daughter. Avery. She is 13. That should say it all. She wouldn’t speak to me for the last 24 hours because I refused to let her wear a wig at the dinner table.
5) Older (16 year old) daughter. Syd (technically also a middle child). She is home, had a wonderful trip to Guatemala. She has more energy than a freshly caged monkey on caffeine. She thinks she will now see more of the world. Instead of going straight to college, she wants to take a year off and “bum my way through Europe, working at odd jobs”.
6) A dear friend just told me that this summer she is moving to NC. Her daughter Bailey, one of Syd’s best friends, does not want to move with her family. She plans to stay here and finish her senior year. “Here” as in with us. I will have 2 girls, both blonde beauties, in their senior year of high school. This did not keep me up at night. I love Bailey. She’s a welcome surprise (I had a few of those already, what’s one more?). No problem. What kept me up? Syd. She is so excited about having her twin move in that she was up chatting. Until 1am.
7) New job. Okay- this is probably what is really keeping me up. I applied for a per diem nursing position at the local hospital. Just for kicks. I didn’t really care how it worked out. Now I care. It’s a great place. In the past 20 years I’ve worked primarily (except for “filling in”) at 2 hospitals. The last time I applied for a job I was 44. Now I’m 53. That just seems so much older. I’m sure all the other nurses will be experienced; but I’ve never been one of the oldest. They look so young. They probably don’t know who all the Beatles are. Or that Led Zeppelin ever had a farewell tour. Never mind a dozen of them.
So what do you do when you have insomnia? I cook. As in bake. What can I bake that will heal the wounded heart of a 13 year old girl? What will help open the door for friendships at the new job? My favorite strawberry-buttercream filled cupcakes. What else?
You can make them with any kind of cupcake. They were something I first did for a picnic, I needed something that would travel well. I started with yellow cupcakes.
Then, I make my favorite buttercream frosting. It’s not like any other. In order to make this you need potato starch. It’s like corn starch, but potato. I found it in the kosher food aisle. This recipe is from an old baking book by Jim Fobel. It’s my favorite go-to book on baking. It’s the one thing Syd wants “when you die”. She doesn’t want a copy. She wants the same old, broken spined, cover-missing, stained one that I use. Sweet. Anyway, per Jim F, you put 3 Tblsp potato starch in a saucepan. Then, you whisk in 1 cup milk, followed by 2 egg yolks and 1 cup of confectioners (also called powdered) sugar. When it is all mixed you cook it over a medium heat until it’s thick. At this point you should cover with plastic wrap (Jim says to transfer to a bowl and cover. I don’t bother- who needs one more dirty bowl?). Now, while this cools down, in a large bowl with electric mixer (preferably upright) beat 2.5 sticks of softened butter. That’s right. It’s called buttercream for a reason. Trust me- it’s worth it. Now add another cup of confectioner’s sugar. The original recipe is for 1/2 cup, but you need the extra because of the moisture in the strawberries. Again, trust me. After 2 minutes of beating, start adding and beating in the cooling custardy stuff. It’s okay if it’s a little warm. but it shouldn’t be hot. Beat in just a little at a time. By the time you are done it should be really light and fluffy. Next you beat in 1 tsp of vanilla. Now for the best part: the strawberries! You should wash them thoroughly first. Then separate 12 or 13 berries of similar size and color. The rest you chop into a very fine dice. Ideally the bits should be all less than 1/4 inch in size. The reason for the size issue is that they need to fit through the end of your pastry tip. If you don’t have a pastry tip- no worries. I’ll tell you how to fudge it in a minute. So stir the berries into the frosting. An ideal mix is close to 50:50. Now, prepare a pastry bag and tip as if frosting a cake. Use the biggest tip you can find. I have a special tip made just for filling cupcakes- forget it. The opening is too small. If you don’t have a pastry bag/tip, put all the frosting into a good, sturdy freezer type storage bag. Close the top after pressing out the air. Squeeze the frosting down to one corner, twist the top to make it look like a pastry bag. Snip off just a bit of the lower corner to squeeze frosting through. If you are using this you’ll need to make a hole in the top of each cupcake (a chopstick works well). Now squeeze the frosting into the cupcake, as much as you can fit in without making it explode. The exploded ones still taste good, they just aren’t pretty. Make sure that a little extra frosting sits at the top. Use a little confectioners sugar in a small strainer to sprinkle over the top. Now carefully remove each cupcake and transfer to serving plate/carrier, etc. Slice the reserved strawberries in half and press each half onto the blob of frosting at the top of cupcake. Now doesn’t that look pretty? You can safely cover with plastic wrap and there is no mess. I dropped off a dozen to the new job. They went over well. The other dozen was for the family. After 2 cupcakes the 13 year old is now speaking to me.