chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting: stars, stripes, and some inauguration cupcakes

It was a self-imposed exile that kept us away from our technologically-appropriate glitzy LCD screen and comfortable couches in the living room.
We had shuffled ourselves into this tiny, forgotten playroom (created out of a sliver of the garage only to end up serving as a cemetery of misfit Barbie heads and long-forgotten Super Heroes) in order to allow our cleaning ladies, who where there for their allotted weekly clean, to go about the business of organizing our disastrous home.
Still, Barack Obama was minutes away from being inaugurated as the first African American president and we weren’t going to miss that moment over an issue of hygene.
We sat in that room side by side, transfixed by the teensy 17″ cube dinasour of a television won by our daughter at a local raffle years ago, and as the day’s events unfolded before us, I turned to my husband to see his eyes begin to well up with tears.”What are ya, gonna cry?” I inquired in disbelief.
I’m not sure why I asked my husband the question I asked. After all, I’d seen the man cry over Hallmark ads and images of lost puppies, nothing nearly as monumental as this event.
I’d seen him watching our nine year-old daughter run wild through the garden, her sun-drenched mangled curls fighting any idea of neatness, her clothes splattered with old pudding stains; dirt and whatever other elements she encountered worn proudly on her face.
And where any parent could have used this as an instructional opportunity:
‘Daniela go brush your hair, put on shoes for crying out loud, clean your face, change your clothes’, I’ve looked at him and seen him quietly and proudly tear up instead.

I get it.
He can’t believe his little baby girl is growing up.
Or that one day she will be a beautiful woman.
Or that he and I actually pulled off creating such a special kid.
I envy the tearing up. More often than not, I am one of those parents too busy screaming for shoes and hair detangler and piano practice; too caught up in the day-to-day craziness of being a mom to relish in the Hallmark cheesiness of it all. I wish I were more capable of leaving the details alone and shedding a tear or two, whether they be of joy or pride or even puppy dogs.
So maybe I do know why I asked the question after all.
“It’s a moment in history” he managed to croak out in defenseless self-defense.
I knew I had to soften my blow and tell him it was okay to cry today, and at this moment of all moments.
(And that, by the way, I dig that you cry at puppies and sunsets too.) I knew one would have to be inhuman not to feel some ounce of pride, amazement, and inspiration viewing millions of people bearing the frigid weather to watch this man being inaugurated as our 44th president.
After all, hadn’t I pestered my children the entire morning as they ate their breakfast, tied their shoes, and grabbed their backpacks:
“Remember this day,” I had begged.

“Remember this day.”

But I was too proud to apologize with words, so instead I offered a smile and a quiet nod of acknowledgment. We huddled closer in our hideaway as the vacuum cleaner buzzed and the broom banged about in our soon-to-be cleaned house.
Side by side in our tiny, messy playroom we watched from our wee t.v. screen as history took front stage in our day.
There were marches and bands and a fabulous quartet and in the end, there was Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.
I gave an extra hand squeeze during that one, and when he was done, stood up and proudly declared, “Today, I am making Obama Cupcakes.”
And yes, as those words spilled out, so did a tear or two.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

(adapted from Cupcakes, by Shelly Kaldunski)

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup lukewarm water
¼ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with liners.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
In a mixer on medium speed, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the water and buttermilk, beating on low speed until just combined.
Beat on medium-high speed just until no traces of flour remain, about 30 seconds. Do not overbeat.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full.
Bake 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
Frost with buttercream frosting, add additional stars and sprinkles.

Buttercream Frosting:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup sugarpinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Star and sprinkle decorations

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar.
Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch, about 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan.
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition.
If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more.
Add the vanilla and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Makes 12 cupcakes

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chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting: stars, stripes, and some inauguration cupcakes

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