I Want 12 Cupcakes and I Want Them Now…

Posted on April 9, 2011


Dear Lego Castle,

Since the boys received more late birthday gifts the castle that took two days to build was moot. The new toy that Matteo had was the next best thing so he decided that this toy was going to destroy the castle. Piece by piece it shattered on the marble until he finally knocked the entire thing down and it burst into tiny parts all over the dining room floor. He and I were alone since Tommaso had basket-ball practice and the parents were getting blood work. I woke up at 7:40 to make myself available for the boys but they left me alone until about 9. Soon as Tommaso was out the door Matteo attacked the castle with full force. I asked him who was going to clean it up and he shrugged. Like me, I believe that he understands me but doesn’t know how to respond all the time. I told him, “not me!” and pointed to myself. So he mimics me and tells me it won’t be him either. “Then who?” I ask him. (chi???) He looks around the house and pretends to pick someone out and says, “ummm Tommaso?” I tell him probably not. He says, “Papa?” “No. I think you are!” I tell him and pretend to cross my arms like I am upset but I am laughing with him. I tell him that he should clean it up because I wasn’t going to. I went for a drink of water through the kitchen and he rushes past me to the balcony to the washing machine and cleaning supplies. He is making a lot of noise so I peek out the window to see what he is up to. Happy with his choice he runs past me again with a giant broom. Sweeping the mess into one large pile under the table he tells me he is “fatto!” (done!) Right then the keys to the front door find its way through a twist and turn and S is in the doorway greeting us. Matteo points to his “cleaned up” version of the Lego mess and S asks what happened to the castle. We shrug once more and laugh after giving each other our “nod.” I had just gotten Matteo dressed and ready so he could go play outside with his dad while I went shopping for a birthday gift for mio ragazzo. I showered and was out the door in less than thirty minutes.

I decided to wear my new sandals and admire my pretty pink toes. I cringe when I realize just how dirty the streets of Rome are and how dirty I might get. Once I began walking I feel they are  too new and stiff so I didn’t want to chance getting blisters or have them hurt my feet. Since I plan to wear them tomorrow for the BBQ I stepped carefully and get on the bus. I am getting nervous thinking about how many people will end up at his birthday party. I am always excited to see his mother but I think his brother and uncles and cousins will show up and it may be like Big Fat Greek Wedding….I wonder how many “Nick’s” there are in his family? Once I am near Via del Corso I get off the bus and walk towards the Ferrari shop. I have not been there before but I knew that it was near Fendi, a direction I typically avoid since I know that I can’t afford much in there. I see a huge sign that informs me that Ferrari is about 50 meters from the corner where I was. I walk slowly by the Fendi shop and drool over shoes and perfect purses. Once inside Ferrari I am greeted and I look around with purpose and I am determined to find the right key chain for him. I was hoping for a red one since the car that crashed into us was red but there were only yellow ones for less than 36 euros. The one I really liked was a whopping 145! I have expensive taste I suppose. I consider a money clip but then ask to make sure that is what is displayed in the window.  A fellow American shopper laughs behind me and quietly tells me that it is not a money clip at all. It is a book marker! We laugh, or he laughs at me rather, and I ask if there are money clips to pretend I am still interested. Pretty expensive as well and I don’t think that he would prefer a money clip. He is more the wallet type guy. I decided between two yellow ones and thank the sales person for their help. As I leave the store I wonder if the sealed box has a price tag attached the chain? Oh well I am not wasting the sticker and opening it. I hope that he likes it and sees my sarcastic humor in the gift. Sarcasm is not a language picked up by these foreigners. Of perhaps I am just not serious enough since I always am joking around? The cupcakes are the best gift anyway. I personally made them for him and I find it (ewwww can’t believe I am admitting this..) cute and more thoughtful to make him something by hand. Plus, now I am contributing to the food for the BBQ.

The cupcakes have been a weeklong fiasco. It is not as simple to go out and buy a cupcake mix in a box and slop some frosting on like at home. This takes a group of Italian woman (3 plus me), an Italian dictionary and a lot of gathering of ingredients. Yesterday, I found the mix, some berries and some (hopefully?) whipped frosting cream of some sort. To begin, I needed the cupcake plastic molds to put in the muffin tin. T went and found those after her blood was drawn but when she came home I found that there were only a package of 8. I need 12 for a full dozen to fill the pan. There is an extra lonely 9th in the cabinet. I tell her that the ones that I am thinking of are like paper-thin, not aluminum like the ones she found. I ask her why there are only 8 and she tells me that while she was on her motor bike that the second package flew out while she was driving! Then she tried to retrieve it and she ran it over! I laugh and tell her it is kind of funny and she finally agrees and laughs with me. These cupcakes are quite the process. I try my best to explain the alternative cups that I am used to but she argues that you cannot put paper in the oven. I try again to tell her that it is more like plastic. She tells me that can’t go in her oven either. Va bene. I tell her that I will try my best to find some cups like I have in mind and it will all work out. Of course it is only 2:30 and everything is closed till 3:30 or 4 since Italians are smart and take 3 hour lunch breaks. Everyday. I leave anyway to get some air and try to figure out how I am going to make these cupcakes happen. I also need something to transport them in. I take a deep breath and remind myself to just focus on one problem at a time. For now, I need cups. I walk over to the party shop that must have them. It is closed until 4. I have an hour. I decide to head to the two supermercato’s since they never close during the day to double-check for cups. I find the same ones she got earlier but lucked out since these had a dozen. If you have not flashed on Father of the Bride when he wants 12 hotdog buns and 12 hotdogs to go with it then you must at this moment! I felt like that when she showed me the 8-pack. Who needs only 8? Has anyone ever seen a muffin pan with only 8? Show me. “I will tell you why we don’t calm down; because you’re not excited!”

I decide to just buy them since I don’t really want to wait an hour just to probably be let down at the party shop. I was still unsure if the “cake” mix was going to in fact work when forced into little cups instead of one giant baking pan. For some reason I walked the back way around to the store, avoiding the vendors that are always set up near the store. Everyday is different it is incredible. Some days there are kitchen supplies, scarfs and socks, underwear and bras, pajamas, nylons, earrings and jewelry and once in while gadgets and DVDs. You never know what each day will be like and it is always interesting. Once I buy the aluminum dozen I walk back out the store and slowly pass the venders. I stop dead in my tracks when I see a pile of cupcake molds! No way!!! I give the vendor a single euro and have my hands on 50 green cupcake cups! I go back to the store to return the aluminum ones and face some problems. I try my best to tell the same cashier that I don’t want these anymore and want my money back. He calls someone else over and I try again, in my best Italian attempt.  He tells me, “so you don’t want them anymore and you want your money back?” In English! I laugh and ask him why he didn’t just stop me when he knew that I spoke better English. He tells me that it was fun to watch me get mad and doubt myself. Ouch. He then tells me that he understood me enough in Italian but the other guy didn’t because I spoke too fast. Good and bad feedback. He gives me the 3 euro back and tells me to have a nice day. In English. Smartass. A mix of vanilla bean gelato and some crazy mixture with marscarpone, orange rind, hazelnut and chocolate on a cone calm my nerves and bring me back down to a normal state of mind.

I run home and am super excited to show T the right cups. She reads the back of the packaging and tells me that she is unsure if they should be places in the oven since there is not a logo that says they can be in the oven. I assure it will be fine. She tells me that it says to not put them directly under a flame! I was not ever going to use the cups as a tiny saute pan! Man, this woman makes me laugh so much my abdominal muscles hurt. Her mother is there now and so she asks her to help me prepare the mix and tell me what to do since I cannot read the Italian directions. T is working on her own dessert for her brother. A strawberry crostata. Her mom “yells” at me to do everything she says and I ask T to confirm if I understand when I am unsure. I crack 3 eggs,  pour the mix, add 125 grams of butter and 80 ml of milk in a large mixing bowl. We then pull out the hand mixer which is like a giant milk frother; not the hand mixer like the photo. The one with the two whisks that spin around each other. That is one kitchen tool she does not have. We all nod in compliance and nana gets a towel to cover half the bowl but I can just see the flour mix going everywhere. I get T to translate that I must mix it by hand first and then for the 3 minutes we can use the giant frother mixer. She lets me but stands in her same spot guarding the bowl. Once it is mixed she tells me “basta!” (enough!) and motions for me to use the mixer for 3 minutes. There are still some chunks of butter and she is frowning at my batter and pointing to them. She puts her hands over mine and I offer to just hand the mixer over but she tells me no. I hold the button down and she “steers” over the butter slabs and together we finally make it smooth and nice. I felt like a little kid standing on a chair cooking for the first time with my parents. I ask for permission to pour the batter. Once more we all get into it why I am not just putting it into one pan like the directions tell me. I just want cupcakes damnit! We met when I had cupcakes for my birthday; I want to give him cupcakes on his birthday! It is simple to me but they are looking at me like I am nuts. Maybe I am crazy. Trying to Italian-ize cupcakes is no easy task. I am not even finished with the cupcakes yet. They came out pretty perfect and golden but I must wake up early (again!) and make the whip and decorate the cakes with the berries and powdered sugar. I like that their powdered sugar translates to something like a “veil.” A veil of sugar to finish them and make them look pretty. I will share a photo of the final product tomorrow and perhaps show these Italian ladies that it was worth all the trouble!


Posted in: When in Rome