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Uh oh, here’ goes… Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes, Eventually

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(Warning: if you just want the cupcake recipe and not a long rant, scroll all the way down past the raging diatribe to the next picture.  Enjoy!) 

I’m feeling impulsive.  Big time.  Like, unreasonably-going-into-debt impulsive. 

This angsty feeling I’ve had the last month or so that I’ve tried to ignore by baking every single freaking day is going to get me in trouble.

I may have to do one of two things:

A)   Paint the entire inside of my house white, or ecru, or very very light gray.  (In order to provide a more photogenic background for my blog photos, of course.  I am deeply committed to this baking-writing hobby if you haven’t noticed.) 


B)   Go back to school. 

Which of the above-mentioned investments sounds less unreasonable to you?  Really, this is not a rhetorical question, I could use a little help here.  And please acknowledge that double negative so I know you’re paying attention.  (Aw quitchyerbitchin.  Did you not realize this blog would eventually try to challenge your linguistics?  Sheesh.  I will assume you don’t really want to discuss the difference between the phrases “more reasonable” and “less unreasonable,” and instead, we will move along.)

See, while some people actually buy my carefully-crafted internet persona, the truth is that I suffer cyclical bouts of major insecurity and self-doubt in both my Day Job and, surprisingly, this new blogging thing.  I just know that I could be much better at both of them.  Unfortunately it seems much easier and far less expensive to improve the skills I use in blogging (baking, writing, photography, food styling) than it is to increase my legal knowledge.  Another reason I’ve been focusing my energy on blogging rather than my real career issues is that my personality seems to work a lot better in the blog world than it does in the courtroom or the boardroom.  In baking & blogging, I can hide behind my laptop and not confront any real human beings ever, if I don’t want to.  I can even delete comments if I don’t like them.  This kind of one-sided dialogue works very well for me.  =D

I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive to criticism.  I also shouldn’t compare myself to other people but it’s impossible not to.  I practice law with my husband.  I’m pretty sure he’s the greatest lawyer I have ever met and will ever meet in my entire life.  I’m not biased, either.  He really is.  He’s brilliant, and totally cool, and a major perfectionist.  He is patient, persistent, flexible, approachable, sympathetic, understanding, creative…  Seriously, I’m not exaggerating.  He has every good quality an effective advocate, teacher and negotiator should have.  He’s also pretty darn good looking, too, which adds insult to injury.  (Luckily for me, though, he isn’t perfect.  The man is uber top-heavy and has no sense of balance so he cannot go kayaking or do yoga without falling and making himself look like a total dweeb.  Thank God he has a flaw.  I can’t tell you how much I wish I had a picture of him to insert here right now, coming up out of the water next to his kayak looking incredibly surprised and very drenched – the image in my head is priceless.)  

Okay, to my credit I do have one useful talent:  I’m generally one of the best legal analysts & writers in town.  

That’s the extent of my skills, though.  I’m impatient, skeptical, harsh, cold-hearted, inflexible and uptight.  I do not have a mind for sales or negotiating.  And my favorite word in the English language is “OBJECTION!”  Followed closely by, “facts not in evidence … attorney testimony  … SPECULATING!”  In that tone of voice, too.  With my eyes wide open in shock accompanied by jazz hands.  I have been known to mutter under my breath the occasional “pshh, whatever,” or (hissing) “liar” in court, too.  I just can’t keep my mouth shut.  

This job is for the birds.  

BUT.  I really love it.  Parts of it, anyway. And even when I really hate it, I love to hate it.  

The thing I don’t love is feeling ineffective.  I also don’t love not knowing something I want to know or should know in order to help a client move their business forward.  I also hate it when I lose the battle against my will to keep my mouth shut.  

I want to take a class on how to master the proper passive-aggressive posture and tone of voice to use when replying thusly: “Hm [thoughtful-sounding pause] interesting…” because I think that’s the single most effective and non-committal response a lawyer can make to any statement or question, no matter how crazy.  It at once acknowledges what the other person said while reserving the right to respond in substance at a later time.  Brilliant.  

I need to figure out how to do that.  

There are times I pride myself on being decisive and quick-witted.  There are times I enjoy my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings clearly, concisely and promptly. 

There are other times I want to punch myself in the face for being a Mouth and saying something I shouldn’t have or using a totally honest inappropriate tone of voice.  

Yes, I do realize there’s not a lot about these issues I could change by going back to school.  However, another degree or some audited classes could help diminish the few insecurities I can more readily control, mainly a lack of deep understanding of tax law, bankruptcy and corporate securities.  

This is so strange, looking back.  Five and a half years ago I said there was no reason I would ever need to go back to school.  I have achieved one of the highest levels of American education available.  What the heck makes me think I need another degree???  Normal people don’t even know what an LLM is (Master of Laws, fyi).  And I should probably be able to learn more about those Lost Topics by attending seminars or webcasts, or by reading on my own.  But there’s no pressure or incentive in that.  If there’s no test, no one who cares if I attend or take notes, no fear of being humiliated in class if I don’t do the assigned reading, then I’m not likely to do it.  I learned eight million random legal things for the bar exam through self-study.  I have since forgotten nine million random legal things.  I’m a pro at crashing & test-taking.  I am not so good at learning things permanently unless there’s real pressure to do so.  Honest.  I just rely on my photographic short-term memory.  How embarrassing is that?  

I disgust myself for even admitting it.  

Anyway, what should I do?  Really.  Does anyone have first-hand experience with the Dale Carnegie program and if so, is it really possible to train yourself to overcome personality weaknesses, communicate more effectively, learn how to be a salesperson or negotiator?  

It’s either personal business training or more academic education.  Self-discipline isn’t going to cut it.  

Or should I just go to Home Depot for paint? 

Oh, you came here to see pretty pictures of baked goods, didn’t you?  How about the most perfect pumpkin chai cupcakes ever?  Mmm hm, most definitely! 

I admit, these are from last year.  And – and – I made them with a boxed mix.  Why that makes me feel guilty is beyond me.  Boxed white cake mix is the BEST.  I have not yet found a comparable scratch recipe that’s so light & fluffy and bakes up dependably every time.  My use of the Box is not for lack of trying to bake from scratch or anything, it’s truly a well-informed choice.  Guilt bedamned.  So, this is it: 

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

Pour one dry white or yellow cake mix into a bowl.  Add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/8 tsp ginger, whisk to combine. 

In a large measuring cup or medium-sized bowl, melt 1 stick of butter (or use 1/4 cup vegetable oil, depending on whether your boxed mix calls for butter or oil, I prefer a butter-recipe white mix, though), add 1 cup cooled strong tea (this is one thing that makes these subtly chai flavored), 1cup canned pumpkin and 3 egg whites.  Blend with a hand mixer for one minute.  (For the record, I reserve the right to adjust this recipe since I wrote it down a LONG time after the first time I made these, and I’m not entirely sure the measurements are perfect – this sounds like a tad too much moisture to me.)  Anyway…

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend just shy of 2 minutes. 

Portion out into 24 cupcakes using a an ice cream scoop and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Watch them carefully through the door with the light on the last 3 minutes. 

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then on a wire rack until the cupcakes are room temp.  

Filling – simple:  blend 1/2 cup canned pumpkin into 1 cup cool whip with a couple dashes of the same spices as in the cake mix.  Adjust to taste if it’s not pumpkin-y enough for you.  There is zero science to making cream fillings out of cool whip, it’s all taste & texture, just don’t blend it too aggressively or it will turn to soup. 

Once the cupcakes are cooled, carve a small cone out of the top and pipe the filling in with a piping bag or a Ziploc with the corner cut off.  Eat the cake scraps (quality control, my friends, it is your responsibility).    

Frosting –my favorite and here’s the recipe:  Smitten Kitchen’s Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  For these cupcakes, I added cinnamon & nutmeg, probably a teaspoon of cinnamon & 1/4 tsp nutmeg.  Pipe frosting on top with a 1M star tip and then sprinkle nutmeg on top for that real Chai aroma. 

Enjoy!  Next time, you can help me decide what shade of white to paint my kitchen =D  Then we can talk about how great of a painter I am.  NOT!


About kozubalk

Lawyer by day, baker by night, full time creative spirit.

8 responses »

  1. Well, first and foremost you need to stop being so hard on yourself! You have accomplished more in these last few years than most people ever accomplish. That being said, I feel EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Every day. A crushing fear that I will never be good at what I do and that I’m not committing to the right things, thus spreading myself too thin and not being good at anything. BUT, you ARE good at being a lawyer, a wife, a life partner (I’m assuming this, but pretty sure it’s true), and a baker/blogger. You seem to take all of this on with such high standards for yourself, which I might have to say Architecture School helped bring on. Just sayin’. It seems to me that it would make you feel better to take some classes on the stuff you don’t know much about. Is there another way you could learn it? Also, just because you don’t know something NOW doesn’t mean the knowledge won’t come in time with practice and the willingness to endure the feelings of insecurity at not knowing. I’m the pot calling the kettle black here, of course, because I am the same way- but I believe that you’re not giving yourself enough credit. Rome wasn’t built in a day, remember? Relax, find some blogs that can help inspire you (one of my faves is Becka recently wrote a post dedicated to a email I sent her about how I feel overwhelmed and hope that I get better eventually). I think you should paint your house, because you will always be creating (whether it’s cakes, or invitations, or something else- you are a creative soul and you will always want to share that with the world). You should also become engaged in the mere joy of learning Law, not feeling insecure that YOU DON’T KNOW. Just embrace the fact that you are going to be learning new things, but what sets you apart is that you admit it and embrace it. You’re lucky to have your husband as a supportive partner (in work and at home) but do you think that he could bake and decorate beautiful cupcakes to save his life? You bring so much more to his and your clients’ lives by just being who you are- a caring (honest), creative, lovely, beautiful person and you can’t learn that anywhere. I personally think that Architecture school created a lot of bad feelings toward ourselves (maybe it was always there, but they def pushed me over the edge). Embrace your learning curve, accept that you are not as knowledgeable as you’d like to be, and enjoy learning. Don’t freak out on yourself so much. I wish I was you all the time!

  2. Pumpkin chai cupcakes? Yes please! These look and sound amazing.

  3. your blog is great and instead of painting your whole kitchen just grab a couple white foam boards. i mean you totally can paint your kitchen but you don’t have to in the name of blogging. there are a ton of cheats that cost very little that spruce up your pics. not that mine are great but they are getting better 😉

    I also totally have a problem with keeping my mouth shut sometimes. lol.

  4. I totally love your Pumpkin Chi Cupcakes… If I recall correctly that was my B-day present last year and might I say the yummiest (is that a word?) present I have ever received and they were baked with love… i could taste it! So you see you can go on and on about your imperfections but we that know you, know a secret or two… you are wonderful and amazingly kind, talented, good hearted and a great (IWIWAC) girlfriend. You also make the best cupcakes ever and I would be happy to help you with pictures and how to create a portable place to stage your photos so they come out beautiful!!!

  5. Pingback: Pumpkin Cream Pie (er, cake) « legallybaked

  6. Pingback: Clear liquids and homemade dinner rolls « legallybaked

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