by Kerry Knight

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, around the time Neil Armstrong went on his lunar bounce, I decided to make my own Apollo Spacecraft and follow space suit. I had it all worked out; the motor would come from one of my dad’s several kaput lawnmowers, the chassis would be built from our neighbour’s dog house (a few alterations were required) and the space suit would be fashioned from my sisters’ Wellingtons sewn to a sleeping bag. A goldfish bowl would serve as my helmet, topped with the rabbit ears stolen from the downstairs TV.

I proudly showed my Crayola’d plans to my father who demurred with his characteristic understatement that my plans appeared a tad “ambitious.”

A new word for me, ambitious, so after a few parsecs of somber contemplation I asked, “Does ‘ambitious’ mean that I am probably not going to do it?”

Which brings us to the latest offering by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, What’s New Cupcake? Ingeniously simple designs for every occasion. The follow-up to the New York Times best seller, Hello Cupcake, WNC is an undertaking for the morbidly ambitious, which suggests that the working title might have been, Hello Cupcake, Good-bye Life.

Here, from the introduction, is a list of “Essential Tools for Cupcaking” (that new verb):

– freezer weight ziplock bags (1 quart and 1 pint)

– food colouring

– toothpicks

– wax paper

– copy paper

– craft paper

– craft tweezers

– offset tweezers

– offset spatula

– wooden skewers

– regular scissors

– craft scissors

– rubber spatula

– metal craft strips

– small rolling pin

– coloured cupcake liners (different sizes)

– small paintbrushes

– small serrated knife

– ruler

– pastry wheel

– transparent tape

Got it? These are the “Essential” tools. The book has other presumably less essential tools making special guest appearances throughout. Some of you may remember an episode of Green Acres where Eva Gabor decides to bring Eddie Albert on a picnic. When they arrive at the perfect picnic site, Eva unpacks her picnic basket while Eddie rubs his hands together in anticipation of an aestival repast. Out of the basket comes a blanket, a full set of dishes, silverware, water glasses, wine goblets and bric a brac that would overstuff Sarah’s House or get Martha Stewart her own episode of Hoarders.

When Eddie asks, “Where is the food?” she ingenuously replies, “Oh Dahling, there was no room for food!”

So for those of you that are expecting cupcake recipes, forget it. This book is not about recipes; it is about tarting-up store bought crap.

Here are some of the “ingredients” in one recipe for disaster called “Chinese Takeout”:

– 6 vanilla cupcakes baked in white paper liners

– 2 tablespoons small light green jelly beans (Jelly Belly)

– 4 orange fruit chews (Tootsie fruit rolls)

– 3 yellow fruit chews (tootsie fruit rolls, Starburst)

– 1 ¼ cups puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies)

– 1 ¼ cups canned vanilla frosting

– ¼ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

– 2 strands green licorice twists (Twizzlers, Rainbow Twists) thinly sliced diagonally

– 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce (optional)

Not sure where to source all of this? No problem, the book includes two pages of resources for Baking Supplies, Party and Craft Supplies and Gourmet Candy supplies. In fact, the photo of Ms Tack on the back page depicts her deliriously grinning at the camera, one arm crammed with eight containers of candy and the other reaching for more.

It probably goes without saying that these projects are not for the kiddies, families, first dates or relationships on thin ice. I know, even without attempting any of these that they would all end up looking like a dogs breakfast, not that I would feed any of this to a dog, let alone a human. For example, for those of you that want to go that extra mile, here is the first line of a recipe for a cupcake, should you wish to bake your own: “1 box cake mix”.

Frosting is a mix of icing sugar, butter and a “container of Marshmallow Fluff”.

I am not a curmudgeon, or Scrooge, nor even a realist. I understand that this book is all about fun, and fun it is, especially if you enjoy words like “squeegee” (verb) “dribbling,” “dollop,” “swirl” and sage advice such as “And remember, less is never more.” This is not a cookbook, it is a craftbook, and it is a thing of beauty to behold. Weighing in at over 200 pages, the brilliant photographs are breathtaking, the finished products are mind boggling and perfect, whimsical and guaranteed to make you marvel. I doubt that you would want to eat any of the creations painstakingly and meticulously crafted, but it makes a great coffee table book, or more appropriately, a great gift to someone who has everything but still needs more.

And if you do attempt any of the recipes, let me know, I’ll reserve a seat on my spacecraft for you and fly us both to the moon.

Kerry Knight is a starving writer who has been eating all his life. Growing up in a family with eight others, he learned to read devouring the collected works of Kate Aitkin and Mary Moore. He lives in Parkdale and regularly cooks for his wife Ivy and his three dogs, Poppy, Betty and Peabody. His Motto is “Will Poop for Food”.