The Story of Mum, and her Christmas Parfait Cupcakes <3
My grandmother and I had a very special bond. One that to this day, I don't think I've ever duplicated with any other family member. We connected on multiple levels, especially creatively. I like to think she shared her creativity with me. Doll houses were her hobby of passion, and from a very young age, I remember that whenever my sister, Kara, and I were over my grandparent's house, every activity we ever did was creative. Playing with clay, painting miniature stacks of books my grandfather carved out of wood, or even constructing our own doll house with their help, I couldn't wait to see what it was that Mum had in store for us.
My prized Kitchen-aid mixer was the first item to go on my wedding registry, and Mum was the one who bought it for me. Out of all the other gifts, from the crystal Vera Wang champagne flutes, to the new espresso machine, it was the one I was most excited to see as I peeled back the silver and white bridal wrapping paper. Of course it was from my sweet and loving Mum. She knew it'd be my favorite. It was the single gift that gave me more ambition and sparked ideas quicker than I could take note. I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without it, and I think somehow, 5 years ago, she knew that.
Ever since she passed away on February 14, 2010, I had been torturing myself trying to think of a dessert I could name after her, as I do all my loved ones. At first, I had renamed an already existing coconut cupcake to Mum's Coconut Cream Cupcakes- since my mother's coconut cream pie was my grandmother's favorite- but I was never happy with it. It didn't feel as if I was truly honoring her in my own way. So, for months, I scoured my brain, searching the corners and folds of my mind for past memories, stories of her life in Paris, anything that could jump out at me, but nothing did.
As the holiday season approached, we were all saddened in knowing this would be our first Christmas without her. I would drive home from work at night with the windows down, feeling the cold breeze (for Miami, anyway) and be flooded with memories of Christmases past with her: helping her wrap presents, placing them all under the tree, the tiny Christmas decorations she made for the doll houses, a picture of her and I from my 2nd Christmas where she was telling me all the presents were gone, the Christmas ice cream parfaits she would make us... "That's it," I whispered, "That's IT." I remember when it hit me, I started crying for so many reasons. For how much I missed her, for this coming Christmas without her, for finally finding the answer to this thing that had been plaguing me for the last 10 months, and more than anything, because I felt her at that moment. There was a calmness that came over me, and I knew that
she had to be the one who placed the idea in my head.
As I pulled into my driveway, I sat in the car and conjured up how to make this Christmas Parfait Cupcake come to life. The Christmas parfaits were what she made for us 6 grandchildren every year. They were layers of vanilla ice cream, crushed candy cane, and crushed oreos. Many of us customized them, for example, I wanted only oreos and ice cream, and she never forgot those modifications, year after year. But despite our changes, even mine, I knew if I was going to make these, I had to do them how she originally intended to. I ultimately came up with a vanilla cupcake swirled with crushed oreos, a peppermint filling, and vanilla buttercream topped with crushed candy cane. I decided to debut them on the day of a Cupcake & Champagne Party I was already hosting, on her birthday of all days, December 12, I couldn't think of a better way to honor her.
During the chaos of setting up for a party, everyone and everything can get a little crazy; but as I started on these, there wasn't a single thing that went wrong, or second guess that I had. It was almost as if my hands were being guided by the creative ones of another's, and taking that first bite, I knew I had never been, nor would I ever be, happier, with anything else I made. My parents and my brother loved them, they're my brother's favorite flavor, even requesting them during this past summer. My sister, has never been a fan of peppermint, but because of who they were for, she knew she had to try them, and agreed the flavors were perfect. My grandfather, in his own special silent way, smiled, grabbed my arm and squeezed it, his way of saying "Good job", and my aunt Sandy and I cried for a second as I discussed the night in which the idea came to me.
I made them for our family Christmas dinner, and was anxious for my out of town cousins, Shana, Jordan and Lainey, aunt Cindy and uncle Sheldon to try the cupcakes that had our special Mum's name on them. Their reactions were just like the other's. I was so happy that I managed to conceive of, construct, and have them for our first Christmas without her. Even though there's no comparison, I felt it was the best possible way for us to feel her there.
And to top off the icing on the cupcake, they are the most popular holiday flavor. All those who try them are completely surprised by them, and certainly can't limit themselves to only having one. They evoke holiday cheer in every way, just as she did. Every time I make them, it's a quiet time of reflection and love for me. I make them slowly and lovingly, in my beloved Kitchen-aid mixer, and every time they turn out precisely, exactly, completely, as she intended them to be.
"So much of me is made of what I learned from you, you'll be with me like a hand print on my heart."