, Salem, MA


December 24, 2012

Column: A lesson for the New Year


For the nose and whiskers I’d bought tubes of frosting gel, a product used for writing on cakes. My first attempts were not good. The tubes were small and the gel tricky to handle. Instead of fine lines for whiskers, I had runny red squiggles. This brought me to the kitty ears, my pièce de résistance. The ears would salvage the project. Originally I’d debated what to use. White paper, I thought, would be cheating. I needed something edible, such as matzo balls or Wonder Bread. Browsing the supermarket aisles, I had a flash of inspiration: marshmallows! They were white, pillowy, and sweet. A perfect choice for kitty cat ears.

Yet working with marshmallows proved nearly impossible. For one thing, you don’t cut them, you saw them. Marshmallows, I discovered, don’t cooperate. They deflate and even with a serrated knife, won’t yield. The knife was followed by scissors and finally, an x-acto knife. The results were sticky bits that didn’t resemble cat ears so much as horns. To their credit, however, they stuck to the cupcake’s surface.

Meanwhile the butter in the frosting, reacting to the warm kitchen, began to melt. And because my cupcakes were bulbous and not flat like the magazine cupcakes, the frosting began to slide. It took the kitty faces, and in its wake left a smeary mess.

At that point I was glad to give it up. I’d lost faith in the cupcakes and should have quit at the peanut stage. But rather than toss them out, I threw red and green sprinkles into the remaining frosting and plastered it over each surface. “Delicious cupcakes,” I was later told at the party.

It’s a lesson I’ll take into the New Year, should I set unrealistic goals for myself: Sometimes you have to settle for less. You move on and try again. And while you’re at it, don’t measure your efforts against a magazine’s artificial image. After all, they have stylists and you don’t.


Sharon L. Cook of Beverly is the author of the mystery “A Nose for Hanky Panky” and the newly released “The Legend of Judgment Rock and other Mystery Stories,” available at bookstores and online. Read more at

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