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Kitchen Therapy

Soft music playing the background. A chilled bottle of Sparkling juice and a wine glass are set out ever so carefully. Grey sweatpants. Favorite t-shirt. It may sound like the makings of a great date, but it is the usual scene for my favorite form of self-care called Kitchen Therapy. Having grown up in the South, food was often at the center of family gatherings and hold many important memories. A few years ago, I discovered the power of cooking and baking while working with adults in a residential treatment program for substance abuse. As they followed a simple recipe for a cake, I observed noticeable changes in their moods and overall attitudes. I decided to try it in my own life, and I noticed the same impact.

Kitchen therapy does not have to be fancy, and it can range from simple cookies to well decorated cakes. Many people are aware of the concept of emotional eating, but emotional baking may be a healthier way to process difficult feelings, especially when coupled with the service of giving baked goods to those who may also be struggling. There is something satisfying about seeing a cake come together and having the smell fill the house. For me, baking cakes remind me of all of the strong women in my life whose influence have shaped the man that I’ve become. Baking a red velvet cake, for example, connects me to my paternal great-grandmother, whose recipe has been down through three generations. My godmother’s Italian Cream Cake reminds of me summer afternoons sitting in her kitchen hoping to be able to lick the mixing bowl when she was done preparing the batter. My mother’s chocolate cake is the way that I connect to home when I am homesick.

One of the benefits of Kitchen Therapy is that it provides us with an opportunity to be productive and creative and step away from the craziness of our lives. So, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite recipes just in time for Spring—Key Lime Cupcakes! Enjoy!

 

Key Lime Cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

One 3-ounce package lime flavored gelatin

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

 

GLAZE:

1/2 cup key lime juice (from about 25 small key limes or 4 large regular limes)

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

ICING:

1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

One 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

 

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, granulated sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until well combined. Fill the liners ¾ full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes then sit on cooling racks to cool. The mix will yield about 36 cupcakes.

For the glaze: While the cupcakes are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar together well. Pierce the cupcakes with a toothpick to allow the glaze to soak in better and pour it over the cupcakes while still in the pan. Allow cupcakes to cool completely as you prepare the icing.

For the icing: Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth and easy to spread. For the teal color, use a combination of neon green and blue at the ratio of 50 drops of green to 4 drops of blue. Fill piping bag with icing and pipe on each cupcake. Top with golden gum ball.

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