If you have read Just This Banjo, you know that my Aunt Mannie was a huge part of my childhood. She also meant a lot to my mother.
Mom spent summers growing up in a cabin along the Brandywine River in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Every August a box would arrive with a dozen blueberry cupcakes from Aunt Mannie.
Mom only made the recipe for me a handful of times when I was growing up. I have always wanted to try making them, but this is not like making a blueberry muffin. Muffins are loaded with sugar and have a bread-like texture. These are blueberry cupcakes. On paper the difference is just a word, but once you taste one of Aunt Mannie’s creations the raw simplicity hits like that moment in The Simpsons when Homer tastes a Ribwich for the first time. It is simple and made with love and most of all it’s good.
Go to the grocery store. Get some butter, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and a pint of blueberries. You will also need a muffin pan and some liners – but the store should have those too. The blueberries can be fresh or frozen. Cooking spray is also good to have.
Either leave half a pound of butter out to soften or zap it briefly in the microwave. Don’t melt it.
Wash your blueberries and check them for stems.
Don’t rush. Enjoy the process without worrying about the goal.
You will need a bowl to mix everything in and a spoon or a spatula.
Once you are ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get ready to make some cupcakes.
- Half pound of butter
- One and one half cups sugar
- Three eggs
- Three cups flour
- Four teaspoons (yes, you read that correctly.) of baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- A teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Once cup of milk
Cream the butter and sugar together until silky and smooth. Don’t let the kitchen become a mess. Clean up as you work.
Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract.
Add in the dry ingredients and mix into a shaggy (zoinks!) dough.
Slowly add the cup of milk while mixing. You may not need to add all the liquid. You want the batter to be thick but flowing.
Fold in the blueberries. Be gentle. Work with love.
Grease your muffin pan and add paper liners.
Spoon the berry and batter mix into your paper liners. Greasing the spoon will make work a bit easier. Do not overfill the liners. You don’t want big muffin tops. The baked cupcake should just dome over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes – but check it around 20 minutes.
Let them cool and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.
The taste? Light vanilla cake with big blueberries. Not overly sweet or complicated. It’s just good.
The recipe yielded eighteen muffins this morning.
Remember, these are small. These are simple. These will give the people you love the feeling my mom and I experienced when Aunt Mannie doted on us. There is something profound in loving somebody, but also in being somebody loved.
So, Mother’s Day was nice. Mom loved the cupcakes and said I did Aunt Mannie credit – high praise indeed!
I also shared some muffins with one neighbor and a loaf of white bread fluffier than cotton candy to another. There were some low points like Pooka proudly bringing me her first kill and getting all “Wow! I sure love killing stuff. I’m going to do this a lot.” You could see velociraptors juggling Balisong knives singing songs from Evil Dead The Musical in her murderous eyes.
Jesus, being a cat owner is a complicated moral juggling act.
Seeing mom taste one of the cupcakes, watching the scents, tastes and textures take her back to the Brandywine. I found myself humbled at the artistry of my Aunt Mannie. I have written books, sang songs and walked on the shores of other countries, yet I am still humbled by the uncomplicated artist of this small woman who went nowhere, had nothing and understood everything. I have so much left to learn, I have so much work to do, so much to let go before I even come close.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I lack the words to describe how grateful I am to have to in my life.
Thanks again, Aunt Mannie. Thank you for loving my mom. Thank you for loving me.