It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lady on the receiving end of unprovoked histrionics must be in want of some Random Acts of Cupcake therapy.

And so it was today, after receiving reproaches of the most iniquitous and unjust kind, that I sallied forth bearing alms for my fellow villagers in the guise of dainty, delicious and positively delectable cupcakes.

OK, so I can't keep up this Jane Austen schtick any longer. I guess you've figured out what prompted this week's random act. And I must confess something, dear reader, this was not a random act in the purest sense of the phrase. I'd actually visited David and several other of his elderly neighbours in their units around the corner from me several weeks earlier. Some friends who run youth groups around town had asked me to show some teenagers how to make cupcakes with a view to distributing the finished product to some older folk living nearby. Sort of like a fun community service activity. Anyway, that experience gave me the opportunity to meet some great older people, and it got me thinking that maybe I'd found some regular cupcake recipients to add to my exclusive VIP list of regular, non-random recipients.
 
So after work today, I loaded up my cupcake box and went round to see if David, one of the residents, was home. He was indeed, having a chat on his front landing with his mate Bob, also a resident. They both seemed delighted to receive the cupcakes (I gave away six this time, instead of my usual one). David did admit, however, that the first time he'd been on the receiving end, he'd worried it was possibly a scam. as he'd been the victim of a scam once before and it had since made him very wary of strangers.
 
Bob asked me: "So what's in it for you?" which is a good question. I told him that it gave me a good feeling to perform a random act of cupcake and that it was just a simple gesture to try and help build more trust in our neighbourhood and help kindle a spirit of community. And that's the honest truth. Many people in my neighbourhood live in corrugated iron- clad fortresses, rarely if ever spending time getting to know their neighbours. Until recently, I was one of those people. But not anymore.

I have to admit, though, that Random Acts of Cupcake is not altruistic. If I was motivated by pure altruism, I certainly wouldn't be publishing my exploits in blog or any other forum. What I didn't mention to Bob was that  performing random acts of kindness can be good for your health. For more information, check out this page on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website. And I have to say that after copping unfair flack at work today, this random act of cupcake really buoyed my spirits. The tension headache that had been looming for the greater part of the day lifted and I felt light and good and calm.

By the way, in case you're wondering why there is no photo of Bob and David, I decided not to ask them for one. All I wanted to do today was to give them cupcakes in return for absolutely nothing. And it felt good.

I have, however, included a photo of the cupcake for your edification.
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This week, I went random by creating my own recipe.

Chocolate and ginger cupcakes with honey and yoghurt

What you need:
225g self raising flour
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
125g glace ginger
2 eggs
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
100ml milk
200g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp honey

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Put about 20 cupcake cases in your cupcake tin.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat in.

3. In another bowl, combine the flour with the cocoa powder.

4. Add the dry mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well. Gradually mix in the milk.

5. Add the ginger pieces and mix thoroughly.

6. Spoon the batter into the paper cases. Bake for about 20 minutes. Put on a rack to cool.

7. To make the topping, mix the natural yoghurt and honey. Spoon a dollop onto each cupcake.

And so it is with a saddened heart that I bid you adieu for now, dear reader. It is, however, with much joy and cheer that I remain yours in randomness.
 
A word to the wise: don't attempt a random act of cupcake in the centre of town, even if you live in a sleepy little hollow like I do. Urban centres are simply giant rat mazes and the people are really just rodents scurrying about in the maze, focused solely on getting the cheese whilst avoiding the electric shock. I have to admit that I was one of those people, as I'd decided to swing by town in order to pick up some kangaroo tails from the butcher (the reason for which I am unable to reveal due to the interests of maintaining state security). I thought I'd kill two roos with one pellet by picking up the tails as well as performing my random act of cupcake. There would be tons of random recipients from which to choose, I reasoned.

As soon as I arrived in town I went into random mode and approached the first person I saw, a youngish to middle aged lady walking in the central car park.  "Not today, thank you," she said when I'd delivered my spiel and then nervously scurried away from me as fast as she could.

No problem, I thought to myself. I've been rejected before on previous random acts. I'll just find myself another random recipient as there are plenty around. So I approached the next person I spotted, a youngish middle-aged man who reminded me somewhat of a weasel. After I briefly explained my blog project to him, he said in a North American accent, "No thank you. I'm not into cupcakes." 
"Really? You don't maybe know someone who is?" I replied, not only realising that I was about to be rejected twice in a row (something I've never once experienced on a random act of cupcake mission), but also that I'd just met someone who didn't like cupcakes.
"Yes, I'm not esurient right now," the cupcake refuse-nik said.
"You're not a whatta?" I asked, by now completely baffled.
"I'm not hungry," Mr Weasel replied, as though he was talking to a five year old with a learning difficulty. And with that, he too scurried off in search of cheese. Or whatever it is that weasels eat. Certainly not cupcakes.

Oh for fig's sake!" I thought to myself as I crossed the road. Please don't tell me that I'm going to be spending the afternoon trying to convince people to accept a free cupcake. Any one of these people wouldn't think twice about BUYING a figgin' cupcake bursting at the seams with E numbers and preservatives and about 36 other unpronounceable ingredients from a supermarket or chain bakery. But accepting a freshly-baked cupcake containing flour, sugar, eggs, butter etc from an individual for FREE? You've got to be outta your mind, sister.

 Luckily, I struck lucky on the next try. A lady called Nada who is a local. She looked kind of busy and I was feeling kind of frazzled, so I didn't try to chat with her. Such is life in the rat maze.

 
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Anyway, so Nada, if you liked the cupcake, then good for you and I'm glad. But if you chucked it straight in the bin, thinking that surely I was crazy and surely it had to be laced with strychnine or laxatives or whatever, then you missed out on this:

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Sour Cream and Fig Cupcakes. Fan-figgin-tastic!

Yes, time to focus on the cupcakes because they make me happy and besides, my aggressive tone is probably not doing anything good for my blog. 

This week's recipe is Sour Cream and Fig. The recipe comes from a lovely little cupcake blog which a friend referred me to. It's called Ming Makes Cupcakes and is an exquisite, understated jewel when it comes to cupcake blogs.

Please note: while the original measurements are U.S., Australian metric units work fine.

For the base you will need:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 stick of unsalted butter (110g)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup sour cream
fig jam

For the topping you will need:
250g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

This is what you do:
1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Put 10 cupcake paper cases in a cupcake tin.

1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.
Add the vanilla essence and egg. Then stir in the sour cream.

3. Add the dry mixture. If the batter seems a bit too stiff or thick, just add a dash of milk.

4. Put a bit of batter in each cupcake case. Put a teaspoon of fig jam on top. Cover with another layer of batter.

5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. When cooked, put on a rack to cool.

6. To make the topping, mix the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence until smooth.

7. Spread the topping on each cupcake. Add half a fig to each for decoration.

Well, that's all from me for this week. Hope your day is random and if you're lucky enough to have someone offer you a free cupcake, then figgin' well say YES!
 
 
 
Well, I've just returned from performing my weekly Random Act of Cupcake and what a lovely, lovely recipient I came across, (for which I am truly grateful, as I wasn't particularly in the mood for endlessly traipsing around the neighbourhood imploring possibly apathetic or even hostile citizens to accept my random baked goods).

I knew I was going on an all-day training course today, so in order to get ready for my random act this afternoon, I stayed up late last night after my ceramics class baking cupcakes.

And so it came to be that I was feeling a little weary by the time I set foot outside my house in search of my random recipient. A quick glance up and down the street revealed a lady walking towards me, but on the opposite side. I immediately scurried across the street, too tired to even contemplate or worry about the prospect of rejection. 

Luckily, my target turned out to be Jonnie, who has such a lovely smile and warmth about her that I immediately felt at ease as I launched into my introductory spiel. She really seemed happy to accept my cupcake and that kind of made me feel good too. While I've only experienced rejection three times so far during this project, each time does leave me feeling slightly foolish and questioning why I am doing Random Acts of Cupcake, which, coincidentally was Jonnie's question to me.

It's a good question. Initially, I think it started out as a kind of ill-defined social experiment. I thought it would be kind of interesting and possibly confronting to see what happened if I offered food to random strangers I met on the street, imagining I could write a treatise on the nature of trust between strangers. Yeah, right. As if I could write a treatise. Anyway, over time, this thing has taken on a life of its own and all I really want is for there to be one less stranger in my world. Whether or not it works, we'll have to wait and see.

So, back to Jonnie. We had a little chat and she told me that she was up from Melbourne, visiting her son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. She reckoned that the cupcake would go down a treat with the kids. Jonnie, if you're reading this, I hope they enjoyed it! And I hope you enjoy your time with the family.
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Grandmothers are great, aren't they? My mother's mother lived in Ireland and I only met her once when I was about five years old, but I still cherish the memory of holding her hand on walks on her farm as we looked for snowdrops and snuggling up to her on those cold mornings during my stay. My father's mother I knew better as she lived in Australia. She was a very kind lady who used to help out her neighbours a lot. Every Christmas, she always sent my brother and I a big box of presents. My favourite gift from her, a glass bluebird, sits on my dressing table and whenever I look at it I think of her (and the incredible roast dinners she used to make).   

Jeez, I'm getting a bit teary. Must be because I'm feeling a bit tired.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. Here's how you make Carrot and Walnut Cupcakes.

Cupcake ingredients:
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
225g SR flour
4 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
100g chopped walnuts
150g grated carrot
2 tbsp sultanas

Icing ingredients:
220g cream cheese
175 icing sugar, sieved
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla essence
walnuts for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

2. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs and flour in a big bowl with electric beaters until nice and smooth. Stir in the mixed spice, walnuts, carrot and sultanas.

3. Spoon the batter into the paper cases. Bake for 20 minutes. Then put on a rack to cool.

4. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until soft and creamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla essence and mix well.

5. Spread the icing onto the cupcakes when cool and decorate with the walnuts.

Makes about 20.
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Carrot and walnut cupcakes, nestling on a plate that once was my grandmother's.