Halloween cupcakes, British accents & presentation nerves


The day before Halloween, I brought a whole lot of Halloween-themed baked goods to my office. It also turned out that I had to be in an all-day training-and-information session with an external supplier. We enjoyed things like chocolate cupcakes all dressed up for Halloween fun. It’s always fun when external people come to the office when we have baked stuff just because the breadth and scale always seem a bit overwhelming to “outsiders” (seems overwhelming to “insiders”, too, who are not used to it).

choc sugar skulls

Chocolate cupcakes with sugar skulls for Halloween


Chocolate cupcakes with spiderweb pattern and chocolate-licorice “spider” in the middle

The following week there was yet another training session with a different person from the same company. All very nice, well-informed people, but the most recent presenter was English. I am not sure I have written much about my increasing aural displeasure at hearing English accents (mostly due to my string of bad experiences with English people). Nothing bad about this presentation (other than listening to the accent – haha). With time, the effect softened, and it did not bother me much, although the word choice and little language fumbles (seemingly due to nerves in the beginning of the presentation) had me chuckling a bit, from the statement, “Now we can get sort of really dirty with it” (meaning we were going to get our hands dirty digging deeper into the data in the system we were learning), to his added syllables to words with which his tongue apparently struggled, making “fruition” come out as “fruitition” and three attempts at “validity”, which eventually came out as “valididity”. More vexing was the misuse of comparatives (the repeated “more deeper”, “more easier”, “more stricter”). Infuriating that a native English speaker and professional (who makes a living at this public presentation thing) would so casually and easily make these kinds of mistakes. For what reason do comparatives like “deeper”, “better”, simpler” exist than to forgo the “more” in front? On the other hand, he used the word “livery”, which is not something you hear every day.

Not long thereafter, we had a divisional webinar in which loads of people, mostly non-native English speakers, had to deliver presentations to a room full of people and to cameras set up for the webinar, broadcast to a bunch of our global offices (internal information sharing, essentially). What I noticed is that people who are quite confident giving presentations even in a large room full of people suddenly seemed quite nervous when they were placed in front of a camera. Not sure why – I suspect I am the opposite because a room full of people can ask immediate questions and put you on the spot while a camera is totally anonymous – I don’t know or care who is on the other side (well, I do know and do care, but in the immediate moment, I can’t interact with or see them, so it’s somewhat “out of sight, out of mind”).

Not really important but observations nonetheless.

Perhaps even more important is the recipe for the cupcakes.

Basic chocolate cupcake recipe

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup boiling water

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Line cupcake pans with cupcake papers.

Cream sugar, shortening and eggs until fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the boiling water with cocoa, set aside and let cool. In another bowl, sift the flour and baking soda. Once the cocoa mixture is cool, add the milk to it. Add flour mixture alternately with the cocoa-milk mixture into the creamed sugar-butter. Add vanilla. Distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake pans (to about half-full). Should make 24 cupcakes. Bake for about 20 or 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Your favorite chocolate frosting should top these cakes when they are cool… eat them plain or decorate as desired. In this case, as evidenced above, I topped some with some small sugar decorations. I topped the others with a spiderweb design using some orange gel frosting pens and a small chocolate-covered licorice bit (as a “spider”).

Leave a Reply