I’m not much of a baker.  I LOVE to create homemade meals from scratch, but my homemade baking repertoire is generally limited to breads, muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and pies at the holidays.  Baking requires a lot more precision and patience than table cooking, and I seem to be somewhat lacking in both of those qualities.   I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that I have made any thing that requires a cooking thermometer.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love to eat a delectable homemade treat that was crafted by someone else.  I’m grateful that there are people, like my sister, who prefer baking over cooking.  We make a good pair at celebratory potlucks.

However there is one sweet treat that I absolutely love to bake for my community when celebrating a milestone event….CUPCAKES.  Which is the reason I own multiple cupcake stands, cupcake carriers, and one adorable cupcake plate.  I find tremendous pleasure in coordinating the flavors, the colors, the sprinkles, and the baking cups to the season, the event, and the person being celebrated.

I confess that I typically use a boxed mix and canned frosting for my cupcakes because, as previously mentioned, the joy for me is not the precision of baking.  I enjoy the decorating, the presenting, and the festivity of cupcakes.

I also find deep satisfaction in personalizing my cupcake creations, because food that we create with love and a personal touch becomes much more than just something to satisfy the palate.  It becomes nourishment to the soul.

And cupcakes are, hands-down, my preferred soul-nourishing dessert.

Recently I had the perfect opportunity to try a cupcake cake recipe that caught my eye on the Pioneer Woman’s blog – Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Frosting.  It is a culinary delight that combines two of my favorites: cupcakes and culinary lavender.  (Iced coffee or a baked treat with a hint of lavender is always a blessed opportunity for me to break away from my daily routine – that involves a lot of dirty boys, foul odors, and rambunctious laughter – and feel feminine!)

But I digress.  The event that made me excited to actually bake cupcakes from scratch was a surprise engagement party of two wonderful people whom I care about deeply.

My family got to know the groom-to-be on a short term missions trip to Belize in 2010.   At that time he was just about to enter his senior year of high school.  Now he is a college graduate with a sincere heart for God, caring for other people, and creating music.  He has also been a beloved part of our Thursday night dinners for the past five years.

His fiancé grew up in the same church where Ryan and I are raising our boys.   My path has crossed with hers in many ways throughout our years of shared church life.  She is a young woman of remarkable beauty in every way.

The future Mr & Mrs Ortega
The future Mr & Mrs Ortega

As I was baking the cupcakes for their engagement party, I was thinking about something I heard recently about marriage – that when communion is taken as a part of a marriage ceremony it signifies a celebration of hope and trust in God’s promise that He will always be with a bride and groom as they journey through life together.

Engagements and weddings are significant within communities because they are actually a celebration of hope and promise, and not merely a romanticized version of “happily ever after” that doesn’t really exist.  These important events are an invitation for everyone present to commitment to walking with a couple throughout their lifetime.

Because every life, every story, every family, and every marriage will have its share of trouble.  But we plan parties, and bake cupcakes, and gather together to celebrate the hope and promise of joy and laughter that is always possible through our faith, despite our circumstances.

And we gather together as a community to celebrate and remind each other that we never have to be on the journey alone.  Because we walk into the what’s next – through the peaks and the valleys – together – until we are all home.

That’s what it means to live, and love, and celebrate within community.

Community, celebrating, and cupcakes combine beautifully with hope, joy, and promise.  It’s a recipe makes me smile.  Every.  Time.

What is your favorite dessert to serve when you gather your community?


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