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Welcome to Miss Strawberry's Cafe: Life is short...make it sweet.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life is short...make it sweet.

Sweet & Salty - Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

I was very excited to support another bake sale for Pitt LiNK this weekend, especially after feeling inspired by Starbucks' new Fall Menu - Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, and Toffee Mocha - they all sounded delectable. I wanted to bake each drink into cupcake versions.

I donned my new red apron and pink "Cooking Mama" bandanna and got to work. It was after spending most of the day baking that I discovered that the voicemail my father had left on my phone earlier brought news of my grandfather's passing.

My grandparents are from Korea, but during my childhood, I had the chance to cherish them
from close by when they lived near us in California for a few years.

Even though I knew he was in critical condition, I was still shocked and felt completely caught off guard by the news.

Four months ago, my grandparents had finally made it out to Hawaii from Korea for a long-awaited visit with my parents. They arrived on a Friday. My grandfather ended up collapsing from a stroke on the Monday that followed.

During this time, my parents and I were actually experiencing a severe rift brought on by my own immaturity and selfishness. Any grudges and disappointments we might have been holding against one another at the time completely evaporated in the instant my grandfather was so unexpectedly struck, leaving half of his body and brain completely paralyzed and ineffective.

With the acceleration of Miss Strawberry's Cafe lately, I had been pushing another motto a lot: "Life is short, make it sweet." It's really not just supposed to be some cute catch phrase. They're words I really take to heart, and the reality of those words hit me once again so abruptly this weekend. The words hit our family four months ago when my grandfather, who was completely healthy and normal just days before, completely lost his awareness and the control over his body.

This was my grandfather just a couple months ago.
I remember feeling so happy to see that signature smile of his...
the one that carries with it all the warmth that only a loving grandparent could exude.

It was only two weeks ago that he seemed to be making improvements. We heard from one of my uncles that he was at least able to recognize family and seemed very aware of his condition. My uncle knew, because my grandfather would hold his hand, not let go, and cry. He lost his ability to speak, so all that could be communicated was through the tears that rolled down his face.

Even though there's such a heavy sadness from only getting to see that wonderful smile of his in pictures now, we're grateful that he passed away peacefully and doesn't have to suffer anymore.


Having someone close to me suffer so painfully with stroke made me want to learn more.

Statistically, every 45 seconds someone will suffer a stroke.

On the Stroke Network's website, they indicate that a lightning bolt is the universal symbol for stroke, because it happens that quickly and unexpectedly.

A stroke happens when oxygen is prohibited from flowing to the brain, usually by a blocked artery or vessel from a blood clot. The less oxygen the brain receives, the more quickly it dies.

As with most other health conditions though, there are some prevention methods and risk factors that you could at least be aware of and help raise awareness about for others. Controllable risk factors include:

- tobacco use and smoking
- obesity
- alcohol consumption
- physical inactivity
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol

I found it chilling that among uncontrollable risk factors listed by the National Stroke Association, were: "being African American, Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander." If you're from any of these minority ethnic groups, along with the uncontrollable factors of your age, gender, and family history, you have a higher risk for stroke.

Thankfully, there are several support systems in place for stroke survivors and family members of victims of stroke. There are organizations that not only work to raise funds and awareness but also promote advocacy and policy changes. The two already mentioned - The Stroke Network and National Stroke Association - are starting points that can at least get you more information on the third leading cause of death in America, and the leading cause for adult disability.

This page also provides a list of links for information on stroke and other neurological diseases and injuries.


After hearing about my grandfather's passing, I honestly lost all enthusiasm for the bake sale I agreed to help. But I continued to bake the following morning after hearing the news with my grandfather on my mind, knowing he'd want me to smile and continue being the "lovely granddaughter" he always believed in and adored.

I followed a recipe in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book for Salted Caramel Mini Chocolate Cupcakes.

It required me making the caramel....which was intimidating but fun and easier than I thought. Water, sugar, light corn syrup and heavy cream are all you need, plus a wooden spoon and heavy sauce pan.

This is when it started to harden. You should use it immediately after cooking to fill the cupcakes.

This particular recipe for salted caramel required me to use a special ingredient called Fleur de Sel, a French sea salt.

I was able to find this at a local Williams Sonoma store.

After baking the cupcakes, I used a knife to "core" a small scoop out of each cake and filled them with the homemade caramel. A sprinkle of sea salt on top followed by a whirl of dark chocolate frosting completed these sweet and salty bites.

You can add another pinch of Fleur de Sel on top.

When I tasted them, the hard caramel center was a bit of a surprise. The three different textures of the cake made it really interesting (icing, caramel, cake). I think it's a cake you'd either absolutely love or absolutely not at all.

The cakes tasted softly bittersweet with hints of saltiness in the background....I couldn't help but think how much they paralleled the sweet memories I shared with the only grandfather I ever knew and the salty tears I was now crying from missing him and the regret I feel from us not having been closer.

Life is truly but a minute here, and the next minute gone...

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At November 1, 2010 at 1:43 AM , Anonymous ivy said...

my comment 어디로갔지?? 없어졌네...
오늘 아침에 썼는데... ㅡㅡ;;
마음 아픈 글을 보게되서 너무 슬프다~
그리고 이 story가 언니 얘기라서
더 가슴이 아프다... :(
cupcake은 완전 looks great!!!! yummo!
할아버지는 이제 편히시고계실꺼야~ :*)
많이 많이 miss you~~ ^^

At November 1, 2010 at 1:49 AM , Blogger Miss Strawberry said...

Oh, you posted a comment? 왜 없어졌지??
아ㅏㅏㅏㅏ 근데 정말 고마워...글 남겨주고 말이야....
너만 글 남겨주잖아~~ ㅎㅎㅎㅎ 정말 고마워 ^^
나두 많이많이 miss you... ><

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At February 2, 2011 at 12:13 AM , Anonymous Sachan said...

Hi, I really like your blog. I too have one about cupcakes but it's mixed in with other cooking and random stuff that happens. I love cupcakes and Asia (specfically Japan and Korea) so I will be reading your blog regularly. I would greatly appreciate it if you checked out my blog ( because I highly respect you as a fellow (more experienced) sweets chef. Your so much better than me though... Oh well. Bye!


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