Maybe one day I will be able to look back on these cupcakes as a learning experience. For now, though, all I associate them with are sobbing over a double boiler of separated green buttercream while holding my baby in one arm and a wooden spoon in another.

I made these chocolate cupcakes with coffee-flavoured buttercream for Christmas Eve with the in-laws. I thought I had everything under control. To maximize my time, I made everything in batches. Cupcakes one day. Buttercream, another. I planned to decorate and pipe the buttercream just before leaving for the party. I had even done my own mise en place with all my dragees and other decorations.

I thought to myself: Buttercream is invincible, right? If it separates, or “curdles” just heat it again in the double boiler and whizz it about in your trusty KitchenAid mixer to make it smooth again, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Maybe it was because of the food colouring bottles I emptied into the buttercream to mask the coffee-coloured tinge the espresso powder left behind, or maybe it was because this was a new recipe I was trying, but the buttercream separated once it thawed, and so just a mere couple of hours before Christmas Eve dinner, I was making tree-green buttercream from scratch while trying to pacify my 4-month-old, packing a month’s worth of clothing and wipes into a diaper bag and fielding calls from relatives wondering about our plans.

If I hadn’t been so short on time, and if I hadn’t splattered green food colouring all over my tumbled marble backsplash, then maybe I would have taken a photo of the final product, with the yellow chocolate hearts that served as tree toppers and the Lindt chocolate Santa I perched behind the cupcakes. But this photo will have to do. It will have to serve as my reminder that sometimes planning ahead just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to adapt or die. A little morbid, I know. But buttercream is no laughing matter.

You can find the recipe for Martha Stewart’s Swiss meringue buttercream here. If you are not a big fan of buttercream like me, you can mask the buttery flavour by adding a couple of teaspoons of instant espresso powder to the vanilla before dumping it in. I have to say though, that this buttercream did not keep its shape as well as the brown sugar buttercream recipe I learned at Bonnie Gordon’s School for Confectionary Arts. Nor was it as tasty.

Martha Stewart, I am a little disappointed from this recipe in your “Cupcakes” book, especially cause your lemon meringue cupcakes, and chocolate spice cupcakes were so appetizing and lived up to their promise.