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The cool, layered tank top. The tough wrist wraps. The blond pony tail. The endless, obsessive, focused, recipe testing. I saw this photo and I though: OMG, she’s channeling dash and bella.

Ella has met Phyllis only once, and only briefly, but if I hadn’t given birth to her and written a book about it, I might think she was her child instead of mine.

She is on her I’ve-lost-count-of-the-number batch of cupcakes, in hot pursuit of figuring out: which cocoa; baking powder, soda, or both; egg whites, yolks, or whole; brown or white sugar…you get the picture. What began as a school project has become something more than a hobby.  If there were any doubt, I offer as proof: she’s so happy to be alone in the kitchen that she cleans up after herself–without being asked. The counter, the dishes, the fine spray of flour. And we have cupcakes. So. many. cupcakes. Her classmates have cupcakes, and her team gets cupcakes, and our freezer is packed with cupcakes. Maybe someday she’ll be another Elizabeth Falkner. For now, she has a kickass science project, and a life skill.

True story:

After she put the most recent batch in the oven, she wandered into the living room, where I was reading and resting.

“I love making cupcakes,” she said.

“Mmmhmm,” I said. “I like that you like that.”

She started walking away, then turned back and peered around the corner. Her forehead was dusted with flour.

“You know, mom, I just realized that, for me, baking cupcakes is like playing video games. I get so focused I don’t think about anything else. It’s just totally relaxing. My whole body relaxes.”

And then she wandered back to the kitchen, still smiling, and cleaned everything up.

We’ll share the recipe when it’s perfect. Until then, you can peruse the book that started it all.