I may have lost my cooking mojo.

I’m not a gourmet cook, but I used to enjoy baking and gotten good reviews for my baking skills.

But it’s been a long time since I’ve baked regularly. More than a year.

In spite of everything that I’m juggling now, I decided to do a little baking over the holidays. I really wanted red velvet cake and decided to bake it for a gathering last week. Actually I baked cupcakes so my daughter could decorate them.

I used a wonderful recipe that I’ve used before with great results (the recipe is from Tayari Jones and you should try it, minus my mistakes below).

Here’s what I knew:

I didn’t have white all purpose flour in the house, just whole wheat flour. But why not try it.

There was no white sugar in our house. Just the organic sugar that is brown, but not brown sugar.

I had bought, on purpose, dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of traditional cocoa powder.

Here’s what I didn’t know until i was almost finished with the recipe:

There was no white vinegar inside these walls. just apple cider vinegar. But at 6:30 a.m. and several steps into the recipe I decided to substitute.

Instead of the lovely red velvet I wanted, the cupcakes came out dense and not nearly sweet enough. As my daughter said later in the day, they were red velvet muffins. Even re-labelling them as muffins wasn’t enough; they just weren’t good.

Once upon a time I baked enough to have most of the ingredients on hand to make some kind of cake. And I was “practicing” enough to make a substitution here and there and make it all work.

But the RVC muffin incident proved that I was way off track.

I tried again two days later (after buying white flour, sugar and regular vinegar) and the cupcakes were great. But I didn’t bake them in time to put icing on them and on the post-Christmas Eve service table at church they sat looking a little pitiful.

My husband gently reminded me that cooking takes practice. And I surely have not been practicing. Nor do I really want to. I don’t have the emotional energy or actual time to do it.

So for now my red velvet will be from bakeries and I’ll give myself a pass until I have time to shop properly and truly “be” in the kitchen.