Cupcake Confessions

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I'm pretty sure I shouldn't mix brands, but I was like a severely depressed person getting dressed - who cares if your shirt and pants match?

I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t mix brands, but I was like a severely depressed person getting dressed – who cares if your shirt and pants match?

“So Savannah was wondering if you’d be willing to make cupcakes for her birthday party.”

The request wasn’t surprising since I’d helped out with this very endeavor a couple of times before, but I needed to clarify something before I could commit. “Wait a minute, does she mean those horrible box cupcakes that I made the first year, or can I whip up something from scratch? I could even do a lovely Coca-Cola cake that the kids would love. It’s so moist.”

“Well . . .” Shannon replied.

“At least ask her, ok? If she really wants the kind you dump out of cardboard, I’ll do those.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a grand concession. It’s not that I have anything against working moms who need to cut a few corners to save time or even those parents who simply don’t want to spend even five more minutes than they have to in the kitchen. But I love to bake. And I’m a darn fine baker. I may not be able to decorate a five-tiered wedding cake or sculpt the Golden Gate Bridge out of fondant, but I can make some mean brownies and my cream cheese pound cake always draws a compliment. So when the response came back that Savannah wanted the cupcakes that I had made in the past, I sighed and wrote “cake mix” on my shopping list in deepest black.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why not just make cupcakes from scratch and never tell? What are the chances a child would notice?” Well, if they’re anything like my teenagers, they can spot the difference between homemade and store bought the way my friend’s Doberman knows that there’s a pill hidden in a pinch of bread. And here’s the part that should peel the enamel right off your teeth: they prefer store bought until you train them. I’ll never forget the day a group of my kids turned their noses up at my peach cobbler and then cheered when a classmate brought in a plastic tray of Walmart cookies, complete with radioactive green icing. It took me a week to recover from the trauma.

So I swallowed my pride and stood in front of the Duncan Hines section of the baking aisle, throwing furtive glances over my shoulder like a shoplifter with a Rolex down her blouse. I bought something with confetti in it and tossed a can of chocolate icing into my cart that probably has a shelf life that will postdate the next nuclear detonation. At least the roaches will have something to eat.

I baked and delivered my wares and received a report a couple of days afterwards that the party was a roaring success. At least I was in St. Augustine at the time, so I had a perfectly solid alibi against baking crimes committed that day.

© 2014 – Traci Carver

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40 responses »

  1. Traci – This was awesome. Your “baking crimes” made for an enjoyable read!!:D
    If it’s any token of consolation, the peach cobbler mentioned made my mouth water…how good that would be right now!
    ~Andrea<3

    • It is such a great town with a rich heritage. It was absolute madness as far as traffic was concerned, but the weather couldn’t have been more wonderful!

  2. I confess….I’m a cardboard box cake maker…I’d like to do it from scratch but historically, I am NOT a good baker. At least when I bake a cake, it usually has a shape and I can make it look almost pretty! 🙂

    • I’m not good at the pretty part. My niece is amazing at turning cake into forests and animal shapes, but I stick to a boring sheet cake or maybe, if I’m feeling wild and crazy, a three layer wonder. Either way, you won’t find roses on it 🙂

    • Sacrilege, but it does prove the point 🙂 One time I recommended to a friend’s mom that she should try the box Mac-n-cheese instead of the homemade cheesy pasta on her own table. I should have been flogged 🙂

  3. Just to let you know, Savannah and her friends ran through the cupcakes like shoppers to a Black Friday sale. She and her friends LOVE Traci’s special cupcakes!

  4. Surely you’re exaggerating – how could anyone not prefer home baking? Oh, wait a minute, my memory of my kids at a younger age is coming back 😉 It was a great relief and pleasure to find both our daughters happy, even keen to cook and experiment when they went off to University. I like to think our subtle influence did the trick.

    • I wonder if it has something to do with the colors that stores use? Little kids are like charging bulls to the color red when they see bright pink frosting. But you’ve given me hope; they will grow up to appreciate the extra effort. And the lack of preservatives 🙂

  5. At least you cooked them. When I was raising my kids I made everything from scratch (and I did not even have the time then). Now, I have grown lazy, and there are only two of us. The only thing I make from scratch are buttermilk pancakes on Sundays and my grandmother’s red velvet cake with cream cheese/pecan frosting at Christmas.Everything else comes from the bakery at Publix.

    • You had me at red velvet cake 🙂 And while I used to make my own bread, now that there’s just me, I can’t eat it fast enough so it turns into a cement block. So I, too, swing by Publix for their fantastic breads.

  6. Reminds me of Flecks – she’d been fed morning-catch tuna mixed with rice and carrots her whole skinny life – I was worried sick about how we’d feed her in urban Jakarta. Her first meal of Friskies was like a kid’s first McDonalds. Sigh.

    • I remember how difficult it was to find cat food in Indonesia! The fish and eggs were abundant, but a pain to make up. The neighbors thought I was crazy for feeding a cat to begin with 🙂

  7. Cliff for sure would not turn down your peach cobbler and neither would I. And please spare me the radioactive green icing. This post is a confectioner’s dream–thank you!

    • Thanks, Marian. On those days my students refused to eat my cobbler, my fellow teachers were delighted to right their wrongs 🙂
      And on a different note, with summer coming up soon, I’m hoping to make my way east at some point and hopefully have a spot of tea with you!

  8. I wish you well in recovering from your trauma, but at least you’ve used your pain to perform a public service: You’ve reassured every mother who’s experienced the same preference for store-bought that it’s due to the perversity of childhood and NOT to bad parenting. (Not necessarily, anyway…)

    • I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Little kids (and big ones) are picky! Once they try something and actually like it, they never want to deviate. I, on the other hand, have a very broad palate when it comes to pastries 🙂

  9. I bet Publix and Walmart use the same box mixes! Kids just ‘think’ they know the difference. I think they are delicious, but what do I know I’m an adult, at times!

    • I’ve had students who have never had homemade items. One time I made fresh waffles for my kids, and one of them wanted to know how we could make waffles without a toaster. Let go that Eggo! 🙂

      • When my granddaughter was visiting, about 4-5 years of age, I made homemade waffles. She said, “I want the REAL ONES that come out of the toaster.” She wouldn’t eat them. I no longer own a waffle iron!

  10. I feel your pain, dear one. Wish I had more time in the kitchen, but the boxes are handy on the morning a child remembers that they were supposed to bring in 15 dozen of something THAT DAY. :-/ I keep some in stock for those occasions. However, you know I’d much rather do something fantastically homemade. You can bake for me ANY time. I promise not to like the nuclear green more. 😉

    • I love it! That’s just like a tyke to mention that they need a gross of something as you’re walking out the door! And forget stopping by a bakery since you’d need to finance your child to afford that many 😀
      I love it when we tag team and you cook and I bake – yin and yang 🙂

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