It’s that time of year again when I feel like Betty Crocker.
I’m making pans and pans of cupcakes for bake sale fundraisers, last days of school, PTA events and for my children’s spring birthdays. If I was a better mom or had more time or did not need to focus on volume baking, I would throw together cupcakes from scratch because using a mix is cheating.
At least that’s what my mother raised me to believe. I have since gotten over the guilt of the three-ingredient mix and now embrace the time it frees up for me to read a new book. Or garden. Or sleep.
But I have a cupcake to pick with the manufacturers of boxed cake mix. I understand that these boxed mixes have been carefully calibrated to be the perfect cakey consistency when mixed with 1/3 cup of oil, 1 cup of water, and three eggs. But the fact that a boxed cake mix only makes 24 cupcakes is a problem for me.
My children never seem to be in a class with 24 children. We’ve had class sizes ranging from 25-27 and a freak year when the class size was 12, but I think that was kindergarten. I don’t have kindergarteners anymore. Add the classroom teacher, an instructional aide, a few teachers from years past that my children miss terribly (not really, but giving them a cupcake is an honorable right of passage and lets the kids wander the halls with baked goods which elevates them to cool kid status) and I need to bring about 30 cupcakes to school.
There have been times when I could magically squeeze out 26 cupcakes in a pinch which worked, even if the cupcakes were more like mini muffins. A couple extra inches of icing and no one was the wiser. But the other night I could not squeeze out 26 cupcakes which is how many students are in my son’s class. I was so tired and my day had been so long, at that point I could have cared if the teacher didn’t get one, forgot to bring her lunch, and was starving. And I used to be a teacher! I made one package and true to the label it made 24 cupcakes – as displayed on the box with an exclamation mark like 24 is a good thing. But I didn’t need 24. I needed 30. 26 at the very minimum.
That cupcake baking day I had been standing on my feet in the kitchen since 9:00 a.m. when I put 12 chicken breasts in the crockpot, made two catering size pans of beans, shredded enough machaca beef to clog the colon of Atilla the Hun, and concocted two different kinds of salsa. That was only part of my day and I was exhausted. So you can image how thrilled I was to remember that I promised my son I’d send in cupcakes to celebrate his birthday that was over a week ago. But make them I did because I am nothing if not a mediocre mom who tries.
I did not want to make another box of cake mix. I realize that making a box of cake mix takes approximately three ingredients and about 10 minutes to stir. I’m telling you that night I did not have that kind of energy. That’s why I’d like to suggest to the cupcake companies that they add another cup of dry mix to the box and up the oil and water a bit, which would allow us tired, multi-tasking mothers to make one box of cake mix for a whole classroom. I’m thinking this would be an infinitely easier fix than requesting that schools keep their enrollment to 24 kids a class. Especially since schools are axing their teachers quicker than it takes a batch of your cupcakes to rise. In fact, it might be a good idea to get a jump on an untapped marketing strategy: instead of labeling your boxes “family size,” you could label them “American classroom sized” and everyone would automatically know it feeds 35-40 people.
In the event that my son may have been mistaken about his class I asked him, “Son, are you sure you have 26 kids in your class?” He hesitated. Did a little mental math and replied, “Yep. 26.”
“Well,” I said, “I only have 24 cupcakes.”
Don’t judge me. I know it’s not a particularly nice thing to do, letting a 6th grader sweat over which kid won’t get to eat one. (Because he surely wasn’t going to give up his.)
So do you know how I remedied this situation while preserving my good-mom status with my son and what little energy I had left?
I went out the next morning before my coffee had time to course through my veins and bought him cupcakes to take to class. This was an extra errand for me on a day when my to-do list had a to-do list, but I did it. That’s $30 bucks that could have belonged to Betty Crocker or Dunkin Hines or the Kroger generic brand of cake mix. Instead, my money went to a local bakery who understands the needs of busy mothers like myself. This entire situation could be avoided in the future, were companies to take my request into consideration and up the output in their $1.99 boxes of pre-packaged birthday heaven. I’d be more than willing to pay $3.00 a box for the increase in ingredients, seeing as how I’d still be $27.00 ahead of the game.
But what do you do? What do you send in for birthday parties? Anyone have different suggestions for me?
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.