Now I Know Why Cupcakes Are So Expensive

I think I've figured it out.

I was unaware until recently that our placid community actually harbored a rivalry so intense that it makes the gang warfare between Bloods and Crips seem like a simple misunderstanding.  

Reston is evenly and passionately divided between adherents of  and .  But I am a cheapskate and had been unwilling to purchase pint-sized confections from either location for a birthday party this weekend.

Instead, I opted to make my own.  For those of you for whom this seems like a reasonable assessment of the culinary skills that I possess, please allow me to explain the mistake that both you and I have made.  

There once was a time when I could follow a recipe and produce an edible result.  Then, I married a man who is both a masterful cook and a possessive presence in the kitchen.  I don't cook anymore.

In fact, the only reason why I even presumed that I might be able to bake is that my dear husband is deeply disrespectful of dessert.  He believes that a sweet tooth is merely the result of not having eaten a sufficient dinner.

I thought that I would surely be able to make cupcakes that may not look as pretty as the ones for sale at our local bake shops but they might taste pretty good.

I also believed that I could make two dozen cupcakes for far less money than it would have cost to buy them.  Here is why I was wrong.

I made red velvet cupcakes.  Do you know the most expensive ingredient in this type of treat?  It is not the vanilla from Madagascar.  It is not the Dutch cocoa.  It is not the special buttermilk that has flecks of butter in it.

The most expensive part of a red velvet cupcake is the red food color.  It cost me an extra 50 cents each to add a crimson color to what is essentially a bittersweet chocolate cupcake.  

Furthermore, the free labor I had in the form of enthusiastic children became a distinct liability when the bowl containing the paste of cocoa and food color "slipped" from the grip of the birthday boy and made my kitchen look like a particularly brutal knife fight had taken place.  

Have you ever had to clean the blades of a ceiling fan when they are coated with dust, kitchen grease and red velvet paste?  Do not be embarrassed to say that you have not had this experience.

Besides, the faintly pink tinge of all the kitchen towels will separate those of us who have from those who live in blissful ignorance.

Furthermore, my beloved soul mate, the father of my children, tasted the batter and asked, "Did you use cake flour or something else?"

This is not a question that indicates that the baker has won over the taster in question.  It is the kind of question that makes it into a divorce attorney's brief when making a case for "irreconcilable differences."

However, my kitchen, marriage, charming disposition and sense of humor all survived this brief foray into the land of desserts.  The guests very graciously commented on the pleasant homemade quality of my cupcakes and the party was a success.

And next time I will gladly pay the asking price for professionally made cupcakes.

"The CupCake Ladi" July 18, 2011 at 11:25 PM
..At "The CupCake Ladi" we use Certified Organic ingredients. 97% of all our ingredients are organic with 3% being all natural. Purchasing those food colors in organic & all natural form cost even more for the consumer to use on their own. India Tree Natural Decorating Colors (package of 3 colors $22.00) are made from highly concentrated vegetable colorants. They contain no corn syrup or synthetic dyes. I know regular Red #40 is the worst. Next time give us a call .. the 1carat size (bite size) is the wai to go. CCL
Justine van Engen July 18, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Thanks, CupCake Ladi. I would have probabli saved monei and a huge quantiti of time had I just bought them. I was being silli.
Margaret Perry July 19, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Besides the fact that red food coloring generally tastes HORRIBLE. I make cakes and insist on buying no taste red. Though you may have been using regular food dye which is liquid. Hats off to you for making the cupcakes and ambitious ones at that. I am not rolling in money these days (actually my toes aren't even getting damp), but I do appreciate the work and cost of ingredients to make cakes/cupcakes. I am trying to make my way to the cupcake Ladi as I am intrigued to sample her wares. I recently made a 3-d castle cake with hand drawn details to feed 150 people at my sons' school. So I understand the work you put into this. KUDOS to you!
Leila Gordon July 19, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Justine--your columns are a never-ending source of amusement to me; as are your replies to the comments they generate. Thank you. And let me know when you want some complimentary Red Velvet cupcakes; I know someone who can hook you up!
Justine van Engen July 19, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Leila, Thank you for the very sweet comments as well as the offer of much-loved sweets! I will definitely be in touch.
"The CupCake Ladi" July 20, 2011 at 04:00 AM
.. @ Margaret A. & Justine .. "The CupCake Ladi" invites you & your famili to come in for a complimentari half a dozen of assorted 97% organic CupCakes. You will see for yourself whi we were VOTED ***BEST CUPCAKES IN RESTON*** Plus I would lov to gift you an additional 97% Organic Chocolate Decadence Drenched 4times in Belgian Chocolate w/various Accoutrements each cookie weighs in @ 2.7ounces. I await your call.. Warm regards, CCL
Margaret Perry July 20, 2011 at 01:37 PM
@CCL - I will have to take you up on your generous offer. @Justine - I am enjoying getting to know you through your opinion pieces.
"The CupCake Ladi" July 20, 2011 at 03:49 PM
.. Perfecto~ ... I lQQk forward to meeting you too ~ Call us @ "The CupCake Ladi" Shoppe .. Warm regards, CCL
Margaret Perry July 24, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Justine - I took the cupcake Ladi up on her generous offer. We cut all the cupcakes in 4ths, kept a quarter of each for my mom and I to taste and placed the rest on a plate for my oldest son's birthday party. My mom and I enjoyed all of them though the Vanilla with vanilla is our current favorite. Th 6 boys loved and devoured the rest. So she also gets the thums up from 6 10/11 year olds. @Cupcake Ladi - Thank you so much, I am definitely looking forward to tasting the carrot cupcake.


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