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File Under: Once in a While, I Just Need to Brag

I'm not really sure why I like to torture myself, but three years running, that's exactly what I've done.

2nd birthday:

3rd birthday:

Alexis has always picked what kind of cupcakes she wanted to take to school to share with all of her friends (we're talking about around 40 kids, btw). The flowers were an excellent pick. They turned out very cute, but weren't terribly hard to put together. A little time consuming, sure, but not hard.

We don't talk about the panda bears. They might not have been quite as filled with warm fuzzy memories for me. The kids liked them, though, and we'll pretend that is all that matters EVEN THOUGH IT'S NOT.

This year Alexis set her heart on High School Musical cupcakes. More specifically, she wanted Mr. Danforth cupcakes. First of all, um, EWWWW! Second of all, um, HOW? I had no idea, so I consulted Dr. Google. He was a tiny bit helpful, but really didn't solve my issue. I found some of the plastic little picks with HSM photos on them, but at $2.50 a package, I wasn't really feeling the love. If I wanted to spend a fortune on this whole cupcake plot, I would trudge down to the grocery store and let somebody else do all the work.

I'm WAY too cheap for that.

Eventually I figured out to ask Alexis to pick out bits and pieces for making the cupcakes. She approved some sprinkles. She approved the concept of star-shaped cookies. She thought glittery gold frosting was pretty. She was committed to pink cake batter. A little WHAM! Some BAM! and VOILA!

Some lessons were learned. They may be boring lessons, but I don't care because next year I need to come back here and heed my own wise words.

1. This stuff? IS FREAKIN MAGICAL!

I was muy dubious, especially because of the $4 per can price tag. I'm too cheap to be paying $4 for something that is $2 if it comes in a regular old plastic tub. In fact, I only bought one can, knowing it wouldn't go far, but refusing to commit to breaking the bank. Then I used the stuff and learned that it is $4 for a can of time. Glorious time! I zipped through that first dozen cupcakes in no time flat.

(Psst . . . if you put frosting in a bag/tip thingy, it's much faster than spreading it with a knife. And purdier. You just go around in a circlish spiralish thing, starting at the outside. Once you finish the first layer, you do another circlish spiralish thing on top of the first one, covering the seams. PURDY! Or, let someone else take the time to shove that frosting in the tube by buying the can. Time! In a can!)

2. The recipe that's on the back of the box of cake mix sucks. Alter that sucker and the cupcakes will be moister and firmer, making them easier to decorate.

1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
whatever cake mix

Mix and bake according to the direction on the box. So. much. better.

3. Put the batter in a storage bag, cut a corner, and squeeze it into the cupcake holders instead of filling them with a spoon. Faster. Cleaner. Easier.

And now to start speculating on what next year's theme of choice will be . . . it just better not be Jonas Brothers because, um, EWWWWW!

P.S. Not a sponsored post, but there is an Amazon Affiliate link up there somewhere.

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Reader Comments (29)

You are the cupcake queen!!! I am just masochistic enough to wish my kids' schools in the burbs would let me bring homemade cupcakes. Alas and alack, tis not the case. Must be store bought... and I'm sure as hay-ell not shelling out fancy bakery prices for a bunch of preschoolers/toddlers. This year at school the 5yo had apple slices with caramel dip for his birthday snack. I feared it would label him as the "kid with the lame birthday snack" for life, but they ate that shit up -- figuratively and literally. For the 2yo, I did a variation on the theme, minus the caramel dip. Cuz, you know... they're 2 and I don't want the daycare teachers to take out any dislike for me and on my child.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Those all look awesome!

Thanks for the frosting tips! I'm making a giant cupcake cake (you know with the stupid special pan that bakes the cupcake in two halves) for my kid's birthday on Tuesday and I was thinking about doing the use-a-storage-bag-for-a-pastry-bag-to-frost-the-damn-thing trick. You have confirmed that this is a good idea. :)

I will have to remember that alteration to the cake mix recipe. Also, do you know about using cake mix to make cookies? If you want the recipe, let me know and I'll shoot it over to the burghbaby email address.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermattieflap

Thank you! I was looking at your cupcakes thinking "Grrr, she has baking TOOLS!! Like the TOOLS I want - piping bags!!" I am so glad you gave props to this product. I love it!!! Great job on your decorating. I am muy impressed!!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Wow, awesome! Next time you come to my area, I would like a cupcake please. Of Craig Daniels. Annnd GO!

I vote next year you make my candy sushi. That's always a big hit.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndreAnna

those are beautiful!
And also making me glad my child hates cake. Blackberry/whipped cream parfaits are WAY easier.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecoming Mommy

They all look great! I usually make puppy dog eyes at my cake-talented SIL and she takes care of it for me. Although I did make Bakerella's Easter basket cupcakes last Easter - I was very proud of myself, because I am not a baker.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

@Becoming Mommy--Alexis does not eat the cupcakes, or cake, or really anything that is in my main food group (I like to call it the Sugar food group). She likes the idea of cake and such, but never actually eats it.

I'm not entirely sure that she is mine when I see her snub cake.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBurgh Baby

Love it. I'm one of those that either orders the cake/cupcakes at the bakery or has my MIL in make them. A) I SUCK in the kitchen and B) anything I could make would look like a pile of Bulldog vomit with sprinkles.


January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

EXCELLENT cupcakes. Very creative and cute. Lucky girl!

I have discovered the following product, which I love for the ease of cake decorating...accordion squeeze bottles!

You still have to put the icing in a sandwich bag, cut the tip, and squeeze the icing into the bottles, but those squeeze bottles really save your hands. For kids, bah! I need them. I have a set I purchased from QVC, I think they are discontinued now, and I know Pampered chef has one. Squeeze bottles rock!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer I

Actually, the above looks exactly like the set I bought from QVC, only I swear the manufacturer was "Prepology." I have a four year old boy and a soon to be three year old boy, and they do not have the hand strength yet to squeeze the accordion bottles, but I swear by them! The plain squeeze bottles work well for "flooding" cut out cookies with royal icing, and the mini off set spatula is good for them.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer I

I love the panda cupcakes!! I adore making cupcakes - they are way more fun than cake. I made spaghetti and meatball cupcakes for PTA movie night a while ago...They were super cute if I do say so myself.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

Those are all so fantastic. Just a couple days ago I was talking with a friend about how I need to make some cupcakes for my girl's birthday in March, and I totally thought of you and your amazing cupcakes! Yet again, you are rocking it. And I'm totally inspired.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercaramama

Holy crap, I can post a comment today. Can I just say you are a cupcake making super star?? I'm with Kellie (A and B). I have tried many, many times to bake, and let me tell you, not only was it not pretty it looked like a pile of sparkley poop. No one would eat it. So, how much do you charge to make my kids birthday cupcakes?? ;0)

Lisa J.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Sorry, but those panda cupcakes are AWESOME.
Ooooo! Thanks for the tips! Now I really want to make cupcakes. Because if I did I MIGHT look sort of fancy in the kitchen for once.

You know, when she's in school you probably won't be allowed to bring home made treats. You'll have to leave it up to the good folks at the bakery.

That's what I tell MY kids, anyway. :)

And. I really need some time in a can.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCecily R

Those are lovely! Do you take requests? Because I am the non-bake-mom, I send Eat 'n' Park cookies with my kids on their birthdays.

"time in a can" is classic. And if it were real time, I bet it would be more than $4.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterred pen mama

You are a cupcake goddess! I really love the panda bears; I'm sure Abby would, too, which means she is never allowed to see a picture of them! (At least, based on your comments above, I'm sure they were...taxing.)

We made a big flower cake for Abby's birthday last year. We used a pattern from a 1970's cake design book that Rachel's mom used for her's and her sister's birthdays.

Thanks for the awesome tips with the frosting in a can & recipe alterations & filling the cupcake pan(s). 'Cause time? That's valuable stuff, yo.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScrumpy Daddy

Here's a picture of" title="IMG_3968 by ScrumpyDaddy, on Flickr" rel="nofollow">Abby's third Birthday cake.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScrumpy Daddy

Crap. You over achievers suck.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa @ Boondock Ramblings

Oh and happy belated fourth birthday to that little, precious girl (who I swear still totally reminds me of this little girl at my son's sitters. They seem so much alike...they look somewhat alike and from what I hear from both their mother's they act alike.)

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa @ Boondock Ramblings

Holy crap, those panda cupcakes? Awesome. The others are cute You are the Cake Queen.

I do the bag/tip thing for icing, too, LOVE it. Or I just don't ice them because the kids eat them before I get the icing ready.

Oh, and I've also heard that mixing a can of pumpkin pie filling (aka mashed pumpkin, ha) with the cake mix is awesome, too. I haven't tried it, but that's been confirmed by multiple sources.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwinsomelily

Those cupcakes? Are.Awesome. You, my friend, put me to shame. But thanks for sharing your tips with us. I'm totally going to try those next time!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMadameQueen

Betty frigging Cocker!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

I am IMPRESSED! I am the queen of frostening cupcakes, but I am totally stealing your batter-in-a-bag idea. I was using an ice cream scoop and while it's better than a spoon (one scoop, one cupcake), there is still a lot of batter-flinging. And your cupcakes are so purrrrty.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA

You are such a good mama! Wow! Those are some fabulous cupcakes you've made. I feel pretty lame now with my boring brownies. ;)

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat

You are my culinary hero. Would you believe that I have never, ever, in my life, made cupcakes? Or baked a cake? It's so... foreign to me! Great job.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

those are awesome tips!! I made 30+ cupcakes for my daughter's 3rd birthday. she wanted chocolate cupcakes with pink icing. I did the icing bag thing, but what a great idea for the batter in a bag!! I think that's genius

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRZ

I've found that I get pretty good cupcakes when using the directions on the box, but I learned a secret that keeps them super moist and delish - put bread (ripped up into a few smaller pieces) into the container that you're storing the cupcakes in. It also really helps to keep them in an airtight container (I got a cupcake courier-type box with a handle at Walmart) so they stay fresh. Saran wrap or aluminum foil just doesn't do the trick.

P.S. I think all of your cupcakes over the past three years turned out adorable!

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJaci

At least it wasn't Dora. Oh, and the 12 year old informed me today that the Jonas Brothers split up.

January 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFlea

These are awesome! I stink at baking, but would love to try to Oreo bears. So cute!!
If I had to make a character cupcake right now, it would Max & Ruby or Fresh Beat, neither of which I'd be able to eat and keep down.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLZ @ My Messy Paradise

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