It was my friend Nic’s birthday a few weeks ago and I told him I wanted to bake him cupcakes- any kind he wanted. He is a man of strong opinions so without hesitation he answered that he wanted either angel food cake with confetti frosting or German chocolate with German chocolate frosting (the kind with the coconut in it.) Furthermore, either of these choices had to be from a mix and the frosting had to be from a can. He claims that all from-scratch cake is not as moist as the kind from a box. I don’t agree but since it was his birthday I happily went to Fairway and picked out a white cake mix (which was close enough to angel food and would work better in cupcakes) and Funfetti frosting.

While I was making the cupcakes I was transported back in time, to Albany California circa 1988. Cake from a mix was one of the first things I ever baked on my own. I don’t think I even realized that you could make a cake fairly easily without a mix until I was an adult. It seemed like such a complicated process, like smoking your own meat or something. Why bother with sifting, measuring, and folding in egg whites when there was this amazing box that made perfect cake every time? I know that cake mix and pre-made frosting get a bum rap but they were a gateway for me to the wider world of baking and I’d forgotten the debt I owed them.

Nic’s cupcakes were a big success and they were a good lesson for me in not getting too anal about cooking. Sometimes I want all the things I cook and bake to be so special and unique (especially when I’m cooking for guests) but sometimes it’s more important to relax and have fun at the party instead of worrying about the food.

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