Cheaters [Never?] Win

So it’s been WEEKS since I’ve blogged and it feels like YEARS.  It’s also been weeks since I’ve baked or cooked anything new, and I’m so happy to report that today I was able to do some of that also.  I’ve started a new day job, which is awesome and keeps me busy during the daylight hours.  The last few weekends have been spent sleeping. Oh, how I’ve missed the sleep.

Anyway, my husband’s employer is having a contest tomorrow.  A cupcake contest.  This will be simple.  A breeze.  Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Not so fast.  Actually, last year I made something for the same contest.   I poured my blood, sweat, tears, and some gorgeous produce into that dish.  I was incredibly proud of my entry, and I was sure I had won, even before my husband called from work that evening.

Actually on that call he told me “Well I thought you did an amazing job.”  Aha.  The pat-on-the-back, “A for effort”,  I love you anyway talk.  I had lost.  And it must have been by a landslide, the way he was holding my hand while delivering the news.

A few things I should have thought about last year:  I carefully selected a healthy/vegan recipe, which was mistake number one.   When your target audience (or appetite) is middle-aged American men who lift heavy things for a living, healthy/vegan isn’t what you want on your nutritional info label.  I also made sure to make it really “neat” looking.  Photo-ready.  (A habit of mine, you know.)  That was mistake number two.  Men like these don’t eat things that look like they’re meant for afternoon tea.  They eat chicken wings covered in hot sauce and messy things with gravy.  Basically if it isn’t on their faces and hands or staining their clothes, it isn’t even a threat in this challenge.

I expected to win last year’s contest because I made something I would be thrilled to eat.  I was not only a loser last year, but mine was one of the few dessert trays not totally emptied during the judging.  Ouch.  That was a punch in the ego.  The grand prize winner was something called “death by chocolate”.  When I asked my husband to describe it to me, he just used the word “chocolate” a lot of times.  So… yeah.  I felt like my pure-bred racehorse had just lost the Preakness to a lame old (chocolate) donkey.

This year, determined to win, I approached the contest from a completely different perspective.  My culinary plan of attack is much more man-centric.  I can’t believe I’m going to say this out loud, but… I … CHEATED.   Yes, I made red velvet cupcakes with icing inside.  But, I cheated.  I… *gulp*… made them FROM A BOX MIX!

Nothing says loving like powder and oil.
Nothing says loving like powder and oil.

Cooking or baking things from packages might not be shocking to some of you, but I grew up in my grandmother’s home.  All the dishes, desserts, birthday cakes, ALL of it was made from scratch.  Real ingredients, real “elbow grease”, or not at all.  Box cakes are blasphemy.  Of the devil.  A shameful, horrible invention.

However, box cakes are also what Americans eat.  I want to win, and so I stooped to the lowest level I could fathom.  And you know something?  Perhaps the worst of all of this is that it doesn’t actually taste that bad.  (Please don’t tell Grandmother I said that!)

Holy fakecakes, Batman!
Holy fakecakes, Batman!

The cake is moist and bouncy.  Certainly not the color or texture of something that occurs in nature, but not completely unappetizing.  They smell good, too.  I used my apple corer to dig out holes in the middle for the icing.  Looks yummy, no?

Another upside to “cheating” in baking is the time difference.  These cupcakes took me about 45 minutes, from start to finish, including cleaning up the kitchen.  If I had made these by hand from scratch, well, I’d probably still be baking and not blogging about what I’d baked.  So here’s a photo of hte finished product, all iced and (dare I say it) delicious-looking.

This is what winning looks like.
This is what winning looks like.

Beautiful, no?  Unfortunately the icing turned out a bit thin, but I don’t think the guys at my husband’s job are going to notice.  Mark my words, these from-the-box, spongy, blasphemy cupcakes are going to win me that prize.  These cupcakes are this year’s chocolate donkey, my friends.  I can feel it. Winner’s circle, here I come.

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