Yummy Mummy Retro Cupcake Mania: A Personal Journey

As a full-on, PMT-ridden, humourless feminist (see previous), there’s nothing I hate more than retro-sexist 1950s housewife yummy mummy cupcake bollocks. Seriously, I can’t stand it. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I won first prize in the Children In Need bake-off at my son’s nursery. In your face, cupcake mummies from hell! Get a load of my organic, vegan, wholefood feminist vulva-shaped traybake of righteousness! It was a victory for me, and for the sisterhood. Except for one thing: I hadn’t quite made the vulva-shaped traybake of righteousness. I’d made a cupcake caterpillar. The recipe was by Annabel Karmel and I cut it out of an issue of Practical Parenting. Bottom line: I totally aspire to be the yummy mummy cupcake queen. Alas, this moment of glory occurred three years ago. I’m still clawing my way back to those dizzy heights, fingers smothered in flour and grease.

There is at least an excuse for this lowering in cake-based achievement. He is called Youngest (not really – that’s his blog name. He’s really called ‘the spare’). It was much easier to play at being Martha Stewart when I had fewer kids to daub in cake mix. Since Youngest was born it’s been a struggle but hey, not to worry. I have a new weapon in my arsenal, in the form of the Lakeland Limited Cake Pop Maker.

In case you’re totally ignorant about such essential gadgets (like, duh!), it’s like a sandwich toaster, but for tiny spherical sponge cakes.  It only takes four minutes to cook them. All I need to add are lolly sticks and Candy Melts, and total cake domination is once more within my grasp.

I’m actually quite pleased with my early efforts – see Exhibit 1, piggy pops:


And Exhibit 2, Angry Birds:


Not brilliant – can’t quite get the Candy Melts to go on smooth – but let’s be reasonable, it could be worse. Still a bit of refinement needed, but hey, I’m getting there. Of course, by putting this on a blog read by fellow mummies, I’m laying myself open to comments such as “nice, but have you seen my cupcake Taj Mahal? I built it as a symbol of love for the fourteen children I home-school while running my cake-making business”. And yeah, your cakes are probably better but give it time. I’m in this for the long game. Eventually the cake-bakin’ queen bee will be back for good (with bee-shaped cake pops, just to drive home the point).

Of course, I never put anything but home-made cake mix into my cake pop maker. Anything less would be cheating. I don’t see the point of shop-bought cake mixes. They make me go all snooty and sniffy whenever I spot them in Sainsbury’s and thus I have never bought them, ever … Oh, okay, that’s a total lie. They’re great if your kids are insistent on doing every stage of the baking themselves, including the weighing out. If you can’t exert any control over flour-to-sugar ratios, Betty Crocker can (although the one time when I did let my son weigh out every individual element himself, it turned out fine, if a bit pancake-y. Shame we’ll never be able to replicate that recipe again). Nevertheless, if I’m on my own, it’s proper step-by-step weighing out and mixing all the way (I only got an electric mixer last year and still feel guilty about this).

I tell myself that shop-bought cake mix doesn’t taste as good as the real thing. Mind you, the “real thing”, when I bake it, is always plain old Victoria sponge. I ought to be much better at this. Having spent my anorexic teens reading Mary Berry’s cake recipe books from cover to cover, repeatedly, I ought to be bloody brilliant at cake experimentation. Alas for me it’s all theory and no practice. And to be totally honest, the Victoria sponge cakes I make don’t taste that great. That time I won the nursery prize it was all based on appearance. I scarpered with the prize before anyone had the chance to sample the caterpillar’s body. With cake pops, it’s also all about impressing people with good looks, and running off before they uncover the less than pleasant substance beneath (there’s a political metaphor in there somewhere but this evening I’m talking cakes, so I can’t be arsed).

And in any case, where does it all end? If I’m snooty about cake mix, am I snooty about ready-made icing, too? And if so, do Candy Melts count as ready-made icing, even though you should get a free pass with them, because they’re bloody difficult to use? And then, while we’re at it, what does “home-made” really mean? It’s not like I’ve milled the flour, churned the butter, harvested the sugar cane etc. etc. Surely that’s what you’d need to do to make full-on home-made cakes? If not, aren’t we all, to one degree or another, just jumping in at a later stage of the process and splitting hairs about when that is?

Well, anyhow, that’s my excuse in place for when Operation Cake Pop falls apart and I’m back to the rice paper drawing board. But, man, you should’ve seen me in 2009! Cake-wise, I totally rocked!

PS Just a random query here: does anyone else find it quite creepy how Supercook was taken over by Dr Oetker? It’s like Luke Skywalker being taken over by the Emperor.

PPS Whoopie pies – is it me, or were they the minidisc player of cake-baking trends?

PPPS One final cake observation: My eldest thinks you cream butter and sugar so that “you make the sugar disappear, because sugar is bad for us”. I’m not a pushy parent, but come on – that is total genius.

8 thoughts on “Yummy Mummy Retro Cupcake Mania: A Personal Journey

  1. I have nothing against shop bought cake mixes per se, but when they say “just add 1 egg, oil and water” I have to question why one would just pay for ready weighed flour & sugar? If whoopie pies are mini disc, I fear cake pops are the blue ray of the cake world. No one really understands what they are for but they pay more than usual anyway.

    I wonder how far you can take this metaphor? Macaroons, the MP3 CD of the cake world? Fairy cakes are vinyl. Cupcakes are a Cath Kidston Roberts Retro Radio.

    1. Agree about the cake mixes – sometimes they really push it with the amount you’re meant to add. I particularly object when it’s butter rather than oil as that requires proper mixing. I’m quite attracted to those one that look like you can just close the lid and shake all the mix together, though (or is that just for pancakes?)
      Yes, fairy cakes are definitely vinyl. But I wonder if macaroons are blue ray as well? (Although I’m puzzled by them overall. One minute they’re this normal almondy biscuit thing, then suddenly they’re this posh multi-coloured thing from France. How did that happen?)

  2. Just showed up here via Lynn from Salt and Caramel! And I have just basically rolled around laughing at your post🙂 I daresay having a food blog adds to the pressure of ‘what’s she going to bring to the show’ kinda thing. Luckily I have a cat, and the poor creature has taken the blame for (not) eating several… ahem… creations that didn’t turn out exactly how they were supposed to!

  3. Just showed up here via Lynn from Salt and Caramel!

    And I have just basically rolled around laughing at your post🙂 I daresay having a food blog adds to the pressure of ‘what’s she going to bring to the show’ kinda thing. Luckily I have a cat, and the poor creature has taken the blame for (not) eating several… ahem… creations that didn’t turn out exactly how they were supposed to!

    1. Having kids is great for any creations that turn out badly – things that I’ve done that look rubbish look genius when I claim my three-year-old did them!

  4. I too have a cake pop maker – and some candy melts. I have yet to combine one with the other. So far it has made a few experimental cakes (to work out how much stuff to put in) and some doughnuts (recommended and no need to decorate them). I have also established that various people who speculated on their blogs that it would make great profiteroles obviously hadn’t actually tried it. If you like your profiteroles to closely resemble those flying saucer sweets you used to get (why were they made of polystyrene?) then your cake pop maker is ideal. Otherwise, not.

    I am determined to try actual cakes-on-sticks this week. They may be red, white and/or blue.

    1. One thing I have found hard is getting the cakes to stay on the sticks when you’re dipping them into the melts. That’s the case even when I’ve already dipped the stick in the melts before sticking it in the cake (although that does help so it’s sort of a top tip). And yes, the flying saucer ridge you get on the cake ball never appears in any of the photos on the box.
      Good luck with your Jubilee cake-poppin’!

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