Thursday, August 8, 2013

For the Love of Cupcakes: You Can't Avoid These Pretties

There is no macho way to eat a cupcake. For that matter, I'm not sure that there is such a thing as a macho cupcake. You can paint the frosting camoflage or put bacon on top of it or give it a name like "Cold Chocolate Steel" or spike it with habanero paste, but when it comes right down to it, you have a sweet little cake with frosting on it, and not matter how old you are, the desire to lick that frosting off first never goes away.

Cupcakes are one of those trecherous social buggers that, no matter who you are or where you work or how much money you make, you will be confronted with in your adult life. It may be at a party, or on a date, or on birthday day at your workplace, or at a child's party. They may not be as hot as they were, but they are still wildly popular, and something that even a non-cook/ home-cook can make, smear with frosting, put some sprinkles on, and deliver to a roomful of smiling people. They can also appear with inches high, wildly colored frosting dotted with sticky, crunchy goodness, just at the moment when you are schmoozing with a client you are trying to land, a boss you are trying to impress, or the person hiring for the job you desperately want. And you feel the panic start to rise as they offer you one.

So what do you do? They are not eating one, so you have no one to mirror.

Do you lick the frosting? There is no way to do that that does not look obscene. Do you bite it? You can't eat the frosting and the cake together unless you can unhinge your jaws or turn into a giant snake. You don't want to take the frosting off and dye your fingers purple and green, and you just realized that as soon as you eat it, your mouth and teeth are going to be dyed. There's nowhere to put it anyway. Peeling the paper off is useless. This is all going through your mind in a split second as the person looks at you expectantly and tells you that their significant other baked them, now obligating you to eat it. You decide to take small bites from the frosting with small licks where necessary, and when it gets down to jawsize, cake + frosting, you will bite it. This plan goes fine, but when you go home, feeling like you have impressed your peers and dodged a social bullet, you find out that "Dainty Man Eats Cupcake" has gone viral on YouTube and you will never live down the purple and green nightmare.

The other place where you are likely to encounter these dangerous little morsels is at school or other kids' functions. While these probably lack dye-laden inches-high frosting, they are fraught with perils of their own. There's a good chance that a small child helped make them, which means that even if they look or taste like compressed sawdust, you taste one, because the child will notice that no one touched them. Some will taste good. Some will be well-frosted. There are kids around. It's ok to lick off the frosting first, or swipe it off with your finger. You can also peel off the paper and eat a frosting/cake combo. You can have more than one - in fact, it will probably be expected. But no mattter what you do, no matter how careful you are, you will wind up with frosting on your hands, face, facial hair, nose. You will wipe your hands on your pants. A teacher, parent, or other perfectly spotless grown-up will want to speak with you when you have a mouthful of red velvet with cream cheese frosting. A child will drop the last one with the Batman ring and have a meltdown while you are on the phone with your manager. You will get home and find your dog licking you for the molecule-sized crumb left on your shirt.

And yet, despite the potential for doom each time you encounter one of these pretty little treats, you'll find yourself powerless to resist the offer or the platter, and sooner or later you'll make your own, and start trying different combos of flavors, maybe buying a few piping bags and pastry tips, perhaps even a cupcake carrier. Because once you are hooked, you're going to want to get every guy you know to share the love...and the shame.

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