You are standing over a mixing bowl at 10 o'clock at night with one firm vision in your mind: purple cupcakes with sprinkles on top. You are steely-eyed and nothing could divert your focus. You have arrived at this point through careful planning and preparation. The potato salad you need for tomorrow's potluck at work is already made and cooling in the fridge. Why you insisted on making it from scratch rather than buying storebought as any rational human being would have done defies all logic.
You have laid out the boxed yellow cake mix and ready-made frosting on the counter in front of you. Both of these items represent a serious compromise of your ideals that still gives you pause. Boxed cake mix? What a travesty. It's not even organic. Would the other children's mothers be appalled if they knew? They work too, you assure yourself. Surely they would understand. And the frosting. If you were looking for convenience, you could have bought purple straight out of the can, but you opted for the reduced sugar version, which only came in white. You will have to add red and blue food coloring to create the purple color yourself. Surely this earns you some sort of credit in Mommy Heaven.
With the oven preheating you move on to your next task, and already the first disaster strikes: a shortage of cupcake liners. Quick, you think, is there any homemade substitute for cupcake liners? Don't be ridiculous! What are you going to do, use coffee filters? Ok, don't panic. We'll just use spray olive oil in the cupcake pan. That should work. Please God let it work.
With the batter thoroughly mixed, you study the back of the box for cooking details. High altitude adjustments: None. Yeah right. If these go flat, so help me Betty Crocker! you idly threaten. Now where does it tell you how full to fill the cupcake liners? Is it 3/4? 1/2? An overfull liner leads to a messy disaster, you know well from experience. You scour the box. Nothing. Going to have to make a best guess and go for it. You fill each cupcake liner in the tray 3/4 full. As you're pouring batter into the last one, you look back at the box. Dammit! The one spot you didn't check. 2/3 full. Crap. You start spooning batter out of each liner and back into the bowl. What a mess.
The first batch goes into the oven. Time to get going on the icing. You grab the two sets of food coloring from out of the pantry. The red is missing from the first pack, but that's why you have two packs, you smirk to yourself. Then disaster! The red in the second pack is completely dried up. Damn this dry climate! Ok, think. Think. Inspiration! You remember the frozen cubes of beets in the freezer and how they turned your hands red when you were pureeing them. You get one out and defrost it. You mix a small dab into the white frosting and smile to yourself as it turns petal pink. You can't even taste the beets. There is no disputing it: you are officially a genius. Now for the blue. Again blue is missing from pack 1. You grab the blue from the second pack, and gasp at how little is left.
Will there be enough? Please don't leave me with pink cupcakes. Anything but pink! You squeeze out a few drops and mix it in. Not enough. Still pink. You squeeze in every last drop of blue and pray as you fire up the electric mixer. Your anxiety gradually melts into a feeling of calm tranquility as the icing in the bowl before you transforms to a pale lavender color.
You take a moment while you're waiting to quietly reflect. How can it be that the sum total of your worth as a human being has gotten wrapped up in these silly cupcakes? She's only two. It's not like she'll ever know the difference. All you can do is shrug your shoulders.
At exactly 17 minutes when the timer beeps you take out the first batch. Golden perfection. They are 12 yellow happy faces smiling up at you saying "Ice me! Ice me!" Not until you cool off, little darlings. You quietly wonder whether you are losing your mind.
When the last bit of frosting goes on and the sprinkles are all sprinkled, you take a photo for posterity. Yes. You have definitely lost your mind. But hey, you have two dozen purple cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles on top to show for it.