Every year, Lee’s mother mails him a birthday care package. Aside from presents, it always includes a box of angel food cake mix, as well as candles, balloons, and paper plates and napkins. It’s sort of quaint, because no matter how old he gets, the care package is exactly the same. This is not limited to birthdays. For the last two years, we have received plastic eggs, candy, easter grass, and an egg dying kit for Easter. This package is usually accompanied by a phone call explaining that Lee can open the box early if we want to dye the eggs the night before. I am 24 years old and have not dyed an Easter egg in over a decade.
While I don’t dye the eggs, I do make the cake. (I’m not really sure if the cake mix is really for him so much as me, since I can’t really imagine Lee making himself a cake.) In my early baking days, I attempted angel food cake from scratch, not realizing it was one of those fussy recipes that require precision and good technique. My cake puffed up nicely in the oven, but quickly deflated into a lumpy mess once I took it out.
The mix, however, is completely idiot-proof. You add water and, through the magic of chemistry, the mixture foams to 3x its original volume. Then you pour it into the pan and bake it. Unlike many box cakes, which have an artificial taste, I think box angel food tastes pretty darn authentic. I like to add some extra vanilla and almond extract, so it tastes like a giant, almond-y marshmallow.
This year, I decided to mix it up with some cupcakes, which are oh-so-trendy right now. I wanted to make mine sparsely beautiful, like Nigella’s fairy cakes. Per her recipe, I whipped up some royal icing and spread it on the tops with the back of a spoon. But, unlike Nigella, I didn’t have any cute little sugar flowers or fondant cut outs to stick on top of my cupcakes. After digging through the pantry, all I came up with were some raw almonds and leftover Christmas sprinkles. So, I did the best I could, given the circumstances. I think they look decently cute, if not ideal.