Mum of one, Donne was faced with a dilemma this week.
Her son Hendrix was celebrating his fifth birthday. He’d also just started kindergarten at a largely no-dairy, no-wheat school.
“There were big expectations,” Donne said. “Beginning of Big School. Turning five. So I knew the cakes had to be good.”
“At first I thought I would buy them,” says Donne. “I work fulltime and the idea of making 40 cupcakes at night felt ridiculous. Until I saw the price. The local cake shop would charge me $85 to make them. And I thought, screw that, I will make them myself cheaper. It can’t be that hard.”
Insert *cough noise*.
The day begins at 10am
Donne says the process started off very straightforwardly.
“I found a really simple recipe online and I thought, it’s okay I can totally do this. No big deal. Plus, the blogger said it cost about $5 for 12 cupcakes. So, my thought process was: 21 kids in the class, feed the kids, feed the teacher and I am a hero all around. Not bad for $10.”
It wasn’t until Donne hit her local Woolworths, that the real fun* began.
It’s about 11am
“I work from home but had taken an hour off that morning to start on my list. So I went down to Woolies and found the basic stuff. It was all good. Then, as I was walking down the aisles I started throwing in a few extra things – you know to make it look pretty. So, in went the glitter and icing and the stars,” says Donne.
“It wasn’t until I got to the checkout that I realised: hang on a second, I am not a baker. I don’t have beaters, I don’t have cupcake trays or Tupperware to take the cakes in, or even a cooling rack. So I went back down the aisle and grabbed all that stuff too. In my head I am thinking, it’s fine, I need these things, it will all work out. Only, when I get through the checkout and I have spent $107.”
That’s WAY WAY WAY more than $5
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it. By the time Donne makes it home from Woolworths, she’s realised she’d spent far longer than the 15 minutes she’d set aside for the trip.
“At that point, I have decided that I didn’t want to make this a stressful experience – and I didn’t want to make it a mother-child bonding thing either, because I don’t want to deal with the mess! So I decided to make the cupcakes and let them cool, and then decorate them with Hendrix after school.”
By now it’s about 12pm
And that’s when Donne hits another snag.
Midway through mixing the batter for the cupcakes, she realises her oven only fits 12 cupcakes at a time (and she is making 42.) What’s more, each tray needs 18 minutes of baking time.
“I realise that the half-hour I was setting aside to make these damn cakes has spiralled into 1.5 hours. So, at that point I decide, bugger it, if I am in the kitchen I might as well make the icing as well.”
Plus, it’s now close to 2pm
Donne describes time being “swallowed up” and her kitchen turning into a gigantic mess of different coloured icings, butter and sugar and “all the other damn things.”
“I am at breaking point! I just want this done so I can clean up and get started on my work before the end of the school day. But by the time I finish, the workday is over because I only work school hours and its pushing 3pm.”
At 2:55pm, just as the last cupcake crumb is swept off the bench, Donne starts doing a calculation in her head.
“Given I had no time to do any of the work I planned for that day, I lost four hours of work time, plus $100 for groceries. So that meant I spent $380 on 42 bloody cupcakes!”
“I mean, I hate baking!”
Worst of all for Donne was the ridiculous irony of her situation.
“I mean, I hate baking! So right at the beginning, I thought I’d outsource this, but refused to pay the $85 for 24 cupcakes. I thought I would save money!”
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Donne says she was in a bad mood for the rest of the evening, coming down from her sugar high: “I ate all the leftover icing!”
Advice for fellow mums
When Donne’s son Hendrix returned from school, she says he was “stoked” with his birthday cakes.
“He loves cake,” she says.
And when prompted for advice for fellow mums says, simply:
“Spend the $85 on outsourced cupcakes. No mess, no lost work time! Oh, and don’t forget to include the cost of your time when you’re weighing up outsourcing. Your time is valuable!”
Good work, mama. Time for a bit of a rest, yeah?
*No fun was had in the making of these cupcakes. At all.