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Yesterday was Prince Charming’s birthday. In honor of the occasion, Baby Bear and I spent the morning making and frosting a cake. (Because, hey. Sugar. Butter. And did I mention the sugar? And, you know, the butter? I’d wish Dick Cheney a happy birthday if there was cake involved.)

In advance of this peaceful, sunlit mother-son bonding experience, I had picked up some cake mix during Monday’s trip to the grocery store. (Because while I’m not willing to trade real frosting for Sludge-in-a-Can®, I have no issues with faking the medium upon which it’s spread.) With the Toddler Doomsday Clock ticking its way toward a lunchtime meltdown, I quickly surveyed the flavors of boxed nostalgia on offer and grabbed… red velvet.

Now, I’ve spent most of my life below the Mason Dixon line. I like grits. I talk to strangers. My father took great pains to teach me about John Mosby. But although the Washington area is technically in the South, it’s still above the Sweet Tea Line, that fictional but no less influential border that marks the true start of the region, as well as what’s poured into your glass when you ask for “iced tea.” (North of Richmond, you’re generally given a choice. After all, you and/or you server are likely to be come-heres who don’t know any better, poor things.)

So all I knew about red velvet cake when I handed Baby Bear the open bag of benignly gray mix and pointed him toward the waiting bowl was that a) it looked pretty on the box and b) its chocolate-y flavor would appeal to Prince Charming. I didn’t really think, for example, about how you turn a chocolate cake red in the first place. Or its logical extension, what else could be done with a food dye that powerful.

Um, yeah.

During the first phase of cleanup, as the water in my sponge activated the red dye in the spilled mix, it looked as if I had butchered a clown. A day later, we’ve still got magenta spots on the counter. On the cutting board. Around the sink. On Baby Bear’s shirt and bib (because this stuff stains even after it’s cooked). I think it will come off the plates themselves; only time and our dishwasher will tell. 

(But the bits that made it onto our dessert plates were gooooooooood.)

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