"I hate food colouring."
Dad walked in just in time to see his shortest middle daughter scowling darkly at a batch of freshly baked cupcakes. He'd been practising for a performance this saturday, and so was in the slightly absentminded haze I call music mode.
He glanced at my expression, and at the cakes, and rather cautiously asked, "Aren't they supposed to be red?"
I scowled even more fiercely. Yes, they were supposed to be red. Instead they were a very warm dark brown, which although nice wasn't quite what I'd hoped for. Red velvet cupcakes can't be red velvet cupcakes if they aren't red. Rather despondently, I picked up the two empty bottles of Morrison's brand red food colouring and peered inside, as though the answer to my problems lay there.
The cupcakes had risen beautifully (which was a miracle). That warm, fresh smell of baking had found every nook and cranny in our house and made it smell heavenly. It's the kind of smell that smooths away bad tempers and makes your mouth water in anticipation of the first light, crumbly bite of cake melting onto your tongue.
Usually, it's the kind of smell that makes me very very happy and flick the kettle switch for a cuppa to go with one (for testing, you understand). But I still had to make cream cheese frosting. With a kilo of icing sugar.
And so with dozens of cupcakes lining the sides on every available surface to cool, I grimly tackled the frosting. I was using a bowl the size of my torso which still didn't have enough room for all that sugar. I beat that cream cheese frosting til it was beautifully smooth.
And then I happened to look up.
The kitchen was a disaster site.
Icing sugar had delicately cloaked every available surface, dusting even behind the breadbin and the cupboard handles. Everything within a metre radius was white. Including, of course, myself. I'd washed my hair only that morning in preparation for the wedding, and I had clearly not missed an inch in my icing efforts. I was frosted from head to toe. Forget the fresh raspberries and mint leaves I was planning to decorate with, I might as well just arrange myself delicately across the top of my cupcakes.
Ruefully I tugged at one sugary strand of hair, and suddenly found myself choking back laughter. My disappointment at the colour of the cakes evaporated.
So what if the cupcakes weren't red? Meg and Dave were going to get married in a couple of hours, and nothing could change that. No one need ever know that my cupcakes were red velvet cupcakes. I leaned weakly against the worktop and held my sides until I stopped laughing.
And then, obviously, I cleaned up.
Later, when I'd rescued my hair and put on my dress, Dad helped me take the trays out to the car. As we went out the door he drew me into a tight hug and dropped a kiss on my temple.
"They look wonderful, love." I beamed up at him, and then he grinned, "even if they're not red."