No matter how many times I say, "It isn't about the cupcakes," people still assume you're anti-cupcake if you advocate for better food in schools. Cupcakes are these symbols that can divide perfectly reasonable people into warring factions, turning both sides into bombastic fools.
That said, denying their power may be just as foolhardy as imbuing them with unnecessary significance.
My kids' school does not have a 'no cupcake' policy. But we do have a wellness policy that encourages parents and teachers to "consider nutritional quality when when selecting any snacks" for occasional class parties. I think this is perfectly reasonable, and I take it to heart. Do I still see parents bringing cupcakes to class overloaded with so much frosting they risk tipping from its weight? All the time. But with no desire to be the cupcake police, I generally keep my mouth shut.
And bring blueberry muffins for my birthday boys instead.
Recipe for Classroom-Appropriate Double Blueberry Muffins
Makes 18 muffins
Inspired by the sour cream blueberry muffins in Lisa Yockelson's Baking By Flavor (Wiley, 2002), my version has less fat, a mixture of frozen and dried wild blueberries, and a touch of white whole wheat flour. They're not health food, but without a tall cap of icing they're better than the alternative. If your kids' classmates complain about missing the birthday cupcakes, dock them a grade.
[Feel free to use 2 cups (total) frozen blueberries if you can't find, or choose to skip, the dried version.]
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup thick nonfat plain yogurt (European-style, if you can find it)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries (small ones preferred)
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 tablespoon coarse (such as demerara) sugar, for sprinkling (granulated sugar is okay, too)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat the muffin tins all over with cooking spray (both inside the cups and in the spaces in between). Set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, avoiding the uppermost and lowermost positions.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream, yogurt, milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter until uniform.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
Place the frozen blueberries and dried blueberries into a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sifted dry ingredients over top, and give a quick stir to coat. (This will prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.)
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and mix well with a rubber spatula. (The batter will be thick.) Fold in the blueberry mixture.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling each one no more than 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until well browned and a tester comes out clean. After a minute or two, carefully remove the muffins from the tins and cool on a wire rack.