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The 19 Cent Cupcake – No Box Mix or Canned Frosting Required

19 Cent Cupcake

This cupcake recipe is the first recipe that I have ever created solely based on price.  As part of the Hunger Challenge, I had $87 to spend on food for the week for my family of three – and as a cupcake blogger, I wanted to include cupcakes.  For this recipe (and everything else we ate during the Challenge), I assumed that I had nothing in my pantry except salt and pepper.  If I wanted to use vanilla extract, the cost of buying that vanilla extract would count against the total.

I ended up baking eight banana cupcakes with dulce de leche frosting.  Each cupcake cost nineteen cents (thirty-three cents if you serve it with a scoop of homemade banana ice cream).  The cupcakes themselves are simple and not overly sweet, but when you top them with the dulce de leche and eat them with the ice cream, they rival any of my pricier creations.

More Thoughts on the Hunger Challenge

I received many comments on my most recent post about the Hunger Challenge.  Many of you supported me and my family for what we were doing.  Some of you told stories about your own families, people you know, and people that you work with.  Others questioned (with varying degrees of severity) my motives and methods. I encourage you to read to the post, read the comments, and keep the dialogue going.

As I stewed over the comments (particularly the more negative ones – isn’t it always that way?), I came across a post that really hit home by Kitchen Mage, a food blogger who has personal experience with Food Stamps.  She had the following to say to food bloggers participating the in the Challenge:

If you find yourself being hassled, consider it part of the challenge. It can be uncomfortable, but you’re probably only on the other side of the keyboard reading a tweet you don’t like. People on public assistance are constantly being told how they are doing it wrong. Simply splitting your grocery purchase into food and not-food is a silent declaration that you are on SNAP leading some people to judge your purchases, sometimes out loud, rudely and to your face, or worse, your child’s face.

She’s right (of course), and the more I think about it, I’m glad that writing about the Hunger Challenge hasn’t been easy and that it has sparked discussion.  That’s how it should be.  I also strongly suggest that you read both of Kitchen Mage’s posts on the hunger challenge (the first one and the second one).  I can tell you what it’s been like for me (eye-opening and educational), but I’ve found that it’s hard to say much more without sounding preachy or coming across as a rich girl playing house. Kitchen Mage shares the hard truth of what it’s really like.

Now, Onto the Cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is below.  The cost per cupcake will obviously vary greatly depending on how much the ingredients cost in your area.  I list the price I paid for each ingredient (scaled down from the full quantity in the package).

Yield: 8 cupcakes

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature ($0.34)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar ($0.16)
  • 1 large egg  ($0.14)
  • 1/2 cup flavored yogurt (I used soy coconut yogurt that I got with a coupon, $0.25)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda ($0.01)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour ($0.08)
  • 1 ripe banana, about 1/4 cup after mashing ($0.14)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter and sugar.
  3. Mix in the egg.
  4. Mix in the yogurt, baking soda, and flour.
  5. Mix in the mashed banana.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Dulce De Leche Frosting

For the frosting, I used dulce de leche made from a can of sweetened condensed milk (see my post on how to make dulce de leche for details).  The can cost $1.29 but I only used a quarter of the dulce de leche it made to frost the cupcakes.  I’ll be able to use the leftovers to spread on bread, top my banana ice cream with, or I may use it instead of syrup on pancakes.

Banana Ice Cream

Yesterday on the Cupcake Project Facebook page, Herb’n Maid suggested that I make banana ice cream – I had mentioned that I bought a big bag of inexpensive bananas at a farmers’ market.  She explained that you can make banana ice cream from one ingredient: a banana!

To make banana ice cream:

  • Simply cut a banana up, freeze it, and then blend the frozen banana to create a smooth, creamy banana ice cream.
  • If you prefer harder ice cream, make the ice cream in the blender and then return it to the freezer in a bowl for an hour or so before scooping and eating it.

The photo at the top of this post shows two servings of banana ice cream (my husband and I shared that amount of ice cream).  Each serving was about one banana’s worth, which in our case was $0.14.

The Rest of the Hunger Challenge

I’ve been posting photos of our meals in an album on Facebook and I will continue to do so.  Check there to see how our week ends.

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28 comments on “The 19 Cent Cupcake – No Box Mix or Canned Frosting Required”

  1. So impressive, Stef. As usual, you continue to amaze me … thanks for being so honest … and for an amazing (and inexpensive!) cupcake recipe!

  2. Angelasays:

    I took home economics in the 1960’s and we were taught to figure the cost of a meal like you are doing it. It was a struggle to figure out the cost of a teaspoon of baking soda etc. each time but I still use a lot of the things I was taught.

  3. Krisssays:

    If I don’t have a banana and have some ripe nectarines will they work? I have everything but the banana and really want to bake tomorrow!

  4. Joysays:

    Great job on the cupcakes.

  5. Shreelasays:

    Very refreshing to see a cake recipe that doesn’t use nasty chemical cakemix, no matter what the reason. Thank you!

  6. kerrysays:

    I have never seen or heard of this until today through face book and I must say, last year I tried, well had to feed my family of 6..and they aren’t babies, teenagers, on 50 to sometimes 80 dollars a week. Hats off to you! Its not easy, its frustrating and boy did I need this last year. We were denied for foodstamps over 20 dollars and if I had this site then, maybe I wouldn’t have cried so much.

  7. Hey, thanks for the links to my posts. I am glad to see it opening up more conversation, and helping people understand a wee bit more of what it’s like to live it. I’m not exactly a cupcake person (long story) but I’m in favor of your budget including them. You have to have small bright spots in the experiment.

  8. reneesays:

    Come on now, at what grocery store can you purchase 1 cup of flour or just one egg. I’ve never heard of buying 4 tbs of butter, lets be realistic now. You have to buy these items in bulk so in reality these cupcakes are not 19 cents there more like 10 bucks. I actually receive public aid so if i wanted to make these i would be paying 5 dollars for butter and so on……

  9. Stefsays:

    Rennee – It’s true. That’s why I chose ingredients that I knew I would use for things other than cupcakes (like bananas). I decided to break the cost up into just what I used for the cupcakes because I knew that I would be accounting for the costs of the other items in other dishes that I made. Also, you’ll see that when I tally the amount I spent for the week, I’ll include the cost of the whole package of each item whether I used the whole thing or not.

  10. Magpiesays:

    Here is a much cheaper to make banana bread/muffin that is also vegan ( no butter, no eggs, no yogurt) and allergy friendly but you would never know because it tastes just as good :)

  11. glad to see you were able to fit cupcakes in there. staying true to yourself :)

  12. I agree with Magpie – I’d love to see you make a vegan treat for this experiment. It would probably end up cheaper – no butter and no eggs – as long as you didn’t use a recipe that uses milk substitutes.

    This little recipe is simple and cute. The dulce de leche is a great touch :)

  13. I agree with Magpie – I’d love to see you make a vegan treat for this experiment. It would probably end up cheaper – no butter and no eggs – as long as you didn’t use a recipe that uses milk substitutes.

    This little recipe is simple and cute. The dulce de leche is a great touch :)

  14. I agree with Magpie – I’d love to see you make a vegan treat for this experiment. It would probably end up cheaper – no butter and no eggs – as long as you didn’t use a recipe that uses milk substitutes.

    This little recipe is simple and cute. The dulce de leche is a great touch :)

  15. Stef, I just finished our final hunger challenge post, and it was really hard to write. Unless people do the challenge they have no clue hard this is – and we when it’s over for all of us, we’re back to normal.

    Your post is so poignant. Thanks for sharing. And these banana cupcakes, beside being cheap, look fantastic.

  16. cupake. a great thing for a tea party for girls.

  17. Stefsays:

    Kriss – Nectarines have much more liquid than bananas so they wouldn’t work the same way – I’m sorry to report.

  18. I have to agree, banana ice cream sounds lovely and so simple. Spring is here in Western Australia and we eat more ice cream per head than any where in the world, so banana ice cream for me.

  19. Amazing, these cupcakes are completely sweet! I share it with my kids and now they want me to make this one. Even though I’m not good in baking, then I will try it later on. Thanks for he recipe

  20. This is a really nice cupcake recipe! Thank you for sharing it with us and being so franc about the whole price of the cupcakes!

  21. It breaks down to simplicity vs convenience. I love your cup cakes, but we have been a hurry up society that we spend most of our money on Boxed recipes. Take pan cakes for instance. I make them up from scratch, but you can find pan cakes in powder reddy mixes to a Pre-mix pan cake batter liquid. How lazy do these manufactures think we are that we don’t have time to add water to a box of batter?

  22. Anonymoussays:

    That’s not banana ice cream, that’s frozen pureed bananas. Not in the ball park.

  23. mollysays:

    I’ve always been a banana bread girl until now, so thanks for the idea…and the Sugar Rush!

  24. Ashley M.says:

    You actually made a “Banoffee” Cupcake.

    sloan_gray at yahoo dot com

  25. Linda Tsays:

    I’m really impressed at this, but getting a box mix for 99 cents and a couple of eggs and oil isn’t much more. If one had to make several—say 50 or so, it would be a great savings. Thanks.

  26. Stevesays:

    The photo looks like you used paper liners (baking cups)Do you have a substitute for store-bought liners? If not, wouldn’t they add six to ten cents to the cost of each cupcake (or more if you didn’t use the whole package that week)? Thanks.

  27. Christinasays:

    Do you think the consistency would change if I used apple sauce instead of banana? I’d love to adjust this to be more of a fall cupcake.

  28. I aabsolutely love your blog.. Veryy nice colors & theme. Did you
    develop this web sitte yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own personal blog and would love to
    know where you got this from or exactly what the theme iss named.

    Thank you!

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