“What are you making for your shalach manot this year?” I’ve been getting that question for weeks and I finally figured it out. See, while everyone else meticulously planned their shalach manot, I was focused on making Cara-Mel’s. Lots and lots of Cara-Mel’s! Living and breathing Cara-Mels! So unlike last year when I took the time to focus on delicious cake truffles and peppermint meringues, I didn’t even know what I was going to put together this year until right before Purim. So sad! If you’re wondering what the word shalach manot means, here’s what Rabbi Lawrence Hajiof has to say in his current Joy of Kosher article: “On Purim one of the special mitzvot we perform is giving food gifts to friends. The reason we perform this mitzvah is to bring joy to others and to generally increase happiness among Jewish people on Purim. What better way to make friends happy than to give them food packages! By doing this we add unity to our people and this in turn allows the Jewish people to be judged favorably in heaven.” Thanks for the info, Rabbi Hajiof! So while I was shopping at Marshall’s, my favorite discount store and practically the only place open before 10 am in my neighborhood, I found an adorable package of circus cupcake liners and toppers. Perfect! My circus-themed shalach manot were born.

Rainbow Circus Cupcakes

1 box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
3 eggs
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/8 tsp each red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple food coloring gel (I like to use Wilton)

For this recipe, I chose to use boxed cake mix instead of homemade because sometimes, I just want the nostalgic flavors of boxed cake mix. I really LOVE Duncan Hines but you can use whatever brand you want. And if you want to make homemade cake for this recipe, you can use my Rainbow Layer Cake recipe. I followed the back of the box by mixing together the cake mix, eggs, water and vegetable oil until combined. I then split the cake batter in to six bowls (I used a 3/4-cup measuring cup so the batter would be even in each bowl) and mixed in the food coloring.

Now came the interesting part. I thought making rainbow layers cupcakes would be a quick process and that’s why I chose them for my simple shalach manot, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Still worth it though! I mean, look at those colors! One rainbow color at a time, I used a teaspoon to drop the cake batter in to each cupcake  liner and let it spread on its own. I started with red on the bottom and followed the colors of the rainbow, but you can layer them however you want.

I baked the cupcakes according to the package directions, for 19 minutes at 350 degrees. I love the way my house smells when I bake with Duncan Hines! And they came out perfect!

Breaking in to one of these bad boys will make a lasting impression! Six layers of bright rainbow colors. Yum. I chose not to use frosting so the cupcakes wouldn’t be messy when I packaged, but you can totally pile the frosting on to yours! A delicious meringue frosting or even just whipped cream would be great.

Next step was packaging the shalach manot. I found some really cute packaging at Michael’s, my favorite crafts store, and bought Cracker Jacks to add to the circus theme. Very simple but so delicious and pretty.

Happy Purim from the Strauss Family! Enjoy the circus. 

By the way, I totally forgot to mention the other reason that I didn’t have a lot of time to work on my shalach manot. My son, Zachy, has one of his front teeth removed because he cracked it and it got infected AND he got his tongue-tie cut. Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I mean, look how cute he looks…