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Cupcakegate: Cupcakes, Cupcakes-in-Jars and Air Travel

Cupcake vs Cupcake in Jar

One of the things that make cupcakes so popular is that they are portable, easy to transport from your kitchen to parties and other events. You can even take cupcakes on a plane to share with friends all over the country and across the globe as long as you’ve made relatively traditional cupcakes. You cannot, however, take cupcakes in a jar with you on a plane.

Over the Christmas holidays, a woman had a cupcake confiscated by the TSA at the Las Vegans McCarran Airport. The story spread quickly and people wondered how a cupcake could possible be enough of a “gel-like substance” (similar consistency to toothpaste or other items that are limited to a 3-oz maximum for carry-on air travel) to be confiscated at an airport. The answer is that it wasn’t a cupcake, but a cupcake-in-a-jar. These creations are popular gifts, consisting of layers of cake and frosting stacked inside of a jar and meant to be eaten with a spoon. Typically, these confections are large and – as you might expect – have a whole lot of frosting inside of them. It was all that frosting that got this particular cupcake into trouble because it was an 8-oz cupcake-in-a-jar (pictured above, right) and good portion of that jar was frosting.

TSA has a 3-1-1 policy that limits that amount of liquids and gels that can be carried on to planes and TSA agents are allowed to use their discretion to allow or prohibit questionable items. It’s entirely possible that one agent would have (and did, actually, at a Boston airport) allowed the cupcake-in-a-jar to pass through security, but it was equally possible that any given agent would disallow it, as well.  TSA explained on their blog exactly why the cupcake didn’t make it though and why the jar packaging (larger than the 3-oz limit for liquids/gels) called into question whether that product was actually a cupcake at all.

When you see a traditional cupcake next to a cupcake-in-a-jar, it’s not difficult to see that they look like very different products even if they use the same ingredients. While it may sound silly to confiscate a cupcake, the jar makes the product look a lot less cupcake-like to me and probably to a lot of other people who aren’t familiar with the concept.

I’ve had to give up preserves and other not-quite-solid products at airport security before, and I tend to think you’re taking your chances with foods that aren’t clearly solids. The moral of the story here is that cupcakes can be taken on planes, but you’re taking your chances with a cupcake-in-a-jar. Either eat your cupcake-in-a-jar at the airport, ship it home or pack it in a checked bag if you’re in doubt. Or just ask for a more traditional cupcake that you can take through security without any problems.

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  • Maureen
    January 12, 2012

    That definitely looks like too much cake to eat on a plane ride. 🙂

  • suzanne
    January 13, 2012

    I’ve never even HEARD of a cupcake in a jar…where have I been?? Layers of cake, frosting, and a spoon…sign me up!

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