Somehow the issue of cupcakes in a jar never quite came up until Rebecca Hains, of Peabody, Mass., was barred from taking her cupcakes on a plane last month. A TSA agent told her that icing in the jar exceeded amounts of gels allowed in carry-on luggage.
The issue set off a frosty fury with Hains calling the decision terrible logic. She argued that she already passed through Boston's Logan International Airport without incident toting two of the packaged baked goods.
It's not really about the cupcake, Hains said in December. I can get another cupcake. It's about the encroachment on civil liberties.
TSA Spokesperson Bob Burns took great pains to detail the difference between a cupcake and a cupcake in a jar in an official statement titled Cupcakegate on the often tongue-in-cheek TSA Blog:
In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage, however, the officer in this case used their discretion on whether or not to allow the newfangled modern take on a cupcake per 3-1-1 guidelines. They chose not to let it go.
The 3-1-1 guidelines were a direct result of the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 and limit the amount of liquids, gels, and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage.
Icing, as it turns out, is considered a gel. Typically, the thin layer of icing found on your average cupcake is admissible under TSA rules. However, cupcakes in an icing jar evoke the ire of the federal agency.
This incident may seem like a silly move to many of our critics, Burns notes. But when we can't be exactly sure of what something is, every officer has the discretion to not allow it on the plane. This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling.
The UK bomb plot was not the only to involve liquids. In 1995, Ramzi Yousef planned to use liquid explosives to bomb 12 passenger-carrying aircraft bound for the U.S. in the so-called Bojinka Plot.
What the two plots and intelligence gathered from all over the world tell us is that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone, Burns says. Terrorist have moved to novel explosives disguised as common, everyday items.
When you think about it, he adds, do you think an explosive would be concealed in an ominous item that would draw attention, or something as simple as a cute cupcake jar?
The TSA says you're more than welcome to take cakes, pies, and cupcakes through security checkpoints, however you should expect that they may get additional screening or possibly be confiscated if something doesn't seem right.
Most who've responded to the TSA post express disapproval of the action. Their main concern: What happened to the cupcakes in a jar?