I've been giving August Wachter annual baking lessons now for 10 years and always around the winter holidays. His aunt, Elizabeth Karmel (grilling cookbook author, celebrity, and executive chef of Hill Country) made the introduction when there was just August and his new-born little brother Alexander. This year we missed the winter holidays as Elizabeth has become busier than ever, opening Hill Country Restaurant in Washington, DC in addition to her numerous other activities so her sister Mary Pat and I arranged a summer session with just me and what is now three boys. The youngest brother, Max, is now old enough to want to try his hand at everything. But this year was August's choice. For August, it can't be too chocolatey, so looking through Rose's Heavenly Cakes he chose the "Double-Chocolate-Whammy Groom's Cake." This cake has "Fudgy Pudgy Brownies" folded into a chocolate batter and baked in a stadium pan I inspired NordicWare to produce. Alexander, aka Xander, just back from a baseball game (note black smudges under his eyes) helped cut the brownies. He also came up with the great idea of tinting coconut green with food coloring for the grass in the center of the stadium. And knowing how much the whole family loves chocolate, I made a quick ganache glaze to serve with the cake. August and Max also cut the brownies (the dullest knife went to four year old Max). And they also helped measure all the ingredients. When August saw me removing the extra gram of flour that I had added to the mixer bowl he asked me if 1 gram too much would really make a difference. My answer: "No--it would not affect the cake, but it is an approach to life. If one starts becoming lax, the concept of 'will it really make a difference' soon would be transferred to other things where it might indeed make a difference. Being exact in measuring is a good approach to life." Then August asked me how I went about creating recipes and listened with interest as I explained about the cake we were doing and how I was inspired by an ice cream that contained bits of brownies. This was the first year that Max was able to help in a significant way. He mentioned about how he was the littlest of the brothers and I assured him that in just a few years he would be the biggest of the three. He looked sceptical, but Mary Pat, Karl, and I are all quite certain of it! Even now he looks like a minature line backer though in this photo he looks more like an angel! The next morning Max looked me straight in the eye and directed his first ever comment to me in one complete and unhesitating sentence: "The stadium cake will be perfect for my soccer party birthday." The lesson was a success! Next year it will be the "Deep Chocolate Passion" cake. I know how much they will love seeing how easy it is to mix the batter, how it hardly fills the pan and then levitates to the very top toward the end of baking, and how delicious it becomes with the milk chocolate glaze brushed into the cake. I think August is now more than ready to operate the stand mixer.
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