Back Yard Bugs & Boys

Elizabeth Karmel and family and I missed our traditional Christmas cookie lesson for her nephews this year due to her upcoming book deadline. When Alexander, her middle nephew confided in her that Christmas was a disappointment and listed as one of the main reasons that “Aunt Rose” didn’t come for the cookie class, I knew we would have to reschedule at our earliest opportunity and between both our book production deadlines. We planned several months ahead which gave me time to put together a fun surprise. Instead of cookies it was cake, or should I say cakes as I found the most delightful pan from Nordicware called “Back Yard Bugs.” I knew the boys would love it but I also knew I’d want one too! Their mom, Elizabeth’s sister Mary Pat (aka MP) thought it was so cute she said she was going to make the ‘bugs’ for a dinner party that week.

The Karmels are a died-in-the-wool baking family from North Carolina and Elizabeth wanted the boys to start young. Knowing that my nephew was a coast away, she offered to share hers. The first cookie class was several years ago when August, the oldest, was precocious enough to measure flour (now we weigh!). Alexander was still in diapers. Class two a year later had Alexander announcing to his mom that he too wanted to “have conversations with Rose.” Class three he participated much more fully. It coincided with the arrival of his little brother Max. And back yard bug class four Alexander took to the time-honored licking of the beater like a duck to water! He also proved himself a master at cake decorating. I suggested the Wilton buttercream that comes in a tube with attachable tips and the boys couldn’t have been happier. I kept mine simple and stream-lined just to demonstrate the basic technique but EAK’s butterfly was a lot more colorful. Max tiptoed up to the work counter to see what was going on but he was happiest eating raw corn. It won’t be long…. Cake comment of the day was from August, in his exceptionally deep and deliberate voice he proclaimed: “I knew they would look good but I never had any idea that they would taste so good, this chocolate cake is stupendous!” (This is one of the chocolate cakes from the upcoming book.) He also said he was going to make the cakes again by himself. Nothing could have done more to make me feel the class had been a success! MP made fabulous rugelach—my number one favorite cookie—to sustain us during our baking and decorating efforts and Elizabeth (aka EAK) made lunch--the best thin crust pizza I’ve ever tasted from her terrific new book “Pizza on the Grill” (Taunton Press). She also made us a most delicious grilled dinner of steak, asparagus, and little potatoes. And what do you supposed we had for dessert: Chocolate “back yard bugs.” Of course there was an excellent bottle of red wine and a lusciously runny cheese (Le Grand Crème) as a finale. I gave the boys a poster that our dear blogger Hector made of me jumping out of a cake to keep them company and ‘watch over their baking’ during the year between baking classes and to my delight they screamed with joy saying they would put it up in their room. Here’s the three of us happy campers: