S(omething) More

Click the photo to read the student's thoughtful comments!
I want to add some edibles to my craft fair booth. Somehow I settled on cake pops as being both crowd-pleasing and Easter Bunny-friendly for our upcoming March fair.

It complicates things some that I refuse to spend hours decorating. (Google "cake pops" and join me as I marvel at the time and expense that goes into decorating one mouthful of something that is intended for...er...digestion?!) For my sanity's sake,  my emphasis needs to be in the flavor and quality of the cake, not the cuteness of the pop. Substance is always more important that appearance to me, so it fits.

After Christmas, I googled "interesting cakes" and made a list of combinations to try. Wine cake, anybody?! (Hmmm. The fair is in the backyard of a sweet little Baptist church. Maybe not.)

Then I remembered the plethora of s'mores favors and teacher gifts pinned on Pinterest. Why not? I thought. THAT might be interesting. I set myself a challenge to find or create a cake pop reminiscent of a good old s'more.

I did find one recipe online that used devil's food cake mix, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallow creme. But wait just one minute. It's been a while since I had one, but I seem to remember that s'mores have a graham cracker base, not a chocolate one.  I took a chance and googled "graham cracker cake recipe," even though I didn't know if there was such a thing. Somewhere in the middle, I figured, I'd find the perfect blend. I printed both recipes.

For two weeks, I just mulled.

Should I somehow combine the chocolate and graham cakes into one pop?  Or should I make both (or versions of both) and let the kids tell me which is better? I dawdled, trying to decide a pseudo-scientific way to end up with something unexpected and really good. I was probably overthinking it by a mile. (Or two.)

Then, as the Christmas holiday drew to an end, my daughter e-mailed her English teacher and got permission to conduct taste tests in class once a week.

Early yesterday it hit me: it was time to fish or cut bait. The teacher was expecting some cake pops/balls on block day. Which was...tomorrow.

A near-dawn Pinterest find yesterday (see cupcake #32) led me to a simpler graham cake. A pre-workout grocery run yesterday for candy melts, marshmallows, marshmallow creme,  cake mix, and graham crackers left me with all the supplies and no more excuses for delay. I got busy and the cakes were baked and cooling before the afternoon track carpool run. By evening, I had two batches of cake ball dough for the kids to help me with.

"Have a bite, and tell me what needs to happen next," I said.

Over and over.

(It's a wonder they ate any supper at all.)
Too gooey. 
Needs crunch. 
I can't taste any marshmallow!
(They're both good at being honest, innovative, and kind.)

Fiddle, poke around in the fridge/pantry, tweak, scribble.

"Oh, kiiiiiddds...!" 

By this morning I had 76 cake balls ( which is somehow precisely 38 of each kind even though I didn't plan it that way).

Nestled in paper candy ups and wedged tight into a 13 x 9 cake carrier, I sent 24 Fudgy S'mores Cake Balls and 24 Honey Graham S'mores Cake Balls (no sticks in either) to school, along with a plate of extras for the teacher's family. And these little ballots:

When my daughter arrived home this afternoon I discovered that,
in exchange for just a few goodies, 
I got a real gift.

The critiques I got back were just wonderful. In addition to the requested colored stars and circles, I got specific notes on the back of all but two of the ballots.

  • Without any formal instructions, 
  • with remarkable tact and clarity, 
  • and in a space too small for the average tweet...
they helpfully addressed topping, texture, density, proportion, moistness, and likelihood of staying on the stick while walking around a craft fair. They made suggestions for toppings, fillings, and additions.

It is, in other words, they offered REAL feedback! 

I spent the evening smiling happily to myself. The baker in me got her hands-down favorite s'mores cake pop recipe (the Fudgy S'mores won out 77 to 52, though apparently both formulations have their charms), but the teacher in me got something more.

I guess it's normal  (and too easy) for every adult generation to bemoan the state of "young people these days,"  to complain how unmotivated, self-absorbed, apathetic and [insert your own pet peeve here] they are, but I might need to be more careful about that.

Given the chance to contribute meaningfully to someone many of them don't even know, they did. With admirable brevity (not my own strong suit, obviously) and with the seriousness of a judge on Cupcake Wars, these young people honed in on elements I hadn't even thought to ask them about. I taught high school once upon a time and so I had steeled myself against the possibility that there'd be rude comments, but there were precisely none.  Instead of ruthlessly ripping my first effort, they suggested, encouraged, praised.

And set a darned good example for the rest of us.

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