Beating Batman-A Diversity lesson in cupcakes for Superman and Friends


Sweet treats | March 11, 2017 | By

Sweets and The Arrival of Superman
Superheroes do things for us that seem beyond our reach in the moment. They have clarity of purpose and often a power that we secretly wish for in ourselves.

Daniel’s daycare instructor, Ms. Dee (abbreviated here), recently told me that distinguishing whether you are a boy or a girl is a developmental milestone, one that our two-year old son, Daniel, hasn’t quite caught on to yet.

He distinguishes males and females as “dadas” and “mamas.” Daniel has never given much thought to his peers and his identity within groups, because he is an only child; and talking about gender isn’t a big topic in our household.

When Ms. Dee asked him, “Daniel, are you a boy?”
He said, “No, I’m a baby!” He likely stamped his foot for emphasis, in my picture of the conversation.

To this response, Ms. Dee kindly offered him an alternative, “You’re a big boy now, Daniel!”

superman-eating-cupcake“No!  I’m SUPERMAN!!”      

I imagine at this point, having corrected her, he ignored her and raised his arms for take off as he does daily in our living room. His alter ego arrived on the third full day of daycare. He may like Captain America, Spiderman, Hulk and Thor; but lately, he is always Superman.


For the week of Valentine’s Day, I offered to read Pete the Cat and The Missing Cupcakes aloud to Daniel’s day care class and brought in some mini-cupcakes for them to frost. 

My plan was to show the kids how to decorate the cupcakes with a quick, buttery frosting and heart sprinkles for Valentine’s Day using a pastry bag. The colors of the cupcake frostings and garnishes in the book are great but not very natural in the way of food dyes for frostings. Kids love to stare at them. I do too, because they are so creative and quirky. 

Daniel was so glad to have me there to read and made himself right at home on my lap. The only spoiler came when he announced the culprit who stole the missing cupcakes before all of them were missing in the storyline!

No spoiler here. I recommend you read the book. Find some diverse friends. Bake some cupcakes, and bring some joy to others.

Cake face supermanThere is a good moral lesson about forgiveness and second chances in the book, but a more contemporary lesson rose to the surface.

After the reading, Ms. Dee talked to the kids about how all the cupcakes were different, and all of them were beautiful. Sometimes things are easier said and shown in illustrated stories than they are in real life to real people. 

Children made multiple designs and swirls atop their mini-cupcakes and doused them with assorted purple, pink, white sprinkles, hearts, spheres or powdered sugar.

I sighed with relief and gratitude at the end, glad to be making good on mental promises to my deceased Dad to keep reading to Daniel, glad that the cupcakes were good, glad that Hershey’s cocoa powder is allergen-free for Daniel’s classmate plagued by a peanut allergy, glad that Saucy Boy kicked into hyper thrust to help me bake multiple varieties of cupcakes to bring into co-workers that same day, so that I could have more time with Daniel the night before. Glad to say “thank you” to all the people who sent good wishes my way when my Dad died.

A Daily Dose of Superheroes

I watch Daniel’s teachers at work. They have the power to change how children see each other and how they understand diversity and beauty in the simplest of ways. They are masters in the moment that can impact the fate of a community, culture, and world through touching the mind and heart of even just one child.

Daniel has the super power to heal, to generate joy and to love others more grandly than anyone I know. He truly is my baby, my Superman. I see this every time he hugs grandma or me just at the right moment when we are remembering my Dad, or when he tells Saucy Boy, “Dada, you’re my best friend.”

One of my co-workers told me, “We always talk with our kids about their daily joys and concerns at the end of the day. On Friday, after they had seen the Batman lego movie and eaten at Culver’s which is their favorite, they both said– ‘making real cupcakes, with the frosting in a bag instead of the kind in a cup with spoon, was their greatest joy of the day.’ She motioned a yapping gesture with her hands. “All we heard was “Daniel’s Mom … this… Daniel’s Mom that…”

When home-baked goods and a dose of diversity cupcakes beat out Batman and lego special effects movies, something is right in the world.

We used the Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes from Natasha’s Kitchen and adapted it two different ways to create a lemon zested cupcake and an almond flavored cupcake, each with a light, milk chocolate, buttery frosting. Saucy Boy and I modified her recipe, because we often have milk and Greek yogurt on hand but rarely have buttermilk.

We also made chocolate cupcakes using our version of the Hershey’s Chocolate cupcake recipe on the back of the cocoa box. 

A More Perfect Chocolatey Cupcake
Serves 20
A richer version of a favorite for those who like a richer chocolate flavor in their cupcakes
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Prep Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 2 cups sugar
  2. 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  4. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  5. 2 large eggs
  6. 1 cup milk
  7. 1/2 cup canola oil
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  9. 1 cup boiling water
  1. Preheat the overt to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Whisk together or beat with an electric mixer on low speed. Gently stir in boiling water to create a thin batter. Using a spouted volume measuring cup, pour into cupcake liners. Bake approximately 25 minutes at 350 degrees fro approximately 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  1. If your oven is uneven in heating, remember to rotate the pan, front to back in the middle of the baking time.
Adapted from from Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
Adapted from from Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
My Saucy Life
The key to a perfect cupcake when dealing with kids when you don’t have a lot of time to bake is first to use a recipe that is oil-based. It makes the cake moist and nearly fool proof.

The second key–don’t let them crack the eggs! (For more on this, listen to our recent podcast)

Chris’ Birthday Cake Podcast

Wanna cookie? Pianos and Persian-style Almond Cookies

Sweet treats | August 3, 2016 | By

persian almond cookieCookies, especially small ones, remind me of Mrs. Thomas, my first piano teacher in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

By the time I was four and old enough to follow my brother, Gus, into her home to take piano lessons, she was fully white-haired. She had friendly, Mrs. Santa Claus glasses and an up-do to match. Her thin, patterned print dresses  loosely swayed around her legs whenever she answered the door. She moved slowly and very intentionally to welcome us. We might have been among her youngest students, but despite the difference in age, she understood us, our motivation, and the root of our happiness.


On Chocolate-A blog post revisited

Chocolate | July 23, 2016 | By


Chocolate in almost anything is good. I was nostalgic in looking at my old blog posts and pulled this one back up, because of how much fun I had cooking with Jules Blanc. She is a pastry chef extraordinaire. She calls me “Cocoa Bean,” one of my favorite nicknames. I’m hoping to do more pastry work someday. For now, I rely on Saucy Guy to do a lot of the baking while I chase my Saucy Boy (who is nearing 2 years old) around the house. The photo above is evidence of Saucy Guy’s genius. He put dark chocolate into the bottom of a pecan pie. He elevated the pie right into the atmosphere!


Small Things

small-things“Remember to use one green one and one red,” Bonnie said as she glanced at the peppers in the colander, “they taste different. If you don’t, it won’t be the same.” She gently rinsed them. Her blue eyes looked up, twinkled, and paused on mine. As if by habit from her work as a Long Island nurse, she spoke as though she wanted to remind me to take all of my meds, not to skip doses out of convenience. “You’ve got to have the right ingredients to make macaroni salad for Fire Island,” she cautioned, smiling.

Bonnie seemed healthy today. As she set up the cutting boards, her lively movements never revealed her body’s historic battles. To date, she had beaten cancers that afflicted her pancreas and liver.


As Above, So Below: Spending A Day Where the Sun Dances at Indian Ridge

as-above-so-belowARCHIVED FROM 2009
“In chemical farming, it’s about the plant, pesticides, herbicides and designing the plant to take it all up. The focus is on the plant. In organic farming, the focus is on the soil. You feed the soil; then you do the worms, air, microbes, sun and water … all forces of the earth working on the soil. The same thing is true of a person’s life. You can treat yourself chemically with all the ‘shoulds’, ‘oughtas’ or you can feel the soil that nurtures the spirit [organically]. You know what feeds you: good relationships, food, good music. If you live chemically, you beat yourself up.”

Ed believes in the truth of the old saying, “As above, so below.” Put simply, he proclaims, “if you nurture the soil, the dang gone seed knows how to grow.” He claims that when you start messing with the seed, things don’t turn out the right way. Undoing the hard-wiring of the seed through genetic modification and through the use of chemicals during plant growth attempts to fix something that would otherwise already work.


The Saucy Road to San Marzanos

Fruits, Vegetables | July 23, 2016 | By

saucy-road-san-marzanosARCHIVED FROM 2009 (Note: The husband I refer to is now an ex-husband, great guy. We  had an amicable divorce.) 

I am a woman obsessed. I sleep with one eye to the window and think of stories of how cowboys sleep. By the morning, I conclude that they don’t. After traveling 800 plus miles to Atlanta with my husband, we had stopped at the Motel X at 1:00a.m not wanting to disturb relatives or friends only a mile away. My husband was traveling for continuing education, but my main mission was to spend time with relatives and purchase San Marzano tomatoes in bulk at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market.

We drove straight from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia.   After thirteen hours in our packed Subaru, we wanted sleep.

To the Edge of the Perimeter of Atlanta and the Ends of the Earth for San Marzanos

At the edge of Atlanta’s perimeter, the legendary circle that outlines Atlanta and separates suburbs from city life, Motel X looked like an ivory beachside motel with a rail-guarded concrete balcony running the length of each floor. One oversized street lamp in the middle of the parking lot towered above the main buildings’ three stories, illuminating the space like a beacon— signaling refuge for the weary at $29.99 a night. Its height dominates the scene over the clerk’s office building with its awkward, disproportionate size compared to surrounding structures.