My son joined Cub Scouts a few months ago and mostly likes it, except for the large gatherings of the whole pack which has helped me come to understand he has some form of large group anxiety. I saw it this summer at a very large family reunion of mostly boisterous Italians, and blamed it on lack of sleep from our long and tiring three week road trip. Looking back now, I know better. Granted, being tired didn't help, but there is something about a large chaotic group of people that sends him into an anxious state, which causes him to act socially inept. I've taken him to many plays and shows starting at age 4 that were large and loud, and it does not set him off. Granted Blue Man Group left him exhausted after watching it, but even I was from the amount of activity going on. But we are often the ones that the little old lady we sit next to scowls at thinking, "oh great, a little kid next to me", only to have them compliment him at the end of the production on how wonderful he was. Anyway, all this to say that Cub Scouts has given us something (the knowlege that I need to research group anxiety) in return for a crazy amount of time and energy I had no idea it would take when we signed up! Many activities are for the good of the community, which is a wonderful thing, but I'm not sure at what point there are too many structured activities in a child's life vs. the ability to choose what they want to do with their own time.
One such time consuming activity was this cake. Granted, I could have used a box cake mix and put some trees and a campfire in frosting. But they went and made it a competition, and to be honest, even if it wasn't, I still like mine to stand out. So we put a little more effort into our cake and baked it from scratch. For the cake I used Paula Deen's Old South Jelly Roll recipe, because let's be honest, anything that woman makes is going to taste good, because butter is just good.
I separated the eggs and worked with the whites since they needed a gentle hand, but Cruz helped measure out and stir the yolk mixture. Once done, he helped scrape out the batter onto the baking sheet while I held the bowl for him.
While the cake cooled, Cruz was happy to get to make a mess to get ready for the next step by putting powdered sugar all over a towel so we could roll it up without sticking. It cracked a little, but nothing the chocolate buttercream frosting wouldn't be able to hide. After 15 minutes I unrolled it and Cruz spread apricot jam on it, then I rolled it back up. Then I cut it about 1/3 of the way in at an angle and gave it the branched off look.
Cruz helped measure the chocolate buttercream frosting ingredients and we let the mixer do the work. We used this recipe, but I halved it, only I forgot to half the cocoa. This made for a very rich, chocolately frosting that luckily turned out to be more than just edible. I wished I had made the full batch at that point. As you can see in the picture below, my little one had no problem licking the mixer attachment.
After Cruz frosted most of it and I filled in the missing pieces, we got to work on the Chex Muddy Buddies recipe, because while I like the ideas of the coals in Family Fun magazine, I didn't like the idea of buying donut holes. So far the cake was all from scratch, and I had high hopes of keeping it that way. When I thought of what else I could pull off as coals, puppy chow came to mind. It turned out to be a good decision we all enjoyed since this time I did make enough for us to have some. In fact, I'm pretty sure during the auction the cake sold more so for the puppy chow than the actual cake! Cruz helped measure out all the ingredients, I melted them together and stirred in the chex mix, he covered them with powdered sugar, and we laid them on a cookie sheet to dry. This ended our Wednesday night baking adventure together, and after over 2 hours, Cruz was more than ready to be done helping in the kitchen. Into the fridge it went.
The following day I decided to spruce up the cake a bit. In my internet search I had run across a cake that had chocolate "bark" covering it. It made for a very authentic looking log. I melted some semisweet chocolate chips and brushed them out onto a wax paper covered cookie sheet. That went into the fridge and once hardened, I broke off pieces and added it on top of the buttercream frosting. It definitely added a nice touch.
The Family Fun campfire version also included flames by way of fruit roll ups. Not wanting to work with such a soft medium, I decided to try to make hard candy instead. I've made suckers before and figured if I could make a mold, I'd be set. I found 2 star shaped pancake molds and distorted them to look like flames.
But when it came time to find my candy themometer and cherry flavoring, they were no where to be found. I had come this far, so I wasn't going to quit. I had to go to the dollar store to get a pan for the cake anyway, so I picked up a couple bags of jolly ranchers and decided I was going to try to melt those in the oven.
After many attempts and failures, I finally got 3 flames I felt were cake worthy and while still slightly warm and pliable, I molded them onto the cake.
After picking Cruz up from school, I took the boys to a park where we found a nice looking stick for roasting marshmallows. Being one to kill a theme, I hot glued the stick to the pan, added marshmallows to the top and toasted them, and hot glued the cake description to the stick. Then it was time to fill the dead space in with coals, and I placed an edible smore on top of the coals.