When I became a stay-at-home mother 7 years ago, one of the things I wanted to be able to do was be involved with my children's school. Over the last few years I have been able to volunteer in a number of ways: in the classroom (babysitter dependant), helping out at various events, organizing the book orders for the teacher, little things like that. Up until this year, that is about what I was able to do, having had one child in school but still having one at home.
Now that they are both in school, one full time, one part time, I've been able to get more involved. I started going to council meetings, and plan to be on council next year. I've been part of the weekly pizza day at the school, and was part of the hot dog day once a month until work interfered.
Being at the council meeting gave me an insight into what all our fundraising efforts accomplished. While I'm indifferent to every class having its own tv, how can I possibly object to the number one choice on the teachers wish list, more books? I can't! I wouldn't!
One of the ways the school council has found to make money for this wish list, for all kinds of extra books in the classrooms, is with a cake raffle. Turns out this event is much, much bigger than I thought it was when they started it last year (and I chose not to let my child participate in fear of what other people's cakes might have in them.) Now that I know what's involved, how could I not donate a cake to the raffle? Aside from providing a small selection of cakes for my children to buy tickets to, I would be helping to put more books into their classrooms.
With that in mind, I went looking for a kid and budget friendly cake, one that would also stand up to being moved to the school and would be safe to have sitting out at room temperature all day (while the kids came through, looked at all the cakes, drooled over the saran-wrap tops and put their piles of tickets into their choices.) I don't have the baking or the decorating skills to do anything too fancy, but if you are going to make a cake to appeal to kids, a cake to make them want to give up their tickets for (and there were 55 cakes, so to compete against the other cakes), I knew I would have to do something fun.
After a few quick searches through my pile of cookbooks and websites, I eventually settled on a chocolate log roll. The recipe came from Today's Parent, and was intended to be kid friendly, hence the suggestion that "plastic leaves and bugs are optional, but very effective."
Sounds like something kids would like to me!
However it is early March here, cold, cold and cold outside. Plastic bugs, while available in huge amounts during the spring in summer, aren't yet in the dollar stores. Instead I found frogs and was reminded of the preschool song I sing alot, "Two green and speckled frogs, sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs! Yum yum!" Hehehe
Okay, back to the cake. Whipped eggs, sugar and vanilla, a bit of flour and baking powder. Simple, quick, nut free. Baked in a very well buttered and parchmented sheet pan for about 8 minutes. Flip it out onto a clean dishtowel that has been generously sprinkled with sugar, to prevent sticking, and cut off the ends with a sharp knife....
Wait a minute!
The sugar is supposed to stop the cake from sticking? Does that actually work for anyone? Because it didn't for me. And cutting the cake with a sharp knife. The cake is supposed to actually cut? Well my knife is sharp enough to cut the dishtowel underneath it, but the cake, no, it didn't want to cut. I ended up scoring it only, instead ripping the ends off, before rolling it up in my now ruined dishtowel (that it was sticking to.)
Simple icing of cocoa, butter, vanilla and confectioners sugar with a touch of milk. Spread on the inside of the log before rerolling, then slathered on the outside to give the appearance of dark wood bark. Easier said than done, the cake is a bit fragile and the icing thick. Good thing I want it to look a bit rustic. (At the last minute, after I took the initial picture, I was inspired to sprinkle the cake with some icing sugar, to make it look like the frogs were sitting on a snowy log.)
Well, my cake, according to my oldest child, was a popular one. Among butterflies, jeans, worm cakes and flower cakes, I stood out as a bit more simple. And despite the the number of cakes, neither one of my children won a cake, both coming home sad. So I had to make a second chocolate log roll.
No ruined dish towel for me this time. I used parchment. And it still stuck! And sadly, no frogs.
My kids didn't care. It was cake. It was chocolate. It was theirs and they dug in with major enthusiasm. (One good thing about a log cake when you have two children - there are two end pieces so there is no arguing over who gets it.)
They loved it!
Personally, I found it so sweet that I couldn't finish even a small slice. It made my teeth itch.
In other words, a kids cake!
And a cake that helped put a few more books into the classrooms at my children's school.