Hedgehog, Grace and Gluten Free Cake

Every other Saturday, as part of our Children’s Theater Company, I teach a virtues class for five to eight year old children. They’ll be performing The Ugly Duckling, a musical, in February. Between now and then, every Saturday, from 1-5pm they study a virtue found in the play, eat snack, rehearse with professional theater teachers/directors, then gather with the nine to twelve year old class (who will be performing Henry Box Brown, also a musical), producers and parent volunteers in a special room for an appreciation circle. Each afternoon closes with a spontaneous activity, like a romping game of huggy bear, one class singing a song they’ve mastered or a mini Hokey Pokey.
A few weeks back, after I read, “The Giving Tree,” Shel Silverstein, “Stone Soup,” Jon J. Muth and “Hedgehog Bakes a Cake,” Maryann MacDonald, five children, each cross legged on a carpet rectangle, tried to figure out the virtue of the week by seeking virtues common to all three stories.
“Love!” guesses M. “Hospitality” offers T. “Um…not telling people, like, when they’re wrong and giving them things anyway” ventures A.
“Grace,” says I.
I don’t consider grace much (though I ought), being generally socially clumsy. While I verbally stumbled around, hoping to give these kids, who were leaning in trying to solve this puzzle with me, a definition of grace through meditating on the “living” examples from our stories, the children offered keen insight. J noticed Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree loved even though the boy only took once he began to grow. Referring to “Stone Soup,” T told us the monks gave the townspeople back their joy.
The third book prompted excellent questions.
In “Hedgehog Bakes a Cake,” Hedgehog, in his forest kitchen, begins to make a yellow cake following a recipe. One friend after another comes over, unexpected, and “helps.” Bunny abruptly dumps an entire bag of flour, then sugar and finally milk into the mixing bowl. The batter is lumpy and hard to stir. In a well meaning gesture intended to make right the chunky batter, Squirrel adds eggs (and shells). Owl greases the pan with his wing before using his oily appendage to turn the oven as high as it will go. Seeing nothing else to do but clean, Hedgehog’s friends leave for vague reasons, assuring him they’ll be back soon to enjoy fresh baked yellow cake.
Relieved to be alone, Hedgehog locks the front door, dumps the lumpy “batter” in the trash and goes on to make a lovely cake, by the recipe.
Hedgehog is graceful in spirit and body. Kitchen clean, he sets out tea and cake. When his friends return, all enjoy an afternoon together. Bunny, Squirrel and Owl take turns praising themselves in appreciation of obvious culinary skill. Hedgehog smiles and says next time, he’ll be able make the cake all by himself. – The end.
Here’s what we tried to figure out: Was it kind of Hedgehog to not tell the whole story? Is there a way he could have gracefully thanked his friends for their enthusiastic effort while speaking in facts? Or was it best to let them learn of their ignorance in the privacy of their own kitchens, unnecessarily wasting good edible materials?
None of us could decide for sure. If I received such ineffective help, I would probably speak bluntly then promptly wish I’d kept quiet and end up eating cake alone. Well, not really, but I would have pouted.
What do you think? Should Hedgehog have told all he knew of midday cake baking misadventures and success? If so, what should he have said?
In honor of Hedgehog’s many virtues, I offer you a modified recipe based on his fellowship cake.
Gluten Free Yellow Cake with a touch of holiday spice (I’m open to suggestions for a better name)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup sucanat
1 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/4 cup rice milk
1 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp potato flour
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sucanat. Stir in the vanilla, eggs, and rice milk. In a separate bowl, blend the dry ingredients.
Add the dry mixture to the wet, mixing thoroughly. Pour the batter into an oiled 8 inch round pan.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
I top it with homemade buttercream frosting.

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