"Test the cake," I urged. I thought Lauren (9) was in the process of testing the cake for doneness. She had opened the oven door and pulled the rack beneath the cake half way out. She turned toward the counter, I thought she'd pick up the knife, but instead she picked up her Nintendo DS 'pencil' and started tapping away at that little 4 x 6-inch white plastic box. Its tiny screen flickered commands to my young daughter, and entranced, she obeyed.
Desperate to reclaim her, I cried, "Lauren!" Then in exasperation, I said, "Oh, I'll do it," and I picked up a knife.
"No, Mom! Let me." She took the knife, but eyes still on the tiny screen, she impaled the cake with a slanted cut. She glanced at the blade and said, "It's not done; the knife didn't come out clean."
"That's because you didn't insert the knife vertically," I explained. I tested the cake. It was done. While it cooled, Lauren settled into the couch and offered full homage to her electronic ruler. I'd lost her again.
In case you do not have a child in this age of hand-held video games, I'll explain exactly what a DS is. It's a "toy" marketed to parents as an educational tool. The conscientious parent can purchase $20.00 chip cards to feed the tiny computer which will entertain your child's mind while stimulating it to problem-solve. So they say.
My daughter's DS is currently teaching her fashion designing. Her first DS video game was one in which she could purchase virtual dogs, then feed them, train them, and dress them. (This game was marketed to teach responsibility.) Eventually bored with the color choices of collars and bandannas, Lauren requested the video game, Fashion Designer. Correction, Lauren PLEADED for Fashion Designer. I bought it for her for Christmas. (Video games are not all bad - they keep kids quiet in the car. But while driving, do insist that children turn off the sound, because listening to the same 8-bars of a DS's jaunty, digitized muzak continuously repeated liquefies adult brains. Symptoms of liquefaction include edginess, inability to concentrate, and irritability. A high price for peace.)
Fashion designer's inspiration was likely those old-fashioned paper dolls some of us still remember. Instead of cutting, Lauren taps with her DS "pencil" a variety of virtual outfits on to virtual models. The important difference however, is that her choices are critiqued. The DS god either lavishly praises her fashion selections and elevates her to CEO of the company, or she is condemned to play the game all over again, from the beginning. And should a parent say, "Turn that off, it's time for (fill in the blank)," the child will respond, "I can't! If I do, I'll lose EVERYTHING!" Trapped.
The weak are so easily lured. Lauren beckoned from the couch for me to join her in playing fashion designer. I sat beside her and watched her select makeup for the models. She was told the theme was winter and the makeup must conform. Lauren and I liked the pink and lavender hues, but the video game rejected these. We were supposed to paint the face and nails in blue. So we did, -anything to get to the next level. Next we were to select clothes for the model and then colors and patterns for the clothes, - again in the winter theme. Lauren said, "We'll get kicked back to the beginning if we don't choose dark colors and snowflake-like patterns."
"Snowflakes?" I disapproved. "Snowflakes are so cliche."
"I know," Lauren agreed, "But we have to." So we chose snowflakes. But we stretched and distorted them until they became unrecognizable and therefore more interesting. I guess this was problem-solving, - figuring out ways to defy authority figures.
At last we turned off the video game, (because the doorbell rang and our friends had arrived for the birthday party.) Oh yes, that's right, we were supposed to have decorated that birthday cake. Is this how video games change responsible people into delinquents? But it wasn't our fault! We couldn't stop!
It was in decorating the birthday cake that I saw the glimmer of goodness from having played Fashion Designer. Lauren and I both approached the cake with a stretched and distorted vision of how to decorate a chocolate cake. I handed Lauren the large purple bag Nina had given me which was filled with bakery decorations. Our brains, still following orders for a winter theme, chose powdered sugar, round, white, jelly something-or-others, and granulated, purple sugar. The purple was the twisted, unusual color choice resulting from our having to think out of the box and paint lips blue. But Lauren and I thought our decorated cake was stunning - a true fashion object.
The cake was also delicious. It was very moist, similar to a flourless chocolate cake. The cocoa had given it an intense chocolate flavor. I had substituted butter for the vegetable oil so its mouth-feel was rich and velvety. It was a bit too sweet for me, but maybe that was because of all of the sugar which had been poured on top.
Lauren had chosen the recipe from Mom's Updated Recipe Box cookbook. The author, Donna Weihofen, had written that this cake was simple and quick to make, which it was. It was a perfect beginning cake for a beginning cook. I figure that as long as Lauren keeps baking real cakes that we can really eat, reality has a chance over virtual. Real birthday cakes enjoyed with friends do win battles against video games for children's attention.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a glass or nonstick pan, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch or a 7x11-inch baking pan. (I used a 9-inch round cake pan.) In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir to mix. Add oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water. Mix with a spoon until well blended. Pour into pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until middle of cake springs back when lightly touched. Place powdered sugar in a small fine strainer and sprinkle over cake. Note: In place of powdered sugar, the cake can be frosted. Serves 10. No time to bake, but time to celebrate? Wisconsin-baked, gourmet desserts are festive and fun...and decadently scrumptious. Enjoy some of our favorites: Receive $5.00 off the purchase of any Wisconsinmade.com product by entering this offer code with your order: FBLOG209. Offer expires March 1, 2009.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a glass or nonstick pan, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8x8-inch or a 7x11-inch baking pan. (I used a 9-inch round cake pan.) In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir to mix. Add oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water. Mix with a spoon until well blended. Pour into pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until middle of cake springs back when lightly touched. Place powdered sugar in a small fine strainer and sprinkle over cake. Note: In place of powdered sugar, the cake can be frosted. Serves 10.
No time to bake, but time to celebrate? Wisconsin-baked, gourmet desserts are festive and fun...and decadently scrumptious. Enjoy some of our favorites:
Receive $5.00 off the purchase of any Wisconsinmade.com product by entering this offer code with your order: FBLOG209. Offer expires March 1, 2009.