THE MAKING OF AMELIA BEDELIA BAKES OFF, BY HERMAN PARISH
From her very first book, Amelia Bedelia has a history of baking her way out of trouble. Her lemon meringue pie was the only thing that saved her job. Of course, she has her missteps too: a date cake that included “dates” cut from a calendar, and a sponge cake made with real sponges. My aunt Peggy Parish, the creator of Amelia Bedelia, actually made a sponge cake with kitchen sponges cut up and put into the batter, just to make sure that it would work.
When I spoke with students at schools, they would often ask why Amelia Bedelia doesn’t bake as much in my books. I have found that many kids today are “foodies” who follow celebrity chefs, watch cooking channels, and know their way around a kitchen. So, I decided to write a book that would focus on Amelia Bedelia’s baking skills and fold in her misinterpretations of recipes, measurements, and directions as she backs into a baking contest. To win the contest, Amelia Bedelia would need an entry that only she could make, a marriage of the gastronomic and the literal.
I recalled a cake that one of my friends had told me that she had made when she was in college. She had to bring a cake to a Sunday brunch and had baked one late on Saturday night. She didn’t want to have to get up early the next morning to frost it, so she went ahead and frosted it while it was still hot—a definite baking no-no.
On Sunday morning, she looked at the cake and the frosting had disappeared. She could have sworn that she had frosted the cake but now there was no time to do it again. She took that cake to the brunch and it was a big hit. She said that the frosting had melted and reassembled inside.
I thought this would be a terrific cake for Amelia Bedelia. You’ve heard of an upside-down cake? Well, with the frosting on the inside, this would be an inside-out cake. The only question was: would it work? I knew that kids would try to make this cake and I would hear from them if it didn’t work. Like my aunt Peggy, I tried to replicate the cake my friend had made by accident. I tried a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. No luck. I tried chocolate cake with white frosting. Nope. I tried different cake recipes with butter cream frosting, with frosting made from confectioner’s sugar, even with frosting right out of a can (my friend was not a great cook, so maybe she had resorted to that). Nothing worked. The frosting would melt, but it refused to reassemble inside.
Finally, I called my friend and told her what I was trying to do. You know what—she didn’t even remember having frosted a hot cake in the first place! So, I came up with another idea that only Amelia Bedelia could have concocted: a sheet cake that is “made up” (decorated) to look like a bed, with Z’s on the bedspread.
Every now and then when I talk with a good cook or a chef, I’ll describe the inside-out cake. These experts tell me that it is chemically impossible for frosting to melt and then magically reassemble inside a cake. If you have a solution, please let me know—it is an Amelia Bedelia idea in search of answer.
Herman Parish, nephew of Peggy Parish, has written fifteen books for the series, as well as the picture books Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School and Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine, both illustrated by Lynne Avril. His latest tale of Amelia Bedelia the grown-up is Amelia Bedelia Bakes Off, which goes on sale in June! He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.