Back-to-School Goodies

Add these treats to your school supply list.

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A-B-C Grahams

Frances Janisch

A-B-C Grahams

Want to be the coolest mom on the block? Have homemade cookies waiting for your child after the first day of school. Try decorating some of the cookies with numbers or short school-theme words such as "bus" and "pen."

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Start the year right with a cute cake for your child's class.

1 jar (15 oz.) applesauce (1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 boxes (16 oz. each) pound-cake mix

Frosting and Decorations:
2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla frosting
1 cup prepared chocolate frosting
Yellow and red food coloring
8 strips chocolate licorice
2 Hershey's chocolate bars (1.55 oz. each)
2 chocolate-covered doughnuts 8 red M&M's
4 white chewy mints (Mentos)
1 piece (40) red fruit leather
1 piece (30) red licorice lace
2 vanilla wafers and 1 1/2 cups ground vanilla wafers (optional)
Tube frosting in assorted colors (optional)
Green-tinted coconut flakes (optional)
Yield: 16 servings

1. Heat oven to 350?F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan. Pour applesauce into 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough water to bring mixture to 2 cups. Stir cinnamon into applesauce mixture. Prepare combined cake mixes according to package directions, substituting applesauce mixture for liquid in recipe. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to wire rack, and let cool 15 minutes. Invert cake and cool completely.

2. Spoon 1 cup vanilla frosting and all of chocolate frosting into separate resealable plastic bags. Snip small corner off each bag. Tint remaining vanilla frosting golden yellow by using several drops yellow food coloring and one drop red.

3. Place cake on clean work surface. Cut cake crosswise, 4 inch from short end of cake. Separate pieces. Trim 1 inch off each short edge of smaller cake piece to make hood of bus.

4. Place large rectangle, cut edge down, on serving platter with flat side (bottom of cake) facing you. For front of bus, spread flat side with yellow frosting. Press hood piece onto front center of frosted cake. Spread remaining yellow frosting over entire cake.

5. For windows, pipe rectangles on front and back of bus with white vanilla frosting. Spread lightly with spatula to smooth. Trim chocolate licorice to frame windows and to make front grille. Shape chocolate bars into two bumpers, four squares for headlights and taillights, and four rectangles with one rounded edge each for flashers. Place on front and back of cake.

6. Using chocolate frosting, pipe lines around edges of cake. Write "school bus" on front at top. Pipe dots of vanilla frosting onto chocolate pieces; attach red M&M's as flashing lights and white mints as headlights. Fold fruit leather in half over toothpick, and cut into octagon. Pipe border around edges of octagon and "stop" in center. Attach to "driver's" side of cake with toothpick.

7. Trim 1/2 inch from one edge of each doughnut, and press along each side of cake for wheels. Attach red licorice lace as steering wheel. If desired, attach whole vanilla wafers for people in bus, and decorate faces with tube frosting. Sprinkle ground vanilla wafers around front, back, and sides of cake to make dirt road, and green-colored coconut along sides of road for grass, if using.

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How to Choose a Lunchbox

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Box of Crayons Cake

Box of Crayons Cake

This clever cake will really draw the kids to the table!

1 box (18.5 oz.) yellow-cake mix
2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla frosting
Blue, green, orange, red, and yellow food coloring
5 Yodels or Ho Hos
1 cup dark-chocolate-fudge frosting
Green sour-licorice strips

1. Using pound-cake variation (add instant pudding and 1 extra egg), prepare cake mix according to package directions for one 9 x 13 inch cake. Cool cake completely.

2. Divide 1 can of frosting among six small bowls. Tint bowls blue, green, orange, red, yellow, and light green (mix a drop of yellow with green food coloring). Place light green in resealable plastic bag. Trim one end of each Yodel to form crayon tips.

3. Place Yodels on wire rack. Microwave one bowl of frosting 5 to 10 seconds in microwave, or until consistency of slightly whipped cream. Pour over one Yodel, and let set; repeat with remaining colors and Yodels.

4. Trim cake to make level, and invert onto serving plate. Measure 4 inch in from center of one short end of cake. Score one half-circle from corners to 4 inch mark. Following score mark and using a serrated knife, cut out 1 inch-thick flat piece of cake (to create opening of crayon box). Reserve 1/2 cup vanilla frosting. Tint remaining frosting orange-yellow. Frost half circle with vanilla frosting; frost remaining cake with orange-yellow frosting. Pipe green frosting onto bottom corners of "crayon box," and spread with small knife. Pipe a green outline on white frosting. Place row of "crayons" on cake, trimming to fit. Put chocolate frosting in resealable plastic bag, snip off corner, and pipe lines and circles onto crayons. Place licorice strips to outline green frosting on bottom corners. Serves 16.

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Pretzel Crayons

Pretzel Crayons

While your little Picasso probably has better art supplies, these are sure make him smile.

Cut long pretzel logs in half. Insert toothpick into cut side of pretzel. Melt together 1 cup of colored-candy melting wafers with 1 Tbs. Crisco, according to microwave directions on wafer package. Holding onto toothpick, dunk pretzels into candy mixture until completely covered; gently shake off excess. Place on wax paper and let set. Remove toothpicks. Spoon melted chocolate chips into resealable plastic bag, snip off corner, and decorate pretzels to look like crayons.

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Sporty Cupcakes

Sporty Cupcakes

Have your cupcake and eat it too! These sporty snacks will make any day brighter.

Start with a batch of homemade or store-bought cupcakes and a 16 oz. can of vanilla frosting.

Soccer: Decorate 24 cupcakes using vanilla frosting. Place 1 Junior Mint in center of each cupcake and 5 mints around edge. Using tube of brown decorating icing, draw lines to connect mints.

Baseball: Remove 1/2 cup of frosting from can, and tint with red food coloring. Transfer to resealable plastic bag, and snip off corner. Decorate 24 cupcakes with remaining frosting. Roll tops of cupcakes in white sprinkles. Pipe red seams onto cupcakes.

Basketball: Tint can of vanilla frosting with orange food coloring, and frost 24 cupcakes. Let cupcakes dry in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Using paper towel, gently press surface of frosting to make basketball texture. Spoon 1 cup of chocolate frosting into resealable plastic bag, snip off small corner, and pipe seams onto cupcakes.

Tennis: Remove 1/2 cup of frosting from can, and put in resealable plastic bag; snip off small corner. Tint remaining frosting with yellow food coloring, and frost 24 cupcakes. Roll tops of cupcakes in yellow sprinkles. Pipe a curvy line down center for seam.

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School Spirit-Cookies

School Spirit-Cookies

Why not inspire your child to cheer for the home team with these cookies.

1 package (18 oz.) refrigerated sugar-cookie dough 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 box (1 lb.) confectioners' sugar 2 Tbs. powdered egg whites 9 Tbs. water, divided 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar Food coloring

1. Heat oven to 350?F. Prepare cookies according to package directions for cut-out cookies, using 1/2 cup extra flour. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness, using additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. With round 40 cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as possible. Place cookies 10 apart on baking sheet, and bake 12 minutes. Cool 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire rack, and let cool completely.

2. Make icing: With mixer on low, beat remaining ingredients in bowl, reserving 3 Tbs. water. Increase speed to high, and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in reserved water, thinning icing to consistency of heavy cream. Divide between two bowls, and tint each batch the desired color. Using fingertips, spread icing over half of cookie. Let dry 5 minutes. Spread other half with other color, and let dry completely.

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Chalkboard Cake

Chalkboard Cake

Your kids will love clapping these erasers.

This cake serves 16, but you can cut smaller or larger slices depending on how large your child's class is.

1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix
1 can (16 oz.) vanilla frosting
Yellow and leaf-green food-coloring paste
3 mini (2 1/2 inch long) plain breadsticks
1 can (12 oz.) whipped milk-chocolate frosting
3 Twix bars or other chocolate-coated caramel cookies
2 red and 1 green soft-candy fruit chews
1 Tbs. confectioners' sugar

1. Heat oven to 350?F. Grease and flour 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" jellyroll pan. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake in center of oven for about 25 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack, and let cool 10 minutes. Invert, and let cake cool completely.

2. Spoon 1/4 cup vanilla frosting into a resealable plastic bag or a pastry bag fitted with a number 3 plain tip; set aside. Tint remaining frosting pale yellow (do this right in the can). Spoon 1/2 cup yellow frosting into a pastry bag fitted with number 8 plain tip. Insert a toothpick into one end of each breadstick. Heat remaining frosting in can in the microwave for 5 seconds at a time, stirring, until frosting is the consistency of slightly whipped cream. Dip each breadstick into can to coat. Shake off excess frosting, and place on sheet of wax paper until set, about 30 minutes.

3. Transfer cake to 15" x 10" piece of cardboard covered with foil (this helps support the center of the cake), and place over wire rack on sheet of wax paper. Tint remaining frosting in can green using food coloring, and microwave for several more seconds, if needed, to thin slightly. Pour frosting over top of cake to cover completely. Let stand 30 minutes.

4. Spoon chocolate frosting into a pastry bag fitted with large (10) basketweave tip. Place cake on cardboard onto a serving platter. Pipe chocolate frosting on cake's outer edge, and arrange Twix bars along bottom edge to make chalk tray. Snip small corner from resealable bag containing reserved white frosting. To make chalkboard's writing lines, pipe four solid lines across entire cake with white frosting, using photograph as a guide. Pipe dotted lines between the solid lines. With yellow frosting in pastry bag, pipe message "Happy 1st Day of School!" between the solid white lines.

5. Microwave fruit chews for 5 seconds to soften. Press red pieces together; flatten. Cut out 2 1/2" apple shape. Flatten the green piece of candy and cut into small leaves. Place apple on cake. Pipe a stem on top of apple using chocolate frosting, and arrange leaves on either side. Using the white frosting, pipe a small window frame on apple. Remove toothpicks from breadsticks, and place on chalk tray. Sprinkle the cake's bottom edge with confectioners' sugar to look like chalk dust. Makes 16 servings.

Editor's note: You can personalize this creative cake with any message you want, from "Welcome to Miss Todd's Class" to "Have a Great Year."

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Pretzel Pencils

Pretzel Pencils

Lead free pencils make a great school treat.

In a glass pie dish, combine one 14 oz. bag of yellow melting wafers and 2 Tbs. vegetable shortening. Microwave, stirring at 30-second intervals, until melted. Roll pretzel rods (or breadsticks) in melted candy to coat, and transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Melt 1/2 cup each orange and green melting wafers in small glass bowls in microwave. When pretzels are dry, dunk one end in orange wafers to make eraser. Transfer green melted wafers to a resealable plastic bag and snip off one small corner. Pipe on to make pencil markings (see photo). Makes about 18.

Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.