Baking Bonds & Builds a Better Boy

Banana-Pecan Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Bananas in 24 banana-pecan cupcakes: 4

Sticks of butter in 24 cupcakes and frosting: 3

Temperature outside when we ran this morning: 23

(Okay. So the temperature has nothing to do with this post. But I’m ready for summer after our brief, cold flirtation with winter.)

When my son was born, I cried in the delivery room that he would grow up and never come to visit me when he and his wife moved to California or Hawaii or Thailand. I’m not proud of it.

If you met him today, you would question whether I had anything to do with his genetic makeup. He is all boy and an exact replica, a MiniMe, of my husband. They talk about code and gigawatts and googleplex, and my son thinks the only reason we should ever go out shopping is to head to the Apple Store. For some reason, he does not find boots exciting.

But he and I have a secret connection: baking. See those yummy cupcakes up there? He made them. And I can settle down now and know that part of my genes will go into the next generation in a sugary coated, cakey mess.

Here are the reasons baking is great for boys:

1. Baking is completely gratuitous. You don’t have to bake. If we want to eat survive in our house, we have to cook or occasionally order Chinese takeout. But you don’t have to bake a thing. Ever. And boys like things that are gratuitous. Come to think of it, girls do, too.

2. Baking means following the instructions. I actually hate following instructions most of the time. It goes back to my resistance to authority and dislike for people telling me what to do. But if you follow the steps just right in baking, you get something really sweet and yummy as a reward. I guess I can bow to authority every now and then. And boys can probably use a little practice at that, too.

3. Baking doesn’t involve sharp knives or things that can be used as lethal weapons. After hanging out with many boys over the years, I have found that society likes to encourage boys to use items that either are lethal weapons or can be turned into lethal weapons with the flick of a wrist. My husband’s grandfather made real crossbows for my husband and his brother when they were young. I still say–they were hoping the two of them would kill each other off. And our neighbors’ kid has nunchucks now. How many 6-year-old boys do you know who need nunchucks?

The tools of baking are rounded and soft, providing a calming effect on the testosterone-inclined. Later, when he is 34, in order to cook on his own, my son will have to learn how to chop things without losing an appendage (something my husband has a passing knowledge of–more in a later post). But baking is attainable early on.

4. Baking has a built-in element of delayed gratification. If you bake stuff yourself, there’s the mixing bowl, of course. But the real results of your labor come later, after 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, or even 45. And then they have to cool. And maybe you have to ice them. I figure I’m just saving the world here… Teen pregnancy prevention idea #429: baking. Just kidding. Kind of.

While we were waiting for the cupcakes to bake, I taught him how to do the rainbow. You know, like when you’re shuffling cards? And then you bend them up, and they flutter gracefully down from their arc? I can do it, because I have played some cards in my day. But trying to figure out how I did it and how to teach it to an 11-year-old was pretty silly. By the end, he knew how to do the rainbow. And there were cupcakes. Cool.

5. You have to clean the kitchen anyway. A couple of weekends ago, I came downstairs in the middle of another cupcake-making marathon, and a pile of brown stuff was all over the kitchen floor. My husband was crouching over it with the vacuum cleaner. Half a bottle of cinnamon–gone. Luckily for my son, I tend to buy cinnamon the way some people buy milk before a snowstorm. Cinnamon? Hmmm. I bet we’re getting low. Let me buy some more. Seriously. Check with me if you run out. I probably have some you can borrow.

With boys (or me), you must approach baking as a messy, Jekyll (during baking) and Hyde (post-clean-up) science experiment. There is no wiping up each minor spill as you go along. Our kitchen looks like it got hit by the Flour Fairy after every baking escapade. But I’ve heard it helps preserve the life of tile floors. Or that’s what I tell my husband, anyway.

Stay tuned tomorrow when I reveal all the secrets to the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World.