In my humble opinion, the best thing we do at my school is group kids into advisories. I am not sure how long ago we started doing this, to tell you the truth. When I arrived at DA in the fall of 1980, as a just-turned 22 year old, I faced a group of 22 seventh graders in my homeroom. They all seemed taller than me, although to tell the truth, that year is a blur. I remember what I wore to school on the first day- a light blue dress trimmed in white ribbon that Sister C had made. No idea why I remember that. I had to have conferences with the parents of each of those 22 twelve-year-olds. Wonder what advice I doled out? Heaven help us all. But I am friends with some of those “kids” and I currently teach the children of a couple of them.
Anyway, back to advisories. I have 12 this year, six girls and six boys. We are together first thing in the morning for a 20-minute advisory lesson on Monday and a 7-8 minute “morning meeting” time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday morning we assemble as an entire middle school for Community Meeting. Student-led announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, and sports teams updates, usually followed by a faculty member or student sharing something of importance to them. Last year we started Lollipop Moments, thanks to a faculty member who found this Ted Talk:
I’ve watched this video several times. I love the way Drew tells his story, but I also need to be reminded how impactful my words can be- for better or for worse.
I eat lunch with those 12 kiddos each day. We brownbag it- no cafeteria. I do have a mini-refrigerator (pink, no less) and a microwave in my classroom. We are together again every afternoon for a 20 minute tutorial period for kids to get some homework done, see a teacher to make up work or get some extra help. And once a 7 day cycle (no Monday-Friday for us- it’s Day 1-7, with Day 0 thrown in occasionally so that we meet all of our classes), we have a 42-minute advisory session. And our class periods are lettered A-H. We drop one class a day. Are you confused yet? I am. This crazy schedule allows our kiddos to have PE/Health and Fine Arts five out of those seven days. Each academic course (and foreign language is not an “extra” at my school, it is a requirement) meets six out of the seven days. So, I spend my days teaching French to 6th, 7th and 8th graders and being “mom” to my twelve advisees.
One of my girls just became a big sister. Pretty exciting stuff. Yesterday morning, I asked each of them if they are a cake or pie person. Important, right? The overwhelming majority said cake- no surprise there. Icing or no? Huh? Some people eat cake without icing?? What flavor? When Big Sister’s turn came, she said Red Velvet. And another girl chimed in that the icing has to be cream cheese and homemade. No kidding. I am with her 100%. None of that plastic-tasting canned stuff for my advisees. We will celebrate today with Red Velvet Cuppycakes, as I like to call them.
This recipe comes from the New York Times Cooking website, which I happen to love. It made 24 cupcakes. I didn’t go with the ermine icing although it is really good. I’ve made a version of it before. I couldn’t imagine anything except cream cheese icing.
Red Velvet Cake
This is similar to the original recipe that began the red velvet craze. It was developed by the Adams Extract company in Gonzales, Tex. The original recipe, popularized in the 1940s, called for butter flavoring and shortening and is usually iced with boiled milk, or ermine, frosting.
- ½ cup /113 grams butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
- 3 tablespoons/22 grams cocoa powder, divided
- 1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla
- 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon/6 grams salt
- 1 teaspoon/5 grams baking soda
- 2 ½ cups/320 grams flour, sifted
- 1 cup/236 milliliters whole buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vinegar (evidently, this makes the red really pop)
- Ermine icing, or other fluffy white icing
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
- Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
- Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
- Divide batter among 3 pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in 2 cake pans.)
- To assemble, remove 1 cake from its pan and place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.
This is an old-fashioned icing, also called boiled-milk frosting. The results are as light as whipped cream but with much more character. It was the original icing for red velvet cake.
- 5 tablespoons/40 grams flour
- 1 cup/235 milliliters whole milk
- 1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup/ 230 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
- Over medium heat, whisk flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer, stirring frequently until it becomes very thick and almost puddinglike.
- Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming.
- Use a mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the cooled flour mixture a little bit at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and resembles whipped cream.
- 1 pound (4 cups) of Powdered Sugar
- ½ cup Butter (We use Salted Sweet Cream Butter)
- 8 oz. Cream Cheese
- 3 teaspoons of Vanilla
- Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a mixer until blended.
- Add powered sugar a cup at a time and continue to mix until sugar is incorporated.
Mildred the Mixer at work:
Bon appétit and Happy Friday, tout le monde. And have a lovely weekend! Here in my neck of the woods, we are looking at a high temperature of 76˚F. Perfect. My heart still goes out to the people who lost their homes due to hurricanes and earthquakes though. I cannot imagine.