Tickle Me Cake – Hometown Focus

My de facto grandson, Zack, and his family lived with us when he was about 18 months old. Even though he was a little young to understand the concept of menu planning, he wasn’t shy about offering – not, demanding – his input into food selection for his immediate gratification.

To give mom and grandma a break from babysitting, I put him in his high chair, which I pulled over to my kitchen center island when I cooked.

This practice evolved when Zack grabbed my hand, led me into the kitchen, and said, “Cook, Dad.”

One evening, having dinner arrangements well in hand, I asked Zack what he thought I should do next. “Cake,” Zach replied. (He had only recently learned to tell the different baked cakes apart from each other. Before that, they all belonged to his catch-all category of “cookie.”)

I didn’t have much time before dinner, so I decided to bake a simple cake:


• 3 ch. all-purpose flour • 2 tbsp. sugar • 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder (carob also works well and is safe for dogs) • 2 tbsp. baking soda • 2 tbsp. strong black coffee (room temperature) • 2/3 c. vegetable oil • 2 tbsp. vinegar • 2 tbsp. vanilla

Caramel frosting:

• 1 stick of butter
• 1 ch. brown sugar
• 1/4 tsp. Milk
• 1 C. vanilla
• 2 ch. Granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a 9×13 inch baking dish, combine all the dry ingredients. Add all wet ingredients and mix well with a flat whisk or fork. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

You can eat it plain, dust it with powdered sugar, or use prepared icing, but I like to use the caramel icing.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add milk, return to boil for 1 minute. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and add the vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth and apply a thick layer to the cooled cake.

In honor of Elmo, the sesame street A popular character with preschoolers at the time, Zack and I renamed the cake “Tickle Me Cake” after the Tickle Me Elmo toy. Besides being distinctive, this name gave me the opportunity to ask, whenever the subject of the cake came up – which happened quite often – I asked, “What kind of cake is this?” to which Zack had to reply, “Tickle me!” Then he got tickled and burst out laughing. It worked every time.

The reason Tickle Me Cake was made with carob rather than cocoa was that a significant portion of everything Zack ate ended up on the floor and was then eaten by our three dogs. Chocolate is not healthy for dogs, but they can eat carob.

Zack always ate the icing on his cake first, then asked for more. When told he had to finish what he had on his plate first, he either stuffed the whole morsel into his mouth all at once or slipped a few to his cohorts at four. aforementioned legs.

With a handful of Tickle Me Cake, a mug of chocolate milk and a Muppets DVD, Zack was big and small!

PS Zack turned 19 last week. I made a Tickle Me Cake for him and one for his sister, Jen, who was 16 the week before.

Steve Baker lives in Hibbing. He is originally from Buhl and graduated from Chisholm High School.

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