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My grandson Zach, age two, is a bit young to understand the concept of menu planning. However, he isn't shy about offering, ne demanding, input into selecting food for his immediate gratification. Lately he's taken up grabbing me by the hand, leading me into the kitchen, and saying, "Cook Poppa."

Last night, having preparation for dinner already well in hand, I asked what I should cook. "Cake!" Zach replied. (He's only recently learned to distinguish various baked sweets from each other. They all used to fall into his catchall category of "cookie".)

I didn't have a lot of extra time before I needed to make dinner, so I decided to throw together a simple pan cake previously known as Mock Chocolate Cake:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

In a 9x13 Baking Pan combine:

3 Cups AP Flour
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Carob Powder (Cocoa would work as well, but more on that later)
2 tsp Baking Soda

Pour In:

2 Cups Strong Black Coffee (room temp)
2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Tbl Vinegar
2 tsp Vanilla

Mix Well

Bake 30-35 minutes.

You can eat it as is, dusted with powdered sugar, or frosted

I like to use this easy Carmel Frosting:

1 Stick Butter
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Powdered Sugar

Melt Butter in heavy medium-sized Pan
Over Med Heat stir in Brown Sugar
Bring to a boil for 2 minutes
Add Milk, return to boil 1 for 1 minute

Allow mixture to cool to room temp
Add Vanilla and Powdered Sugar
Stir until smooth and apply thick coat atop cooled Cake

In honor of Elmo, the Muppet character we'd been playing with on the computer, Zach and I renamed the cake "Tickle Me Cake". Besides being distinctive, this name provides me with the opening to ask, whenever the subject of the cake comes up, (which is quite often), "What kind of cake is it?", to which Zach has to reply, "Tickle me!". Then he gets tickled and laughs uproariously. It works every time.

Now, the reason Tickle Me Cake uses Carob rather than Cocoa is because a significant portion of everything Zach eats ends up on the floor and subsequently is consumed by our dogs. Chocolate isn't healthy for dogs, although they can eat carob. (In fact, the reason I used carob in this recipe the first time was because I had some left over from making Dog Brownies.)

Zach always eats the frosting off the cake first and then asks for more. He's always told he must finish what he has on his plate first, so he either stuffs the entire cake into his mouth at once, or sneaks some to the fore-mentioned canine cohorts.

Ah, a chunk of Tickle Me Cake, a Sippi Cup of chocolate milk, and a Shrek dvd. That's Livin'!
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