Archive for the ‘projects with kids’ Category

Bundt Cake Barbie

March 12, 2012

Looking for an easy way to make a Barbie cake without buying a special mold (Wilton’s Wonder Mold) or making and carving lots of layers, I hit upon the idea of topping an extra high bundt cake (this kugelhopf Bundt pan) with cake made in a half dome mold (Wilton’s Sports Ball pan). Okay, I used two specialty pans instead of one, but these were pans I already owned.

The kugelhopf pan tapers sharply, which makes it ideal for a more realistic skirt, plus it has swirls that look like the skirt pleats. The half ball was a little too wide at the base, and I thought of cutting the cake until the diameter of the bottom of the ball matched the top of the bundt. Then I thought of making the top piece like a swirling pouf over the skirt.

So this was my original game plan: carve the top piece to look like an overskirt and then frost the bottom to show of the swirls. Not a good plan! It was very hard to frost the cake this way. In the end, I smoothed out the frosting, hiding the swirls. This looked neater, but it wasn’t a perfectly smooth cover for the swirls–the top edge showed a little bit in places. And the carved part of the overskirt never looked right. In retrospect, fondant might have been the only neat way of covering this cake.

So, I wasn’t completely happy with this cake. On the other hand. It was easy to bake a bundt, and I liked that there was already a hole in it for Barbie to stand in. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t try to carve the overskirt. I would go with a whipped cream frosting and try to slather a thick layer that covered everything. That would have been easier to get smooth. Alternatively, I could have tried a fondant covering.


Yitro: Har Sinai Cake

February 13, 2012

I have been remiss about posting my parsha desserts. I’ve been making them, but not posting. Here is the cake for Yitro. And here are some other ideas for making Har Sinai cakes:

Challah Crumbs Har Sinai Cake

Hands on the Parsha Har Sinai Cake and also Luchot Cake

ParshaCakes Har Sinai Cake

Babaganewz Har Sinai Cake

What is my cake made from? It is Abby Mandell’s Boule de Neige (chocolate snowball).


Va’eira: Frogs Here, Frogs There . . . .

January 19, 2012

When I asked my son about the parsha, he and my daughter starting singing the frog song (“frogs here, frogs there . . .”). He told me that there was one big frog, and the Egyptians hit it and it became many frogs.

There is an interesting post at Rationalist Judaism that complains that schoolchildren are taught the above Rashi as peshat instead of derash.  Rashi explains that the use of the singular for frog (“the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt”) has the midrashic interpretation that one frog was beaten and turned into many frogs and the simple meaning that “frog” can mean a swarm of frogs, the way that lice is singular and plural at the same time.


Shemot: Moshe B’Tayva Cookies

January 11, 2012

In Israel, hot dogs in puff pastry are called Moshe B’Tayva, referencing Moshe in the little basket floating in the Nile river. This is good for an appetizer, but not for a dessert. Instead, I decided to make cream horns, also known as clothespin cookies, because you can use round clothespins as the mold instead of the usual metal tubes.

Four kinds of molds for cream horns: (1) lady lock molds, which are conical; (2) cannoli molds, which are hollow tubes; (3) mini cannoli molds; and (4) wooden clothespins, wrapped in nonstick foil.

Why did Moshe’s mother put him in the Nile in a basket? According to Rashi, Pharoh’s astrologers predicted that someone would be born who would save the Jews, but that person would be brought down by water. So Pharoh commanded baby boys to be cast in the Nile.  Moshe’s mother put him in the basket in the Nile so that Pharoh’s astrologers would think that he had already been cast into the river (Midrash Rabbah). As a result, the astrologers claimed that their predictions have come true, and Pharoh recalls his decree (Shemot Rabba 1:25; Sotah 12 b)

Did Pharoh’s daughter try to reach for the tayva, or did she send her maid to fetch it? There is a Midrash that she reached for the tayva, although it was out of reach, and her arm miraculously extended to be able to get it. The Kotzker Rebbe asks why she would extend her arm if she knew the tayva was beyond reach. Often, when a situation seems beyond our control, we resign ourselves to inactivity, the Kotzker Rebbe notes. “There is a profound lesson here for each and every one of us . . . .  Pharaoh’s daughter heard a child’s cry and extended her arm. An unbridgeable distance lay between her and the basket containing the weeping infant, making her action seem utterly pointless. But because she did the maximum of which she was capable, she achieved the impossible. Because she extended her arm, G-d extended its reach, enabling her to save a life and raise the greatest human being ever to walk the face of the earth.”

Trust me when I tell you, these cookies are not beyond reach, or even that much of a stretch. They are really easy, even though they look hard.


Vayechi: Fish Cake

January 4, 2012

When I asked my children what they wanted to do for a parsha project, my son said he wanted to do something connected with Ephraim and Menashe. He wanted a chocolate cake, and I suggested one decorated like a fish. When Yaacov blessed Ephraim and Menashe he said “may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.”

Why fish? Rashi says it because fish proliferate hidden from view of the “ayin harah.”

Rabbi Edlestein explains: fish are protected from the evil eye because they live hidden from our view. They do not inspire jealousy because people are not aware of what goes on in their world. The message is that Jews should model themselves after fish in this regard, living in a separate spiritual environment, modestly, without the ostentation that would attract envious attention. “In the midst of the land” means that Jews should also be part of and contribute to the larger world.

Other ideas:

Just as a fish cannot live without water, so a Jew cannot live without Torah. (Chabad)

A fish cannot lose its kosher status if it is kosher; other kosher animal can become unkosher if they slaughtered properly or if there is some defect. Yaacov’s blessing was therefore that Ephraim and Menashe never lose their pure status. (Partners in Torah, Rabbi Meisels)


Vayishlach: Marble Cupcakes

December 8, 2011

For Vayishlach, marble cupcakes.

A parsha summary from a three year old: “Esav was very angry, so he went to bite Yaacov on the neck, and Yaacov’s neck got very very hard and Esav hurt his teeth and they fell out and he was crying.”

So, there you have it. Even the littlest ones learn the Midrash that when Esav went to kiss Yaacov, he really wanted to bite him, but Yaacov’s neck miraculously turned to marble and Esav hurt his teeth.


Parsha Challah: ladder and stone

November 30, 2011

For Vayeitzei, a pull apart challah for the stone on which Yaacov laid his head, and a ladder challah (fougasse) for the ladder in Yaacov’s dream.

To make the ladder, make a rectangle that is 8″x4″ and cut slashes for the rungs. When you stretch out the rectangle to a longer length (16″) you make space between the slashes for the rungs of the ladder.

I got the idea for using a pull apart challah from Parshah mom, who has some other really great ideas. For example, she hands out cards, each with a word that has the same gematria as Sulam (ladder) according to Ba’al Haturim and asks the person who gets that card to explain the metaphor (e.g., “a ladder is like money because . . . .”).

Rabbi Frand explaining how ladder (sulam) is like money (mammon).
Rabbi Kahn, gematria of sulam as the same as Sinai and kol (voice).
Sedra Selections: gematria of sulam the same as oni (poverty), tzome (fasting) (also how fasting, voice, and money equal teshuvah, tefillah and tzedaka, which are done on earth, but reach the heavens). has a complete discussion of this topic.

Vayeitzei: Rock Cakes

November 28, 2011

In the beginning of this parsha, Yaacov leaves Be’er Sheva and goes to Haran. He stops at “the place,” sleeps, and has a dream of a ladder extending to heaven, with angels going up and going down.  Hashem appears and tells Yaacov that he and his descendants will be given that land upon which he is lying, that his “seed shall be as the dust of the earth,” and that Hashem will provide protection.

Before Yaacov goes to sleep, he places stones around his head, but,  when he awakens, he takes the stone (singular) that he had placed at his head. He anoints it with oil, making it a monument (matzeiva).

At the end of the parsha, Yaacov and Lavan use stones to erect another matzeiva, to commemorate their truce.

See here for a shiur by Rabbi Berman that points out that Yaacov erected four matzeivot. The third is erected at the site where Yaacov had the dream when he returns there. The fourth is to mark the kever of Rachel.

Rabbi Berman explains how the four are all related to the dream and its promises of land, children, and protection:

“The first commemorates the dream itself, the second the protection of God, the third the promise of the land, and the fourth, tragically, the blessing of children. The presence of God in Yaacov’s life (‘nitzav alav’) and the ensuing sanctification (‘ve-rosho magia ha-shamayma’) are symbolized by Yaacov’s matzeivot and the annointing in Beit-El, the ‘gate of heaven.””

Why matzeivot? Rabbi Berman points out that the root for matzeivah appears twice in the dream. The ladder is mutzav, or set, upon the ground. Hashem is nitzav, standing, over Yaacov.

(Rabbi Berman also puts forth the following question: “There is only one other matzeiva in the Torah (not including the idolatrous ones of the nations of Canaan) and that is during the giving of the Torah. Moshe erects twelve matzeivot at the foot of Mount Sinai. What is the connection between Mount Sinai and Yaakov’s ladder?

I don’t know if this is the complete answer, but the Midrash points out that the word for ladder, sulam, and Sinai both have the numerical value of 130.  Rabbi Kahn has a discussion of this. He mentions other parallels between Sinai and ladder (both part of revelations, both were “conduits” to heaven). He adds that the word for voice, kol, has the numerical value of 130, as well, which ties in the power of prayer.

According to the Midrash (explained at Shirat Devorah), Yaacov’s dream includes a vision of Matan Torah, with the ladder being Har Sinai and the angels being Moshe and Aaron.

Getting back to stones, the word for stone, even, is seen as  a contraction of av (father) and ben (s0n). The Midrash says that Yaacov gathered twelve stones that became one, which foreshadowed the twelve tribes.)

For the parsha, I baked rock cake (also known as rock buns)(digression: I think a stone is technically a rock fragment, but most people use the words stone and rock interchangeably). This is a classic British tea time treat that is so easy to make, it is often one of the first recipes taught to school children (here is a recipe especially written for kids). They are so named because of their craggy, lumpy appearance–not their texture. The exterior is crispy and the interior is moist and tender–like a cake-ey cookie or a cross between a cookie and a scone. Only over baking will make these treats hard like rocks (well, that and letting them go stale. Although, there is little chance of that happening. My rock cakes are already almost all gone. I will have to bake again for Shabbos.)


Noach: Rainbow Cookies

October 28, 2011

For this week’s parsha, rainbow cookies. These are those three-layer mini-cakes also known as Venetians or Italian Flag cookies, except I have created 6 layers, making a real rainbow (okay, there is no indigo, but the other six colors are there).


Ki Tavo Cereal Bowl

September 16, 2011

What is this? A parsha project for Ki Tavo that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “a bowl of cereal.”

Right side up, it is a bowl for fruit. Upside down, it is Mt. Eival and Mt. Gerizim

Parsha Ki Tavo:

And it will be, when you come into the land which G-d gives you for an inheritance… that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which your G-d will choose to have His Name dwell there.

And it will be, when you cross the Jordan, that you shall set up these stones, [regarding] which I command you this day on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with lime.

When you cross the Jordan, the following shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And the following shall stand upon Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naftali.