Oh my, but I do love Sara Varon’s Bake Sale! And recently I made the brownies featured in it. *dies*☺
Such a lovely, feel-good story about friendship. This toothsome graphic novel is just quirky enough — a few squiggly degrees to the left of center — to avoid being cloying, overly sentimental, or cutesy, something that can easily happen when your main character is a pink cupcake in a town populated with walking food.
So, Cupcake is living the sweet life — bakes delectable treats at his own Sweet Tooth Bakery and plays drums in a cool band with his best friend Eggplant. Despite having won blue ribbons for Best Fruit Pie, Fluffiest Cake and Most Perfect Cookie, Cupcake gets into a baking rut.
Just so happens Eggplant is planning a trip to Turkey to visit his Aunt Aubergine, who is business partners with Turkish Delight, the greatest pastry chef in the world and Cupcake’s culinary idol.
When Eggplant hears Cupcake is in dire need of baking inspiration, he invites him along, and Cupcake is all OMG I can’t believe I’m actually going to meet Turkish Delight *stars in his eyes* dream coming true blah-de-blah.
BUT. Cupcake needs to earn money for his plane ticket, which means baking extra goodies and selling them whenever and wherever he can. Eggplant offers to cover for him at the bakery, but what about band practice? Much as he loves playing the drums, he can’t have both.
Cupcake’s baked goods sell very well (Veggie-inspired cake and bread at the Farmer’s Market! Marzipan dogs and cats at a church blessing of the animals! Doggie Treats at the Westminster Dog Show! Heart-shaped Peppermint Brownies for Valentine’s Day!), and he meets his goal.
BUT. A month before the trip, Eggplant gets laid off and can’t go. He tells Cupcake to go to Turkey without him. What would a true friend do?
Varon gets it just right — the give and take of friendship, with its sacrifices, mutual support, and moving forward together with hope. I like how baking steps are presented in the panels, and how ingredients and equipment are labeled. There are so many adorable details to pull readers right into the story (great sound effects), and oh, the offbeat humor! (Do you think potatoes have rhythm?)
Bake Sale includes seven recipes: Sugared Flowers, Marzipan, Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting, Raspberry Squares, Brownies, Peppermint Brownies, and Dog Treats. Oui, Chef did a great job of blogging about the Raspberry Squares, so I thought I’d feature the regular Brownies.
Cupcake falls back on these after a somewhat disastrous attempt at making Fortune Cookies. “I’d better stick with what I know.” I hadn’t made any from-scratch brownies for years (great willpower ☺), and had forgotten how deeply addictive they can be.
Sure, these were heavenly fresh from the oven, more cake-like than fudgy. But on the second day I liked how they settled into their denseness, wonderfully moist with a more intense chocolate flavor (this reminded me of how I like gingerbread better the next day, too). I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips, and can’t wait to experiment with other brands of high quality chocolate. Oh yeah, I’m makin’ this baby again!
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-2/3 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2/3 cups (3-3/8 sticks) butter at room temperature
13 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with butter.
2. In a double boiler, small pan, or microwave, melt the chocolate and butter.
3. Whisk melted chocolate and butter until well blended and let cool.
4. While chocolate and butter mixture is cooling, whisk together eggs, sugar, and vanilla. They should become frothy and slightly lighter in color.
5. Carefully fold the cooled chocolate and butter mixture into the eggs. Whisk until everything is well mixed.
6. Fold in flour and salt. Mix thoroughly.
7. Pour mixture into pan. Bake 32-37 minutes. Note: when they are done, the center of the brownies should still be a little gooey when you remove them from the oven.
8. Slice when cool.
While these were in the oven, I reread Bake Sale and reflected on the utter coolness of an indie comic artist who loves to bake, play the drums, watch movies, run and box (Cupcake sells cupcakes outside a boxing match at Madison Square Garden). Sara first created Cupcake as a t-shirt design, and incorporated her desire to visit Turkey in this story. Though recommended for ages 8-12, adults will appreciate the offbeat humor and enjoy the utter trippiness of anthropomorphized food. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check my refrigerator to see what my eggs and pears are up to.
♥ Click here for a video of Sara talking about Bake Sale at last Fall’s Comic Con in NYC.
♥ Visit the publisher’s website for a Discussion Guide and more interior images.
♥ Sara Varon’s website: Chickenopolis.com
by Sara Varon
published by First Second, 2011
Graphic Novel for ages 8+, 160 pp
Cool themes: friendship, jobs, baking, bakeries, children’s comics, hobbies
Devour a copy now!
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.