I can still picture my classmates cocking their heads to the side to see me with the book up, covering my face, which red from holding back sobs. The friendship between Billy and his Red Bone coonhounds Old Dan and Little Ann was so beautifully written, but also very poignant. So much so that it brought me to tears in front of about 25 students. Did I already mention how awkward that was?
Where the Red Fern Grows is the story of Billy Colman and his two dogs that become his life. After two years working odd little jobs to buy a pair of Red Bone coonhounds, his grandfather writes the kennel a letter, and in a response, learns that the dogs have dropped from $25.00 each to $5.00 each. Billy walks miles to pick up his dogs and on the way, buys his family gifts with the extra money he had from working.
As if Billy can’t get more endearing, enter Billy with his dogs. It’s the classic American tale of a boy and his childhood dogs. I’d tell you more, but to give away the ending would be a crime. To even think about giving away the middle would be a felony. I truly would not be able to sleep at night knowing I gave away more than the frame that is the picture of Billy with Old Dan and Little Ann.
Every Friday in my freshman year in high school, my English teacher wouldn’t teach, but rather have us students read to ourselves for the class period. One day, I forgot my book so I picked a random one off the shelf. I didn’t even look at the title since I figured I’d just pretend to read it for the 42 minutes and then put it back, never to look at it again. I picked up Where the Red Fern Grows and I took it home that weekend. After the first five pages I was hooked. Billy reminded me of the relationship between myself and my dog at the time, a miniature schnauzer Yukkie, named after my dads favorite TV reporter Ukee Washington. We figured if we changed the spelling, that is would make up for us naming a girl dog after a male reporter.
Though Yukkie and I didn’t go hunting like Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann, the book reminded me of things that I did do with Yukkie. For example, my brother, sister, and I would throw this royal blue crocheted blanket over Yukkie and chase her around the basement screaming, “watch out for the blue alligator!” I know, we were a bunch of weirdoes.
It recently was one of best friend’s, Marissa’s, birthday. She is an animal enthusiast, but she has an extra soft spot for dogs. I wanted to make her something for her birthday that represented one of the greatest animal stories ever written. My mind immediately went to Where the Red Fern Grows.
The New York Times bestselling cookbook, Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, featured some Westie inspired cupcakes, as well as some “pup cakes,” as they call them. Marissa has a shih tzu named Fifi so I wanted to make her a dozen Fifi’s. And thus another birthday and recipe, was inspired by a book… or two 🙂
Where the “Pup Cakes” Grow
Ingredients for the cake and frosting for “Where the ‘Pup Cakes’ Grow” are the same as that for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cake,” except for the food dye. For the food dye, you will need Wilton’s yellow gold, black, brown, and copper. You will also need:
1 Package of Twizzlers Pull n’ Peel
1 Package of Mini M&M’s
1 Can of Wilton’s decorating squeeze icing in black
1 Package of chocolate chips
1 Package of white chocolate chips
1 Can of Wilton’s Pearlized Sprinkles in Blue Sugar Pearls (or the color of your choice)
1 Box of Reeses Puffs cereal OR marshmallows (which is what Hello, Cupcakes suggests using for the snout. I didn’t have any on me so I improvised, such is the joy of baking!)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- For the cake, double your ingredients from this recipe or use your favorite boxed cake mix. This will enable you to make 12 regular sized cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes, plus a few extras.
- Make your frosting like this recipe, keeping the measurements the same.
- Separate your frostings evenly and dye them golden yellow, copper, brown, grey using a pinch of Wilton’s black dye, and black. Set aside some frosting for the white fur.
- Using any combination of colors, fill a pastry bag with the desired color combinations. You can create as many or as little fur colors as you’d like. I made a bag of white, a bag of black, a bag of golden yellow, brown, and copper, a bag of golden yellow, brown, and grey, and a bag of white and grey. *** Hello, Cupcake suggests cutting the tip of the bag into the shape of an ‘M’ to pipe the shape of the fur. Though it looks good, it would look a bit cleaner if you used a metal piping tip.
- Pick out the first frosting color. Take a Reeses Puff cereal or marshmallow, and attach it to the mini cupcake using frosting. This will create the dog’s snout. Then motioning like a wave ( or ~) fan out the frosting for the dog’s facial fur. Then cover the snout with frosting, smoothing it out with a knife.
- For the body, use a regular sized cupcake and motion the frosting the same as the facial fur. Then, place the head on the body.
- For the face, carefully squeeze two dots of Wilton’s Decorating Icing in black or use two of Winton’s pearlized sprinkles for the eyes. Using the black squeeze icing, put a dot on the snout for the nose. Break off a piece of Twizzlers Pull n’ Peel, about a centimeter, and bend it in half. Squish it down until it forms the shape of a tongue. Place it in the mouth. Take two chocolate or white chocolate chips and place them on the head like ears.
- For the collar, break off about a two inch piece of Twizzler’s Pull n’ Peel and palce it where you would a dog’s collar. Place a yellow Mini M&M, in the center of the collar as the dog tag.
- Repeat these steps until all dogs look too delicious to eat!
“Although they couldn’t talk in my terms, they had a language of their own that was easy to understand. Sometimes I would see the answer in their eyes, and again it would be in the friendly wagging of their tails.” ~ Where the Red Fern Grows