The Write Cake


Pencil in family fun with a back-to-school cake, and you’re sure to get good marks.

The excitement is palpable in our house on the first day of school. After the long summer break, my children are eager to reunite with classmates and resume some of their favorite extra-curricular activities. But there are first-day jitters, as well, as they fret over what to wear, wonder who will be in their classes, and cross their fingers for teachers who don’t believe in homework.

As a mom, I feel it, too. I try to hide my nerves in busyness — packing lunches, filling backpacks, and snapping photos. This will be the best year ever! I kiss my children goodbye and send them off with prayers and motherly reminders: say yes ma’am and no ma’am; don’t chew with your mouth open; and wash your hands. For the love of avoiding communicable diseases, wash your hands!

Then they take a big step into the future, and I watch the school bus round the corner and fade from view. And I wait. And wonder. And hope for the best.

That first day of school, I busy myself tackling projects I have needed time and a quiet house to accomplish. I realize that when I bought school snacks and breakfast staples, I didn’t think to choose anything for my own lunch. And I watch the clock, eager to hear how the first day went.

I tell my husband the only way for me to face the children’s transitions is to craft my way through them. So I pour myself into preparing a back-to-school dinner — choosing a theme, planning my menu, and gathering surprises. Then I get to work, adding creative details to make my children feel special.

When one of my children started kindergarten, I wanted to get the school year off on the write foot with a pencil theme. I made the cake pictured above by baking a cake mix in a loaf pan. Then I used a serrated knife to round one end to make the eraser and to shave the other end to make the point. (These pencil shavings didn’t last long.) Pink, yellow and gray icing helped the pencil take shape, and chocolate chips and a Hershey’s Kiss added the final details. I set the cake in the center of the table and looked forward to slicing it that night as the children recounted events of the first day.


For extra credit, I wrapped rubber bands around bud vases, slipped a handful of pencils underneath, and tied ribbons around the vases to camouflage the bands. Then I set each place with a bundle of pencils and special message.


When the children burst through the door that afternoon — spilling over with news of  the day — they were delighted to find the kitchen table set for a celebration.

The pencil cake was enjoyed by all, and I can happily report that  no one developed lead poisoning. As we shared our hopes, dreams and expectations for the new school year over dinner, I couldn’t help but smile. I know we say it every year, but it really will be the best year ever.

This year we celebrated back-to-school at home with a family dinner and a party for 50 of my husband’s law students, and at school with a PTO dinner for more than 100 elementary school teachers. Class is in session at A Little Loveliness, so I hope you will stop by! You can also vote for me in Taste of Home’s “Mrs. Holiday Ambassador” contest! Simply search for “Melissa Lester” to cast your vote.


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About Melissa Lester

Melissa Lester is a contributing editor to Christian Woman Magazine and author of the book Giving for All It's Worth. Her articles have appeared in several magazines, including Ideals and TeaTime. Melissa lives in Alabama with her husband and four children. Through her blog, A Little Loveliness, she shares ideas for making family memories and celebrating the everyday.