Midday Fix: Celebrating diversity and acceptance with children’s book author Michael Tyler with a cake for MLK Day

Michael Tyler,  author of the children’s book The Skin You Live In and cake baking expert


Michael Tyler’s popular picture book for children “The Skin You Live In” helped inspire Chicago Children’s Theatre and local playwright Gloria Bond Clunie to create My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, a new play for kids ages 4 to 7 opening next week about diversity acceptance.

Michael’s second passion is baking, so next Monday, Michael will be serving his family’s famous “Butter Cake” at Chicago Children’s Theatre’s free Open House to celebrate both Martin Luther King’s birthday, and Chicago Children’s Theatre’s first birthday in its home, The Station, 100 S. Racine Avenue.

Monday, January 15 - The Chicago Children’s Theatre will open its doors from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to celebrate MLK Day and Chicago Children’s Theatre’s first birthday in its new home, The Station.

In addition to balloons, crafts and a giant birthday card to sign, kids and parents can get a sneak peek of My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, a fun, timely and important new play for young audiences that opens next Tuesday and runs through February 18.

Written by Chicago playwright Gloria Bond Clunie, My Wonderful Birthday Suit! captivates kids with its birthday party setting. But it is also intended to help children, parents and teachers speak honestly about diversity and encourage all ages to move from tolerating differences, to understanding, accepting and celebrating what makes everyone unique.

Michael Tyler, whose book The Skin You Live In helped inspire the play, will also appear at Monday’s event, sign copies of The Skin You Live In, and serve some of his Butter Cake in honor of MLK and Chicago Children’s Theatre’s birthdays.

Michael Tyler’s Butter Cake recipe

3 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour

2 cups of granulated sugar

1 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 cup of buttermilk

8 ounces* (2 sticks) of butter, softened

4 large eggs

2 tsps of vanilla

*additional butter will be necessary for cake pan preparation.

Glaze -

3/4 cups of granulated sugar (Baker’s sugar if you can find it)

1/3 cup of butter

5 tbs of water

2 tsps of vanilla

Instructions -

Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour a Bundt pan, and set aside. Place all dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and whisk together for 25-30 seconds for good incorporation. Create a center in the mixture with a spatula, and into it pour the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the butter around the peripheral of the center. Pulse beat all the ingredients to “wet” the flour mixture so that it doesn’t fly out of the bowl, then let beat at low-medium speed for about 3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Pour batter into prepared pan, and even out the distribution. Set inside the oven at mid-level (helpful to place a cookie sheet on the level below, in case any spillage occurs as the cake rises).

Baking time can vary depending on environmental and atmospheric conditions, as well as oven used. Generally, baking time will be 46-52 minutes. Use a tester to check if the batter is cooked through (should come out slightly crumbed or dry). Cake should get a half turn in the oven at the halfway point, to insure even browning. To get a nice out color, check the perimeter color of the cake. To prevent the exposed side (what you actually see rising) from over browning, a foil sheet can be placed on top during the final few minutes of baking.

Once removed, the cake should cool for 10-12 minutes before attempting a release. The glaze can be prepared before releasing, which will take about 7 minutes. Put the sugar, butter, vanilla and 4 tbs of water into a larger sauce or sauté pan, over low heat (if the heat source is too hot, the glaze will harden into a candy). Constantly stir the glaze with a spatula, which will allow you to feel whether or not the granules of the sugar have fully dissolved. The glaze will turn to a butterscotch appearance after about 5 minutes. That’s the point the final tbs of water is added. This will help the glaze have a nice gloss upon drying.

After the cake has been released onto a rack over a cookie sheet, apply the glaze with a silicone brush; fiber brushes often leave “hairs” on the cake, which are both unsightly and unpalatable. Thoroughly coat the entire surface of the cake, Bundt funnel included. Let glaze set for at least 10 minutes before serving.