Holes | Oreo "Dirt" Cupcakes
"There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland."
I think the first time I read "Holes" by Louis Sachar, was for a book report in middle school. Imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed it! I think that's because this book deals with some pretty adult themes, and at the time, it felt a little scandalous to be reading it in school.
The book includes three intertwining stories--the first following Stanley Yelnats, a young boy who is sent to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp. He was sent there for a crime he didn't commit, a fact he blames on a curse he is convinced his entire family has been suffering from for generations. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley and the other boys are forced to dig holes in the middle of the desert as punishment, suffering from heat exhaustion, dehydration and poor diets. As Stanley makes friends at the camp, they realize the reason they're digging holes is because the Warden (who is an jerk, by the way) is searching for something.
While this is happening, we also learn the story of Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya who is blamed for the curse after breaking a promise he made to a gypsy and fleeing his place of origin.
We also learn the history of Camp Green Lake, including the hundred year old story of a white woman named Katherine who fell for a black man named Sam. This, of course, angered everyone in the town, especially the few white men who had eyes for Katherine. The couple is forced to attempt to escape and in all the drama, Sam is killed, turning Katherine into an outlaw known as Kissin' Kate Barlow, who leaves a big red lip print on every man she kills. One of those men happened to be Stanley's grandfather, and Kate buries the money she steals from him--yup, you guessed it--at Camp Green Lake.
In Stanley's attempts to dig up the truth, we see him learn about fate, taking responsibility for one's actions, and making and choosing friends. A bit of dark humor can be found in the midst of these intertwining stories, as well as a lesson in the importance of knowing your history and where you come from.
Whole paragraphs of "Holes" are dedicated to describing the awful conditions the boys at Camp Green Lake are working in--from the dirt to the heat to the long hours.
"The digging got easier after a while. The ground was hardest at the surface, where the sun had baked a crust about eight inches deep. Beneath that, the earth was looser. But by the time Stanley broke past the crust, a blister had formed in the middle of his right thumb, and it hurt to hold the shovel."
I decided to recreate that dry earth with Oreo cupcakes. These cupcakes have an entire regular-sized Oreo at the base, crunched up Oreo cookies in the batter, and the frosting is dusted with a fine crumb of vanilla Oreos to look like the dry, cracked earth the boys dug into all day. They are VERY crunchy--you might have to remind people they're full of cookies and not just burnt. I also attempted to find some candy scorpions, which play a role in this book, but could only find literal scorpions put inside lollipops. Since I actually wanted people to eat these cupcakes, I just went with some gummy worms instead. Enjoy!
Chocolate Oreo cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup milk
Oreo cookies (regular and vanilla)
Edible creepy crawlers (optional)
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Then stir in the vanilla.
4. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well.
5. Prepare your pan with liners and place a regular size Oreo cookie in the bottom of each liner.
6. Coarsely chop 1/2 of remaining cookies and add to cake mix.
7. Fill the cupcake tins and bake for about 15 minutes (or according to box directions). Cool completely before you continue.
8. Chop Vanilla Oreo cookies into a fine crumb.
9. Frost cupcakes (I used chocolate, because duh!) and dip each cupcake into the crumb mixture until the top is completely covered.
(Note: If you're not into the Holes theme, you can always top these with vanilla frosting and a mini Oreo cookie!)
“In a way, it made him sad. He couldn't help but think that a hundred times zero was still nothing.”
“I'm not stupid. I know everybody thinks I am. I just don't like answering their questions.”
“You're responsible for yourself. You messed up your life, and it's up to you to fix it. No one else is going to do it for you -- for any of you.”
“What scared Stanley the most about dying wasn't his actual death. He figured he could handle the pain. It wouldn't be much worse than what he felt now. In fact, maybe at the moment of his death he would be too weak to feel pain. Death would be a relief. What worried him the most was the thought of his parents not knowing what happened to him, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. He hated to imagine what it would be like for his mother and father, day after day, month after month, not knowing, living on false hope. For him, at least, it would be over. For his parents, the pain would never end.”
“A lot of people don't believe in curses. A lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn't make a difference whether you believe in it or not.”
“He could hardly lift his spoon during breakfast, and then he was out on the lake, his spoon soon replaced by a shovel.”
“When you spend your whole life living in a hole,” he said, “the only way you can go is up.”