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Eat Like a Freshman: “Baked Raccoon”

We put a sweet spin on a very vintage recipe.

Ingredients

1 box gluten-free confetti cake mix (I used Pillsbury’s.)

1 cup of water

⅓ cup of oil

3 eggs

2 containers of vanilla frosting

1 tube of black piping icing

2 piping bags

24 foil cupcake liners

Directions

  1. Line a cupcake tin with the foil liners.
  2. Bake the cupcakes according to the directions on the box. Let them cool completely.
  3. Look up a photo of a raccoon — or, better yet, a cake shaped like the head of one.
  4. Arrange the cupcakes to resemble the shape of a raccoon’s head.
  5. Fill a piping bag with vanilla frosting and pipe the raccoon’s white mask in the general center of the cupcakes. You’ll work out from there.
  6. Mix some of the black icing with your vanilla frosting to achieve a shade of gray and fill another piping bag with it. Pipe the raccoon’s fur.
  7. Use the black icing to add the details: the inner ears, nose, eyes, and signature black mask.

Review

Nearly every staff gastronaut who has perused the campus cookbook collection in search of a dish to demo for this section has come across Carson Gulley’s recipe for baked raccoon. It appears in Seasoning Secrets and Favorite Recipes of Carson Gulley, first published in 1949, and it consistently elicits consternation from prospective Eat-Like-a-Freshman chefs.

In present-day Wisconsin, consuming raccoons is not commonplace. The masked marauders bear a reputation as carriers of disease, and their tendency to dine on the things we dispose of after we’re done eating take the nocturnal critters, quite literally, off the table.

However, raccoon meat still holds a place in America’s culinary history and, in some parts of the country, in its present. Raccoons join rabbits and squirrels in the category of “small game.” Indigenous tribes and early American settlers alike trapped and consumed raccoons. Enslaved people were known to cook them whole, often in West African–style stews. In 1897, Mark Twain included raccoon on an extensive list of American foods he craved during a sojourn in Europe. And in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge famously received a live raccoon from a Mississippi resident who intended it as part of the First Family’s Thanksgiving feast. (They adopted the gift as a pet and named her Rebecca.)

There are still some folks who partake of raccoon, but it has fallen considerably out of vogue since its heyday. Since I count myself as neither able nor willing to take up the practice, even in the spirit of research, I found a lighthearted (and far more approachable) loophole.

Reader, I baked it. That is, I baked a cake into the shape of it. Actually, I baked a couple dozen cupcakes and arranged and frosted them into the shape of it. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to look like. Would you have known it was a raccoon without the title? Actually, don’t answer that.

April Fools, everyone! We “baked” a raccoon. It tasted like gluten-free confetti cake with vanilla frosting, it came wrapped in foil cupcake liners in homage to its favored hiding place (a trash can), and no raccoon or human was harmed in the making.

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