Giving is something that zebras do as naturally as having stripes: it’s just part of who we are.
This year, I was looking for the most special gift ever: a present for Caitlin, a little girl who is spending her first Christmas as a real live angel.
For almost ten years, Caitlin was a magical kid who lived happily with her family and friends in Pennsylvania.
Caitlin loved to laugh and sing and play and dance.
She also loved to cook and bake, nourishing all the people she loved with the wonderful treats she created.
One of her favorite things to do was bring joy to everyone who knew her. Sharing joy was as natural to Caitlin as stripes are to zebras.
Caitlin cheerfully shared her love, laughter, strength and wisdom, even when things got really challenging.
When she was five years old, Caitlin’s doctors found out that she had brain cancer.
She had to spend a lot of time in hospitals having surgery and treatments to help her tumor go away.
When Caitlin grew up, she wanted to be two very special things: a mom and an astronaut. She wanted to make children feel happy, loved and full of energy — and she wanted to fly through shining stars to faraway galaxies.
Caitlin loved the colorful magic of fairies and rainbows.
She especially loved butterflies, because they had the miraculous power to transform from playful, crawly caterpillars into graceful, majestic creatures who soared among blooming flowers into all the sunlit places where “now” dances into “always” and “forever.”
Last spring, Caitlin transformed from a little girl into a heavenly butterfly angel.
So this Christmas, I got together with my most imaginative friends to come up with the perfect gift for our favorite angel. Since kids and zebras love cookies, we were pretty sure angels would, too.
We set out to create the ultimate recipe. The first ingredient was easy: lots of love!
We knew angels and butterflies really like sunny skies, so we decided to make cookies that looked like billowy white clouds.
As we searched through our zillions of cookbooks, we discovered recipes for heavenly cookies called meringues (a French word that’s pronounced “merANGS”).
Meringue cookies start with eggs – perfect for a beginning angel, because eggs are a symbol of bright beginnings and new life. Eggs are also filled with protein, which helps make our muscles strong and minds alert.
We also liked the way meringues start with slippery egg whites that transform into fluffy clouds.
What makes them fluffy? Something invisible and essential: air!
Like hope, the invisible air puffs up the egg whites until they almost float right out of the mixing bowl.
Next, we added sparkly white sugar, which reminded us of shimmering snowflakes and shining crystals of fairy dust.
This would enrich the cookies with all the sweetness of Caitlin – and give everyone who ate our meringues the joyful energy of children and angels.
Now we needed something everyone treasures: imagination.
To make our cookies creative, we switched up our basic recipe to include fun ingredients that reminded us of Caitlin.
We added vanilla for the creamy sweetness of daydreams. Cocoa for the deep, chocolaty richness of laughter.
Coconut for the balmy happiness of tropical sunshine. Scarlet berries and a few drops of raspberry juice for the swirly pink magic of fairytales.
And tiny chocolate chips because every kid knows that life is better with chocolate!
Using our hooves and paws and hands, we carefully dropped our cookie clouds onto baking sheets, where the warmth of the oven would transform them into light, airy bites of goodness that melted in our mouths like a sweet combination of Christmas snowflakes and summer sunshine.
Like all the best wishes, our cookies came true: they were every bit as heavenly as we hoped they would be.
To celebrate the forever magic of Caitlin, we had a party – inviting everyone who loves cookies and joy and laughter.
And when we looked up at the glowing sunset sky, we saw the colors and light that let us know Caitlin loved her cookies, too!
We hope you’ll share Caitlin’s magic (and cookies) with your family and friends, celebrating the happiness of holidays and everydays.
Because love is forever – and every moment is a gift.
Want to see how much fun it is to make Angel Cloud Cookies?
Watch the video!
RECIPE: Caitlin’s Magical Angel Cloud Cookies
Cloud cookies are super-easy to make – and they bring happiness to everyone who makes (and eats) them! They’re also pretty healthy, since they’re made with egg whites (and just enough sugar to make them perfectly sweet). This is a flexible recipe, so feel free to play around with the extra ingredients (including imagination). If you’re a kid, please be sure to get an adult’s help – especially with using the mixer and the oven.
WHAT YOU NEED:
Lots of love
1 cup of granulated white sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (optional – it makes it a little easier to whip the egg whites, but it’s not absolutely necessary)
Vanilla Clouds: 1 extra tsp. vanilla extract
Chocolate Clouds: 1/2 cup cocoa
Chocolate Chip Clouds: 2 cups mini chocolate chips
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Clouds: 1/2 cup cocoa + 2 cups mini chocolate chips
Pink Berry Clouds: 2 cups dried berries (cranberries or cherries) + about 1 Tbsp. pure berry juice for pinkness
Coconut Clouds: 2 cups of dried shredded or flaked coconut (I like unsweetened, but sweetened is fine too)
WHAT YOU DO:
Read through the whole recipe, then get out all your ingredients and measuring tools.
Make sure your oven racks are evenly spaced (dividing the oven into thirds), then preheat the oven to 225°F.
Grease (or put some nonstick cooking spray on) two baking sheets – or if you have silicone baking mats (Silpats) or baking parchment, you can use either of those.
IF YOU’RE USING A MIXER:
Put the egg whites (and cream of tartar, if you’re using it) in the bowl of an electric mixer that’s fitted with a whisk attachment.
Start by beating the egg whites on low speed, then bring it up to medium speed until the eggs whites get foamy.
Now crank it up to a high speed until the eggs turn white and billowy (soft peaks).
Turn the mixer to medium speed, then add sugar a little at a time until the egg whites are shiny and hold stiff peaks.
IF YOU’RE USING A BOWL & WHISK:
Gather up all your energy – whipping egg whites is super-fun, but you’ll need to put plenty of hand/hoof power into it!
Put the egg whites (and cream of tartar, if you’re using it) into a mixing bowl (copper is best, but stainless steel, ceramic, sturdy glass or plastic/melamine are A-OK too). Use your whisk to beat the egg whites until they’re white and billowy (soft peaks).
Keep beating (I TOLD you that you’d need lots of energy), adding sugar a little at a time until the egg whites are shiny and hold stiff peaks.
FOR EITHER OF THE ABOVE METHODS, THE NEXT THING YOU DO IS:
Use a rubber spatula to carefully fold in vanilla and any other extras. Be super-gentle and patient, softly mixing in your ingredients until everything’s all blended together.
Spoon the sweet fluffiness inside your bowl onto the baking sheets, spacing your cookie clouds a couple of inches apart.
Bake your cloud cookies for one hour, then turn off the oven and let them cool and get crispy in there for up to one more hour (if you can stand it – if not, you can eat them a few minutes after they’re done baking. I know I always do!).
After the cookies are cool, you can store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to enjoy them. Zebras like to eat them as soon as possible, sharing them with all the humans and other creatures we love most!