Baking with Children: Cupcakes and Deep-breathing
I love baking with my children. That said, sometimes before I do, I have to make sure I’m in the right space to do it. And then take three deep breaths before we begin.
As much fun as it is, it always takes about three times as long to make something as it would without them, so it is not something to undertake when the clock is ticking. Although sometimes I do anyway. Like last weekend. 3 hours until a potluck pool party for their school. 24 cupcakes to mix, bake and frost. 2 anxious, hyped up little helpers, ready to go. 1 slightly frazzled Momma pulled in from her overdue yardwork with dirt still under her fingernails. 3 deep breaths.
At that point I’d already promised them they could help. Of course, I’d promised that at 9 a.m. when the day stretched out deliciously before us, acres of time ahead. But most promises I like to keep, even when they take a lot of deep breathing to get through. And the clock is ticking.
Just a few little tidbits and one recipe to share from my afternoon of baking with my not-so-little-anymore ones.
- Ideally, make sure you have more than enough time to bake and clean-up without stressing yourself out. And if you don’t try not to remind them you promised in the morning. Of course, they never forget so this doesn’t really work.
- Make sure you don’t care too much how your end product turns out--things can get a little wild sometimes–especially the more kids you add in the mix. Baking with one at a time is my ideal scenario, but as we know, reality is hardly ever ideal. I just console myself with the very real truth that much of what I bake solo doesn’t turn out, so why should I be worried; in fact, they may up my odds of success.
- Give everyone their own spoon. Even if they don’t need one–this makes everyone feel important. Official looking aprons help too. But make sure to be prepared for impromtu dueling that may ensue. Deep breathe when they start knocking into the ingredients and almost send the eggs rolling onto the floor.
- Divide up every step into about 4 parts so it is always fair. At times my kids sorted this out on their own, sharing the task of sifting the dry ingredients by counting the turns of the crank (10 each, than switch).
- Try to bake something that has a good tasting bowl/spoon/mixer paddle to lick. This can make any kind of disastrous baking episode a success. I mean, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? [If you’re worried about egg safety and such, let them lick the frosting instead of the cake batter–this just doesn’t happen to be one of my own concerns.]
After many deep breaths, a couple duels, lots of flour and such on the counters, our cupcakes were in the oven baking. And my two zealous bakers fell upon the cake batter like wild ravenous dogs. Chocolate faces followed, and lots of smiles. A wee bit later, when the were sated and happily playing a round of Uno (and after a shower for one totally chocolate covered boy–it was in his hair, I tell you), I snuck back in to whip up my favorite chocolate frosting, and quickly and peacefully finish off our task. Just in time too. The pool party time had arrived.
“PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING
from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa can (or this website)
This is the one my Momma always made. A nice fudgy taste and consistency. After she frosted we would eat the cooled hardened frosting from the pan. Or sometimes just stolen from the top of the cake. It was not unusual to find an 8×8 cake pan with half the frosting picked away to expose a mottled yellow cake. She made it on the stovetop in a pan. I sometimes make it in my kitchenaid, melting the butter in the microwave instead of stovetop. I used it this last weekend to frost the cake recipe from Dorie’s Baking book for the Devil’s Food White-Out Cake–one of my favorite quick and reliable chocolate cakes.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.