As you make have gathered from my some of my previous posts I love all types of cooking but especially baking. I have fond memories of baking with my mum when I was younger and this is something I’ve been keen to share with C. In fact when she was only a few weeks old C had her first taste of baking when she helped to stir the Christmas pudding mix on stir up Sunday. I would share the photo but it shows me living on about an hours sleep and is not a pretty sight! Anyway, since she has been able to I’ve really tried to get C involved in cooking at home and she is particularly fond of baking. So today as it was a slightly grey day where the weather really couldn’t decide what to do, we decided to do some baking. Now I know some people can get a bit nervous about the idea of baking with a toddler (C will be three in October) but it is such a lovely learning and bonding experience and has tasty results. In fact cooking in general with a child is teaching them a vital life skill and it’s something I’m really passionate about especially having seen teenagers leaving school without any basic skills in the kitchen at all which is frightening. So today C and I baked cupcakes, we probably bake once every three weeks or so but we do other cooking a lot more frequently. In fact C can probably recite a basic cake recipe (although she doesn’t know numbers big enough for the quantities yet). So today I thought I would not only share our recipe, but also some tips and hints to help encourage the nervous amongst you to try baking with your little one. I’ve put the simple, de-toddlerfied version first before my step by step guide with toddler tips included.
The basic recipe (18-20 cupcakes depending on tray size):
- 175g butter/margarine
- 175g caster sugar
- 175g self raising flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 100g chocolate chips
- Turn the oven on to 180 degrees Celsius and put cupcake cases in your tray ready.
- Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl except the chocolate chips and mix (I use an electric hand mixer but a spoon would suffice but I can just never get as much air in the mixture then) until pale.
- Then add the chocolate chips and stir in with a spoon.
- Spoon mixture into cases and bake for 12-15 minutes until the top bounces back immediately when pressed and they are light golden in colour (my oven takes exactly 13 minutes for these but it can vary depending on your oven.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy.
The toddler version
First step is to make sure that all hands are clean and I always have out all my equipment and ingredients ready. For a toddler baking version I have two bowls, one small to measure in and one large to mix in.
Now the first job your toddler can help with is to put the cupcake cases in the tin. This is a great fine motor activity as it can actually be quite hard to separate out the individual cases. When I first started doing caking with C she would use an entire 50 pack of cases to fill one 12 hole tray but now she manages to separate them all out individually.
Cracking eggs is a great skills to learn. As we have chickens we tend to get a fair bit of practice with eggs and C can crack an egg and almost open and empty it completely by herself. My suggestion is to let your toddler have a go and just prepare yourself for the mess (I’ve had a teatowel under the bowl before to catch spillages and always have cleaning equipment nearby for an immediate clear up). I get C to crack the eggs into our measuring bowl and then transfer them into the mixing bowl. It’s also useful to have a bowl to put the empty shells in nearby. You’ll notice C steadies the bowl herself when cracking the eggs now which is another useful tip.
Then the toddler can do some more mixing with the spoon whilst you put away the ingredients and make sure the hand mixer is plugged in and ready. As we have a rather small kitchen (an understatement really) with limited plug points we have to move to another part of the kitchen to be next to power. Now C has had it explained to her very clearly that when we use the mixer she has to have one hand on the handle (which she must share with me) and one on the outside of the bowl. Now be really really firm about this as it is such a safety hazard if they mess about. Use whatever warning system you need to make this clear to them (I even early in our baking career together when C kept trying to put her hand in the bowl despite clear warnings cut our baking short which resulted in lots of crying but she has behaved immaculately ever since and it’s better to have a battle and a cry now than a trip to A and E later).
Then once fully mixed I normally allow C to lick the beaters whilst I get everything ready to fill the cases and put away the mixer. Then the “cleaned” beaters go straight in the dishwasher and we add the chocolate chips and stir in.
Now comes the fun part trying to fill the cases without getting mixture everywhere. I use a two spoon method myself but C tends to just use one spoon and shake the mixture off. She only tends to fill a couple before deciding the spoon has to go in her mouth instead so I tend to end up filling most of them myself, and hers tend to need topping up a bit too.
Then whilst they’re in the oven C can lick the spoons and I can put the bowl in the dishwasher and tidy away and wipe down anything else that needs doing. Then once the well licked spoons are in the dishwasher it’s just a waiting game. Now I’ve gone for two different strategies before depending on what kind of mood C is in. Either we move to another room and start a different activity and I discretely slip back into the kitchen when the timer is up to take the cakes out of the oven and put them on the cooling rack and then take her back into the kitchen when they are cooled so we can try one. I employed this a lot when she was younger as she struggled to stay far enough away from the oven and couldn’t quite get (or didn’t want to) that the cakes were too hot to eat immediately and that she couldn’t help me put them onto the rack. Or I involve her in the whole process (which I am increasingly doing now) and we do a final count down from 10 seconds on the timer (see how I even managed to link a bit of numeracy in there) and then she watches as I open the oven and unload the tray and we set another timer for when they’ll be cool.
Now I like this recipe because it is simple and relatively quick and hassle free even with a toddler sous chef, it doesn’t require any icing or anything doing to it after baking they can be enjoyed as is. You can even substitute the chocolate chips for raisins or other dried fruit if you want to be a bit healthier but I personally don’t think the odd couple of chocolate chips now and then are too bad for you.
Oh and for reference, a toddler sized portion is one cupcake and an adult sized portion is definitely at least two. Does anyone else cook much with their little ones? What are your favourite recipes? Any other hints and tips for fellow parents?