I have a love/hate relationship with baking with my children.
Most of me wants to embrace it with open arms and dance around with the icing-sugar shaker. However, the OCD part of me wants to control the mess, flying arms, spoon licking, and general craziness.
When my son asks to bake a chocolate cake, which happens often, I have a raft of reasons why it’s just not possible right now:
“Sorry son I’ve got too many other orders on to bake another cake now”
“It’s school time!”
“It’s too near bedtime to start now.”
“Let’s wait until Penny is having a nap, so she not under our feet”
…I could go on.
But I know baking with him is fun, it’s quality time he needs and it makes him happy. So as much for myself as anyone else, I’ve compiled a few thoughts on how to react when our children inevitably ask, “Mum can we bake a cake?”
1. Remember they are kids.
I don’t know about your children but most are not born mini-Jamie Olivers or Nigella Lawsons. They are young, they doth know about hygiene or how I like to stack my cake tins to maximise cupboard space. I need to lower my expectations! I’m trying to think less high-society-catering with dainty petit-fours, and more children’s party style baking, with all the glitter and sparkles that entails.
2. Embrace the mess – it’s the only way!
I find the more I try and control the flour, eggs, and chocolate situation the more frustrated my son gets. It stops feeling like a fun Mum-and-son experience and more like a military procedure, with no fun or spontaneity allowed. It is hard for him to relax and enjoy it when I have constantly got one arm around him in a vice like grip.
3. Take your time.
I can get a cake in the oven pretty fast if need be, but children can’t read the scales quite as quickly and often get the numbers the wrong way round. Take a deep breath, and slow down. They will learn new things if they are not rushed and will revel in the one-to-one time and having your undivided attention.
• Be realistic. I don’t expect help with the washing up. If your child want to then amazing, but mine is far more interested in making sure he has licked every last bit off the spoons before they hit the water.
Praise the outcome whatever it may look like! Even if you don’t want to eat it personally and you fear you may give the neighbours a funny tummy tell them it is wonderful (you can always quietly dispose of it later!). Your child will be feeling proud, so build them up, they’re only young once and you can’t get this time back.
So about 2 weeks ago my son asked the question… “Can we bake a chocolate cake now?”
Trying to take my own advise I took a deep breath and said, “Yes Tobias we can, you can tell me how you would like to decorate it too”.
We made the cake and there was mess and laughter and smiles. We had to ice it later as Penny had woken from her nap but he was so proud of his cake once it was cooked he carried around the house wrapped in cling film showing anyone he could find what he had made.
Her was even more delighted when we had poured over the chocolate ganache and he was given free rein on the marshmallows.
If you look closely you can see Finn Mcmissile, a character from the Disney movie Cars, sitting on top of the cake as Tobias had decided the decoration represented his bumpy road to travel on.
Baking with kids is messy, unpredictable and hilarious, hopefully this might have inspired you to give it a go.
If you do decide to I’d love to hear how you got on – maybe send me a picture!
Thanks for reading