My soon-to-be first-grader (hold me!) is six-and-a-half, and is currently at the age of trying to find and assert areas of autonomy, often expressed by insisting on doing certain things “all by myself.” One of these areas happens to be cooking and baking.
Although she has made batches of bread dough, rolled out other doughs, such as this homemade puff-pastry, and stirred batters for a long time, it wasn’t until now that I decided that I would (mostly) get out of her hair and let her complete (most of) the process by herself.
In the past couple of weeks, she baked twice: a chocolate-zucchini sheet cake sometime last week, and a batch of chocolate funfetti cupcakes yesterday. Here is what they looked like:
She made the frosting, too.
Because I am a nervous Jewish mama, I didn’t let her do the whole thing by herself, even though she wanted to. While she did all of the measuring, mixing, and stove-top stirring, I didn’t let her do the “hot” parts like pouring hot liquids, putting things in and taking them out of the oven, and taking the cupcakes out of the tins. I also filled the muffin tins with the batter myself, mostly because I didn’t think I could handle the mess that would surely result (it wasn’t until later that I realized that I could have poured this rather liquid batter into a narrow pitcher and have her pour out of there to minimize the spills). I will start letting her do these things eventually, but I just didn’t feel comfortable quiet yet, given her size and all.
Because this batter called for buttermilk, we used the small amount that resulted from our making butter earlier this week, and it worked beautifully. We don’t normally make butter in this way, which is actually more expensive, but in this case I just wanted to show the kids how it’s done. Woe to me – they loved it so much, they now want it all the time. Either way, I really appreciated the opportunity to tie the two projects nicely together.
Funny story: because Josie made it, after eating the little bit of leftover batter and licking spatulas and mixing bowls, neither of my kids could manage more than a bite of the actual cupcakes. Here is looking at you, Michael Pollan.
As far as the actual recipe, we used Ree‘s trusted Best Ever Chocolate Sheet Cake batter and frosting (note that we used the full batter recipe, but cut the frosting recipe in half). We love her easy and absurdly delicious recipe so much, we use it as our go-to cake building block all the time. Here are my other variations:
“Praga” Cupcakes with Condensed-Milk Buttercream – a true Soviet classic made even better with Ree’s amazing cake.
Josie then simply mixed a bunch of rainbow confetti sequins and rainbow non-pareil sprinkles directly into the batter and the frosting (she would have also used rainbow jimmies, but I think Cyrus stole and ate mine all gone), as well as added some on top for cuteness.
Her next “by myself” baking project: chocolate chip cookies!