Sunday, December 4, 2011

Theory Thursday: Invent Your Own Cake Recipe

Jake turned 6 years old this past Thursday, and you know what that means - new-found abilities! Remember when he turned 4-and-a-half? He made his own cupcakes completely by himself. Now, at 6, that's too simple for him. We had to step it up a bit. And what better way to accomplish that than to combine new capabilities with science? 

When I first saw this activity, I knew we had to do it. Jake's birthday was the perfect opportunity.  Sure, the kids have made cakes by themselves before, but I always helped with the measuring. Oh, and one more thing - there was always a written recipe.

Until now.

Here I was allowing my barely 6 year old and my 3 (and-a-half!) year old free reign (mostly) in the kitchen. They were choosing the ingredients. They were choosing the amounts. Had I gone crazy??? I was starting to think that it was possible.

First thing we did was talk about what ingredients were needed for a cake. Instantly, the two of them were able to list off flour, sugar (white or brown), butter, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla. Not too bad all on their own.

Next, Jake cut and pasted the ingredients he wanted to use from the forms.

But not every ingredient he wanted was on the list . . . so he wrote them in.

I stood there reading "marshmallows, maple syrup, butterscotch (chips), and white chocolate (chips)."  Yep, this was going to be a sweet cake for sure.

Once the ingredient list was created, Jake and Alyssa set out to gather the supplies . . . with a little help from Mommy to reach the ones way up high.

Now that we're all set, let's start experimenting!

 Measuring sugar requires extreme concentration. Sticking out your tongue helps to accomplish that.

He started with equal parts butter and sugar. After beating and a taste-test, it was determined that he needed more sugar.

He added the eggs, one at a time. Then moved on to the dry ingredients.

Cinnamon is a requirement for anything Jake bakes.

So is flour all over the counter and on his clothes. Both are a necessity.

He eventually did let Alyssa help with some of the preparation. 

There's a tongue again. Must be serious work.

We were out of mini marshmallows, so they decided to use marshmallow cream instead. Of course, the cream is sticky. And of course you always get some of your fingers. And of course you have to lick it off.

Though, that may have been the theme of the entire activity: lick it off. They were constantly tasting the batter as each addition was made. Hey, when you're making your own recipe, you have to taste to see if it's right!

Jake decided to add only 1 teaspoon of milk to the bowl. He hates white milk. (Smart kid!) He was afraid that the more milk he added, the more it was going to taste like pure milk. I could have encouraged him to use more, but this was a teaching moment. I didn't say a word. Instead, I figured he would notice that the batter was much too dry once they added the dry ingredients to the wet.

And I was right. He recognized right away that the cake batter looked more like cookie dough. I asked why he thought that was. "Because it needs more liquid, " was his reply. Again I say, smart kid! 

He added 1/3 cup more milk. Still a little too dry.

Added about 2/3 cup more, just right.

This was the part that both kids looked forward to the entire time - adding the butterscotch and white chocolate chips! A few chips may or may not have gotten eaten during the process.

Look at that consistency. Not too thick, not too thin - just right! Time to bake!

Jake climbed up on the step stool, turned on the oven light, and peered at his creation. Every. two. minutes. To say that he was excited is an understatement. Though I have to admit, I checked it a few times myself!

And then it was time to allow the cake to cool. I was in the biggest hurry at this point since we had somewhere to be and I still had 15 million things to do in the next 30 minutes. I did not take the time to question why the cake was not releasing from the pan. Jake thoroughly coated it with non-stick spray; there was no reason why it would be stuck.

Oh, yeah, the chips! All his precious chips sunk to the bottom of the pan and melted, leaving a browned - but tasty - crust. I was much more careful with the second pan. (Until I grabbed a potholder a bit later and carelessly bumped the cake, breaking off pieces. But we won't talk about that.)

Now was the moment of truth. How did the cake taste? We asked an unbiased judge, who did not have any part in the experimenting process, to taste the cake.

And the verdict is???

It's a winner!!!

I was pleasantly surprised by how good the cake tasted! It didn't even need the chips to sweeten it (though the kids disagree.) Jake proclaimed, "I think this is the bestest cake I've ever eaten!" I was starting to get a little concerned that my 2 little ones were able to create a cake that was better than any I had ever made following a recipe. But then he followed his statement with, "Well, other than Boston cream pie." It made me feel a little better.

Seriously though, I was quite impressed listening to their conversation and watching them measure the ingredients, taste the batter along the way, and actually produce a yummy cake . . . all by themselves! I never once told them what they had to do or that they couldn't do a certain thing. If they needed guidance, I asked them questions to get them to think. They came up with the conclusions all on their own. I can honestly say, this cake was 100% their own.

I have to admit, I am very proud of my children. If they can create a recipe, prepare the cake, and produce something delicious at their young ages, just think what they'll be able to accomplish when they're older! They'll put their mother's baking to shame, I'm sure.

And you know, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Jake's Special Cake (invented and named by Jake)
1/2 c butter                                             2 c flour
1 c sugar                                                 2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs                                                     1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla                                            1/4 tsp salt
1 c milk                                                  3/4 c white chocolate chips
3 Tbsp syrup                                           1/2 c butterscotch chips
1/4 c marshmallow cream

1. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, milk, syrup, and marshmallow; mix well.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Once batter is smooth, stir in white chocolate and butterscotch chips.
4. Pour into two 9" round cake pans. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Linked to Watcha Making Wednesday
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  1. I am extremely proud of them and the cake was very tasty.

  2. That is very cool! It's not easy to just jump in and start creating a recipe. Although, I have a feeling it's probably easier for kids to think outside of the box than it is for adults. lol!


  3. How fabulous!! I think I'm going to let my girls do this.

  4. Beautiful kiddos. Tell them they did a great job. Science and cake. Two of my favorite things.

  5. Thank you for linking up! I love love love this project :-) And even better that it turned out so yummy!