Baking with kids brings sweet returns, far beyond the sugar-laden results. The experience can foster confidence and creativity, for little ones and parents alike, and bring the family together to share memories as sweet as the treats themselves.
To make the most of it—without the stress and chocolate-covered messes—I asked Lisa Mansour, award-winning cake designer, co-founder and co-owner of baking supply store NY Cake, and head of the NY Cake Academy, for advice.
The Epoch Times: How do you get kids excited about baking?
Lisa Mansour: Getting kids excited about baking isn’t usually a challenge. I’ve always found that kids are excited to get in the kitchen, if you empower them. Let them use the big knife and chop. Teach them the skills that they’ll use the rest of their lives. It’s such a great confidence boost for kids to be a part of something that results in real, tangible, edible results.
The Epoch Times: What are your favorite kid-friendly baking projects?
Ms. Mansour: It depends on the age group. For the little ones, it’s fun to work with chocolate, like dipping strawberries, Oreos, and pretzels, and then decorating with all kinds of sprinkles. They always turn out great! With older kids, cupcakes are always fun. For teens, it’s fun to break out the big guns—break out the kitchen blowtorch and make meringue frosting. It’s a great opportunity to teach kitchen safety and still have a blast.
The Epoch Times: What are NY Cake’s best-selling items, and how can kids (and parents) use them?
Ms. Mansour: Our silicone molds are a great seller. We have them custom-made and you can use them for so many things. Put a little sugar paste in there for adorable decorations or make perfect little chocolates. You can also use them for sugar or even ice molds. I just love the designs we’ve come up with. We even have a set to make your own unicorn parts, which kids love!
The Epoch Times: What is the biggest challenge parents face when baking with their kids?
Ms. Mansour: Many adults say, “I’m a great cook, but I hate baking. It’s too exact and I don’t have the patience for it.” That’s baloney! Jump in there with your kids and figure it out together. It’s not rocket science and with a little trial and error, your confidence will be up and you can try new things together. You’d be surprised at how much room there is for improv when you’re baking.
The Epoch Times: What do you think is the value in baking together, as a family?
Ms. Mansour: It’s so important. It’s great for your kids to see you figure stuff out, too, and feel a sense of shared accomplishment. Time spent together is a gift. All our kids want when they’re little is time spent with us. It’s more valuable than any material gift. We make memories and food in the kitchen.
Lisa Mansour’s Tips for Baking With Kids
- Don’t be afraid of knives. There are a number of smaller knives with rounded tips on the market that can help to build good knife skills. Show them the proper pinch grip and how to rock the knife, keeping their fingers out of the way, and let them loose on some chocolate or nuts that need chopping. Having their own tools will really help them feel like they have a place in the kitchen.
- Proudly add some veggies to your recipe. If you sneak them in, then we’re telling our kids that veggies aren’t desirable. If we shockingly add some black beans to our brownies or carrots to our muffins, we’re helping them to understand balance, and that yummy doesn’t mean not healthful. Look for recipes that have that balance.
- Measuring is a great way to teach math and baking techniques. Look at the ratio of flour to liquid in a recipe and talk about how you think it will affect the end product. For really little ones, though, measuring means long clean-up time. You might be better off measuring out ingredients into small bowls so they can just dump them into the mixing vessel.
- Have your little ones crack the eggs into a separate bowl. It’s good practice and easier to correct do-overs.
- Be very conscious of the weight of a cookie sheet or pan after it’s been filled. Sometimes, it gets too heavy for little hands. If it’s liftable, have them put the item into the oven, but the adult should be the one to get it out.
- Burns and cuts happen, it’s a fact of life. Don’t freak out! Calmly run cool water over burns and cuts to cool them off, or clean them out and then bandage accordingly.
- Don’t forget to have fun. It sounds simple but there’s a false mentality around baking that you have to be super precise. It’s a good idea to follow the recipe to a point and as you and your children gain confidence, you can start to edit the recipes. Add ingredients you think would taste good or work well. Creativity in the kitchen can be as much fun as eating the results.