Cooking with Children – a Simple Sentimental Birthday Cake
As a mother of four under 10’s I have many books on cooking with children, which I leaf through and sigh, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to whip up a three tiered, circus themed chocolate cake with hand made models of all the animals or equivalent?’ I then of course realise that I can’t because I have to nip out and cut the grass in my heels, oh wait, that’s not my life either; in reality I’ll be cleaning the baby sick off my shoulder and wrestling my toddler away from Peppa Pig.
I know that even simple recipes can become complex when children begin argue about who gets to ‘do’ and cries of ‘she always gets to’, begin. However, I must confess that I do frequently have soft focused visions of me serenely baking with my four children, and whilst the scene of me cooking with my little tribe is about as serene as Gordon Ramsay on a bad day with a hundred covers sending their dinners back, I still love to cook with my children.
The key to success when cooking with little ones I have found is a. making sure I have ample time and b. choosing simple recipes. I am very guilty of wanting to create something above my tolerance levels and my little ones capabilities. So I often have to reign in my ideas and scale down my visions.
I love having my children young and I always want to preserve the memories; what better way to do this than with a sentimental cake that was easy to make, stress free and effective? This year for their Dad’s Birthday my children’s cry of ‘can we make him a Birthday cake?’ Was met with a stress-free mummy that they helped bake an all-in-one sponge and decorated with plain white fondant and hand-prints. This was by far the best way of involving all of my children, even the four month old.
Sentimental Birthday Cake
Recipe to make an 18 Cm (7 In) Victoria Sandwich
- 3 large free range eggs
- 175g (6oz) of softened salted butter
- 175g (6oz) of caster sugar
- 175g (6 oz) of self-raising flour
- 1½ teaspoons of baking powder.
- 2 x 18 cm (7 in) greased and lined sandwich tins
for the filling
140g [5 oz.] butter
280g [10 oz.] icing sugar
2 tsp. orange flower water
white fondant icing
gold cake artist pen [with paint brush attached]
Method for the all in one sponge
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease two sandwich tins then line the base of each tin with baking parchment. My nine year old loves drawing around the tin and cutting out the parchment circle to fit…a perfectionist in the making.
- Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and beat until thoroughly blended. Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and level out.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until well risen and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack covered with a clean tea towel.
- When completely cold, spread a layer of jam on one cake and a layer of buttercream on the other and then sandwich together.
Butter Cream Recipe
Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft and pale. Add half of the sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth.
Add the remaining icing sugar and the orange flower water, beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in a little milk if the mixture needs loosening.
With the cake assembled, cover the cake with plain white fondant [see my article on how to do this], then supervise hand washing or in the case of very young children foot washing. I find it is much easier to do foot prints for babies as hand prints can be tricky as they tend to want to make a fist rather than relax their hand to create a nice print.
Then paint a hand or foot of each child and aid them in making a print on the top of the cake. I found the cake artist pen by Cake Decor with attached brush to be the best tool for the job. Make sure you have plenty of baby-wipes on hand for cleaning hands or little feet after making the print.
The cake takes around ten minutes to dry and makes for a heartfelt, sentimental cake.