Baking with Grandma–Grandma’s Cupcakes in Cones

Baking with grandchildren is a great activity.  The recipe should be a simple one with not too many ingredients.  The recipe is just the beginning of Grandma’s plan.  The recipe should be divided up into child tasks depending on the number of grandchildren and the ages of the grandchildren doing the activity.   Of course, Grandma must try to be fair and give each child a chance to participate, but the appearance of fairness is more important still, especially when use of appliances that may be dangerous to a young child.  Teaching cleanliness and safety is part of the process.

Yes, cooking and baking is a great learning experience, but most of all, children remember this for a long time.  Remember to have a camera ready to memorialize the activity in pictures for the grandchildren’s annual photo album from beginning to the best part, eating the finished product.  Grandma has to be ready to accept a big mess so have lots of old towels and paper towels available.

CupcakeBaking cupcakes in flat-bottom cake style ice cream cones is a fast and easy fun time with Grandma.  I cannot recall in which newspaper I found this recipe, but it has to be the Miami Herald or Sun Sentinel, years ago.  It is easy for even three year old grandchildren.  Here is the recipe and ideas on how to make it work for Grandma.

Recipe:

  • 18.25 ounce box of cake mix without pudding
  • 1/2 cup of cold water and 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 24 flat bottom ice cream cones
  • Frosting
  • Sprinkles and other decoration candies
  • Muffin tins to hold 24 cones
  • Electric mixer or tools to hand mix
  • Tablespoons
  • Old large towels
  • Lots of paper towels

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cake mix and 1/2 cup water.  Beat 1 minute with electric mixer on medium speed or 100 strokes by hand equals 1 minute with electric mixer.  Add eggs, 3 tablespoons water, vanilla, and oil.  Mix well by hand.  Stand cones in muffin tins.  Fill each one half full with batter.  Bake 15 minutes or until a wood toothpick comes out clean or until cake springs back when touched lightly (grandchildren can do toothpick best but remember oven is hot, so only for older grandchildren with you guiding their potholder gloved hand).  Cool.  When cooled, cover with frosting and decorate with sprinkles, etc.

Grandma can make this a many part activity or just a cooking activity.  Grandmas always look for inexpensive gifts and letting each grandchild select their favorite sprinkles or such topping which leftover (labeled with child’s name) can to used another time.  The supermarket is a great activity in and of itself and targeted supermarket shopping for a single goal is the best way to start.  If you take young grandchildren to the supermarket, go yourself first to locate the items and the specific aisles so when you bring the grandchildren, your trip is more successful and less stressful.

Remember that for grandchildren who reach the checkout counter in the supermarket, candy  is going to be a magnet and a problem for grandma.  Either get permission from the parents for each child to pick one candy item, have a parent or grandpa join you and take the children directly to car seats and grandma checks out alone, or have a conversation before the trip that each will be picking a candy topping and that is the only candy involved this trip.

You can make the supermarket very quick and find the first items the grandchildren like, or begin a dialogue about comparison shopping and costs of different brands for the same item. For younger children, we count, boxes, items we are buying.  For beginning readers, we look for sight words.  For experienced readers, we look at ingredients and compare brands.  Pictures!  We don’t need to go buy eggs, oil, vanilla and other staples we have in the house, unless that is to be a lesson on all the egg alternatives, sizes, and kinds.

I personally use the supermarket as an example to my grandchildren of how lucky we are to live in America, and have all the choices, options and opportunities we have.  Yes, I do remind them that there are those who do not have enough food to eat, even in the United States. I show them, by example, to be appreciative of all service workers, be polite, and thankful to everyone.

Now to preparation.  Prepare yourselves, grandmas, to accept the mess.  I have the grandchildren lay old towels in front of the sink, everywhere on the floor in kitchen, on the work surface.  I have rolls of paper towels near the sink and the workspace.  The garbage pail is handy.  Then we all wash our hands with soap and sing the alphabet song.  ( I do remember Katie Couric  on the Today Show on NBC saying that is how long we must wash our hands to get them germ free).

At this point, with the grandchild reader holding the written recipe, we bring out all that we need to bake, double check, count, smell, touch.  With the smallest, we can even make some music banging spoons and pans.  We can parade with the music too.  We can make up a cupcake song. Hi. Ho. Hi. Ho. …  Remember, the journey is the fun.  Who cares to hurry.  Pictures! Now, grandma divided up the tasks in her head so each gets a chance.  Pictures! Yes, cracking two eggs by a three year old may mean many shells in the bowl, a second washing of hands, and sneaking the dumping of the eggs while diverting the attention of the grandchild.  I incorporate older grandchildren in this conspiracy–they love participating in the distraction, and if you clue them in in advance that we know they would crack eggs perfectly but we need the little ones to make their mistakes and their help in fixing the mistakes without hurt feelings, they will be okay with the plan.

One minute of an electric mixer is too little time to divide, so I opt for the 100 strokes.  Another math lesson!  Division and counting.  Even with only three grandchildren, I do 20 strokes each first.  Pictures! Do not worry.  This allows the older grandchildren to do more and show how big and strong they are.  I do the final stirring and mixing.  There may be lumps, but who cares.

Each child gets their equal number of cones to fill halfway.  Pictures!  Leave the drippings on the tins.  There will be a lot.  Unfortunately, these drops taste delicious after baking and grandma will eat too many.  Grandma does the oven thing.  Hot. Hot. Hot. This is a lesson too.  Timer on. Timer off.  Cooling patience is a challenge.

Frosting and decorating is the best and messiest.  Each grandchild has a picture taken with his or her choice of best cupcake he or she made.  Most of the time baths are needed after this stage.  But, kitchen cleanup is a shared task first.  Towels go in the washer.

So much learning with our shopping, reading, mixing, baking, and eating with Grandma.  So much fun, hugs, and delicious

Joy,

Mema

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