Welcome to 3 Kids, a Mom & a Kitchen! I’ve always liked the idea of cooking with my kids, but in practice it never quite lived up to the ideal in my head (we’ve all been there, we know how hard it can be!) The fact remains, however, that my kids love cooking with me, no matter how old they are, and I love the benefits. We can practice math, patience, and creativity, among other great skills. And I feel like I’m instilling them with the cooking know-how they’ll need for when they’re out on their own (*sniff*). So, even though cooking with kids can sometimes be tricky, I’ve decided the benefits far outweigh the challenges and I just need to make it happen! Hence 3 Kids, a Mom & a Kitchen was born!
Let me introduce the three kids! Cate is 9. She always thinks she wants to cook, but often leaves the kitchen before we’re done, so it’s a challenge keeping her engaged in the process. She is super excited about our new column here on Babble! Anna is 6. She has always loved cooking with me and stays through to the bitter end. Owen is 2. Amazingly he is already enamored with cooking and asks to help with pretty much everything I make. He is the most eager but also the messiest!
My kids and I have decided to tackle two recipes a month. We will let you know why we chose the recipe, rank it based on difficulty, fun, and taste, and share tips for how to get the kids engaged as well as on the recipe itself. The goal is to make cooking fun for kids and parents alike! So, here goes! Our first recipe: Lemon Pound Cake.
Why We Chose the Recipe: Lemon Pound Cake 1 of 9
I'll admit, I picked out our first recipe without much input from the kids, but when I shared the idea with them, they were on board! My grandmother always made lemon pound cake for us when I was a kid (albeit from a box!), so I have fond memories of this tasty treat and I was able to share those memories with my kids as we cooked. Plus, our lemon tree is producing right now and we've yet to make anything fun with our homegrown lemons. The kids get so excited when they pick a beautiful lemon, but then it just sits in the bowl untouched. They couldn't wait to use them for something sweet! I dug around in all my cookbooks and settled on a recipe from The Joy of Cooking, a cookbook my mom always used when I was a kid!
Rankings: Lemon Pound Cake Was a Winner! 2 of 9
This recipe was a winner! I was able to get the kids involved in lots of different ways, which is key when successfully cooking with children. I shared our rankings in the graphic above, but here is a bit more explanation (Cate had to leave last minute and couldn't cook with us, but she'll be sure to pitch in on the next recipe!):
The Mom: The recipe had a few different steps and requires some patience, but that provided a good learning opportunity for the kids. It wasn't too difficult to get Anna and Owen involved, we had a lot of fun, and the pound cake tasted great!
Anna: She said it was an easy recipe, she had lots of fun and it tasted yummy. Not a woman of many words, apparently.
Owen: Owen was totally into making this cake and had a great time. But when the taste test rolled around, well, keep clicking through to find out what happened!
Setting up the Kitchen 3 of 9
Before we got started I made sure to have most everything we needed within arm's reach. Since Owen is only 2, I put him right next to me so I could closely monitor what he was doing and make sure he didn't fall off the stool! At first Anna was mad she had to be on the other side of the counter, but I quickly got her to work on something and she forgot she was mad. Keeping them separated meant no fighting whatsoever. Woohoo!
Steps in this Recipe Where Kids Can Get Involved 4 of 9
There were tons of ways to get the kids involved with this recipe!
Owen (2 years old):
- I let him pour all the ingredients into the bowl after I measured them.
- He got to stir the dry ingredients (with supervision!).
- I yelled "Boom!" every time we put an ingredient into the bowl, which got Owen super excited about everything we were doing. He continued on with the booms throughout the rest of the cooking time together!
Anna (6 years old):
- I had her whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla. That kept her busy while Owen and I measured the dry ingredients.
- Anna was also in charge of juicing the lemons. She felt really big and responsible performing this task.
- Counting! They both helped me count out everything we measured. In addition to measuring, there are set times for how long you beat the cake in the mixer, so instead of using a timer we counted it all out. It was great practice for both a toddler and a kindergartener! They loved all the counting and even kept at it when the cooking was done!
- While they weren't old enough to use the zester themselves, I did get the chance to teach them about lemon zest, which Anna especially was interested in.
- Both kids were able to help with poking and painting the loaves of cake. Click through to see the fun!
Fun Step #1: Poking the Pound Cake! 5 of 9
The very best steps in this recipe came after the pound cake was done baking. You have to poke the top and bottom all over, which the kids loved doing.
Fun Step #2: Painting the Pound Cake! 6 of 9
The second fun step was painting the pound cake with a simple lemon syrup after poking all the holes. Needless to say this step was a big hit with both kids and they wanted to paint forever!
A Lesson in Patience 7 of 9
When we were all done making the cake, the kids were very happy and proud. They also quickly learned about patience. I neglected to notice that the pound cake has to sit wrapped tightly for 24 hours before eating! So, I quickly turned the moment into a learning opportunity and told them we would have to wait one day so the cake could get even yummier. They were great sports about it (thankfully), and it extended the fun since they had the big tasting the next day to look forward to.
The Tasting 8 of 9
After the 24 hours had passed we sat down for a taste test with Dad and big sister Cate. Owen was sort of mad at me about something going into the tasting so when he took his first bite of the pound cake, he burst into tears and yelled, "YUCKY!" I could not for the life of me get him to try it again. I still think he was just bugged and took it out on the pound cake, but maybe the lemony flavor surprised him. Everyone else in the family, however, liked the pound cake a lot. It's incredibly rich and buttery with the right amount of sweet lemon flavor.
The Final Product and the Recipe! 9 of 9
Here is the final product. It really is a nice little recipe. It takes some effort but actually makes for a great cooking project with the kids, especially if your family likes lemon desserts. Without further ado, the recipe!
Lemon Pound Cake
From The Joy of Cooking (ingredients slightly modified, directions re-written in my words)
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons milk (next time I will do 2 tablespoons milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 25 tablespoons butter (yes, TWENTY-FIVE)
- 1/4 cup strained lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Set cold ingredients out about an hour before cooking so they can come to room temperature. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan or two 4-cup loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you're using a hand mixer), whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), add half the egg mixture to the dry ingredients along with the butter and beat on low until dry ingredients are just moistened. Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute (counting opportunity!), scrape the bowl, then add half of the remaining egg mixture, beat for 20 seconds on high (counting!), add the rest of the egg mixture, then beat on high for 20 seconds (more counting!). Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir to make sure it's fully mixed, then put in a greased 6-cup loaf pan or into two 4-cup loaf pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes with the two smaller pans or 35-45 minutes for the one larger pan.
- When the cake has about 10 minutes left, in a very small saucepan mix together the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons sugar and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- When you take the cake out of the oven, place pan(s) on a cooling rack and poke the tops of the loaves all over with a wooden skewer then brush on about half of the lemon syrup over both loaves. Let sit for 10 minutes then run a thin knife around the edges and invert loaves onto a parchment- or silpat-lined cookie sheet, poke the bottoms of the loaves with the skewer and then brush with more syrup. Invert back over so the top is facing up and brush the tops and sides with the rest of the syrup. Let cool completely then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let sit for 24 hours before eating.