I’m a huge fan of the cakey, cream-filled whoopie pie; this is a great recipe, written especially for kids to follow – perfect when you want to include them in your festive baking, or they want to make something special for their teachers, coaches, relatives and friends this holiday season. What’s the best way for children to learn how to cook? By getting into the kitchen, especially at a time of year when baking is a means of spreading Christmas cheer.
With a chapter on organizing the kitchen, a glossary of methods and ingredients, and 100 recipes written with kid-friendly cooking methods, Everyday Kitchen for Kids is the cookbook for encouraging kid power in the kitchen. And of course it’s “safety first” all the way – none of the methods call for sharp knives, stovetop cooking or small motorized appliances. All the recipes are kid tested and approved, and accompanied by delicious photos. It makes a great Christmas gift for kids who love to cook – or parents who want to encourage kids in the kitchen.
This recipe has a vanilla-flavored filling; make it more festive by swapping the vanilla for peppermint extract. If you like, roll the edges in crushed candy canes.
These aren’t pies at all. They’re disks of chocolate cake made into sweet, frosting-filled sandwiches. The ricotta doesn’t taste like cheese—it makes the cakes fluffy! Reprinted with permission from Everyday Kitchen for Kids, by Jennifer Low (Whitecap)
Supplies: baking sheet, parchment paper, bowls, wooden spoon, measuring cups, measuring spoons, sifter, baking spatula, dinner knife, soup spoon, ordinary teaspoon, dinner knife or palette knife
1⁄3 cup (80 mL) ricotta cheese (preferably extra smooth)
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) soft unsalted butter (see “Butter,” page 16)
2⁄3 cup (160 mL) white sugar
1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup (185 mL) all-purpose flour (spoon in, level; see page 19)
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder (spoon in, level)
1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) baking soda
pinch of salt
Whoopie Pie Filling (see below) or your choice of frosting or ice cream
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, use the back of a wooden spoon to cream together the ricotta cheese and butter. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Use a dinner knife to clean off the spoon. Set aside.
In another big bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a baking spatula. Gradually stir this mixture into the ricotta mixture. Use a dinner knife to scrape sticky ingredients off the spatula so everything is well blended into a batter.
Use a soup spoon to scoop the batter and push it off with your finger onto the parchment. Make eight equal-sized dollops, keeping the dollops at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart because they spread a lot as they bake. The tops of the dollops will be bumpy. If you want your whoopie pies to be smooth on top, smooth out the bumps before baking by dipping an ordinary teaspoon in cold water and lightly running the back of the spoon over the big bumps—but don’t squash the batter.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 14 minutes, or until the whoopie pies spring back when lightly pressed in the middle.
After the cakes have cooled completely on the baking sheet, use a dinner knife or palette knife to spread the flat sides of four cakes with Whoopie Pie Filling, 3⁄4 cup (185 mL) other frosting, or even softened ice cream. Place the remaining four cakes on top of the filling and serve. (You could also eat the cakes plain.) Makes 4 Whoopie Pies.
Whoopie Pie Filling
This creamy frosting is really good just plain, but, if you like, you could also mix a drop of peppermint, cherry, or banana extract into it. Makes enough frosting to fill 4 Whoopie Pies.
Supplies: sifter, measuring cups, bowls, measuring spoons, drinking cup or small dish, wooden spoon, ordinary teaspoon
1 1⁄2 cups (375 mL) icing sugar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) cream or milk
2 Tbsp (30 mL) soft unsalted butter
pinch of salt
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Set aside. l Measure the cream or milk into a drinking cup or small dish. Set aside.
In a large bowl, use the back of a wooden spoon to cream the butter and salt until the mixture is very soft.
To finish making the filling, you will switch back and forth between mixing in a little icing sugar and a little cream (or milk) into the butter mixture. Begin by using an ordinary teaspoon to add a few heaping spoonfuls of the icing sugar to the butter mixture. Cream them in with the back of the wooden spoon. Then add a small splash of cream (or milk) and mix in with the wooden spoon. Switch between mixing in spoonfuls of icing sugar and splashes of cream (or milk) until both are used up. Mix into a smooth frosting that holds its shape and isn’t runny. If the filling is too soft, sift in a couple more tablespoons of icing sugar and mix in. If it is too stiff to spread, mix in about 1⁄8 tsp milk.
About the author: Jennifer Low spent much of the past 15 years as a food editor, a job that kept her busy developing recipes, writing feature stories and overseeing food photography sessions. She has combined all these experiences into two cookbooks: the 2004 bestseller Kitchen for Kids and her newest title Everyday Kitchen for Kids.
During a 10-year stint as the food editor of Canadian House & Home magazine, Jennifer managed to squeeze in recipe development for a U.S. supermarket chain and various agricultural boards, and occasional food-feature-writing for national newspapers. Again, she put the full range of her experience to good use—Jennifer is both a formally trained chef and former business journalist.
As a food editor, Jennifer saw scores of cookbooks and noticed that something was missing. “In helping my kids learn to cook,” Jen says, “I came to realize that so-called cookbooks for children were anything but.” She remembers the instructions in these books and the practical problems she saw in them: “chop the carrots carefully” (using a knife?!) and “stir the pot of simmering liquid” (by standing on a chair to reach the stovetop?!) Jen envisioned a different kind of kids’ cookbook.
Her first book, Kitchen for Kids, became an award-winning international bestseller. None of the methods in the book call for sharp knives, stove-top cooking or small, motorized appliances making the recipes in the book both safe and fun for kids. A portion of the proceeds from all sales of the book goes to Save the Children, an organization committed to improving the welfare of children around the world.
Jen appears frequently on television, most recently as a regular on CBC’s popular Steven and Chris show, creating original recipes tailored to the show’s viewers. She has also appeared on CityLine, Christine Cushing’s Cook with Me and Breakfast Television, in both Toronto and Vancouver.
Jennifer lives on the outskirts of the Niagara Peninsula, an agricultural and wine-making region in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, John, and their two children, Lee and Livvy. When she isn’t in the kitchen or in front of her laptop she’s fulfilling her duties as “mother and unpaid taxi driver.”
*Photos courtesy of Everyday Kitchen for Kids, by Jennifer Low (Whitecap)