Baking With Kids: The Fantasy V The Reality

With another series of The Great British Bake Off here, it’s that time of year when I avidly watch each week, to see who will be crowned the Star Baker. Seeing them bake sponges, bread and pies, I think to myself: “I should bake more”. This is usually followed by a flashback to being in Home Economics class at school, aged 13, being scowled at by the teacher, Mrs Mackay, because my rock buns hadn’t turned out well (apparently my technique for making breadcrumbs with the mixture left a lot to be desired).

I may not be a Mary Berry in the making, but I do enjoy baking. And I love baking with my three-year-old daughter. At least, I love the idea of baking with her. But unfortunately, the fantasy of baking with her doesn’t always match up to the reality of baking with her. Here’s why…

The fantasy: We’re in a lovely clean kitchen (à la Bake Off) with sun streaming through the windows and upbeat music playing (let’s say Abba on this occasion).

The reality: It’s pissing it down outside (hence the need for an indoor activity), I haven’t had time to tidy the kitchen of the bills, free newspapers, paintings and random craft materials that clutter the surfaces and the three-year-old is demanding to listen to Justin Fletcher’s latest album as we bake. It takes me at least 20 minutes to faff around, getting the baking equipment out of the (very back of the) cupboards, locate the scales (where did I put them, again?) and work out how the flip I’m meant to line the cake tins before we can begin. Which means there are 20 minutes of “Can we start, Mum?” and “Muuummmmyyy! I want to bake cakes!” and “MUM! Stop doing that! I want to make a cake!”.


The fantasy: My daughter helps me measure the ingredients while we laugh and joke about something funny. A bluebird probably flies in the window and lands on my shoulder.

The reality: I stress about allowing a three-year-old to cut butter with a knife, then as she struggles to get the butter off a spatula and into the scales, it goes flying off the spatula and lands on the floor. Flour goes everywhere. I say a lot of “When I say ‘stop’, you have to stop pouring, OK? Stop. STOP! I SAID STOP!”

The fantasy: We take turns stirring the mixture, seeing the dry ingredients and eggs/butter come together in a beautiful way. We sing along as we do it. Mr P wanders in and cheerfully asks if he can help.

The reality: The three-year-old gets bored stirring after ten seconds. I try to help. “NO Mum!” she says, giving it a half-hearted poke with the wooden spoon. Eventually I get the electric whisk out and use that, which leads to the three-year-old covering her ears and shouting, “It’s TOO NOISY!” Mr P comes in to find out what all the screaming is about.


The fantasy: I allow the three-year-old to pour or spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases or lined tin, with a totally chilled and carefree attitude. Who even cares if she doesn’t do it neatly? This is all about the joy of baking and the mother/daughter experience, after all.



The fantasy: We watch a Disney movie while the cakes bake in the oven, then cool, before we decorate them together..

The reality: “Are they ready yet? Can we see? Are they ready now? Now? Now?” followed by: “Are the cakes cool yet? Can we decorate them? WHY is it taking a LONG TIME? Oh DEAR, Mummy, I’m not very happy with you.”

The fantasy: Decorating the cakes in a cute way together – rainbows, swirls and polka dots – it’s the end of a magical couple of hours.

The reality: The three-year-old can’t get the hang of the icing pens and gets frustrated that her rainbow looks like a spider. After doing one cake, she announces: “Time to eat them all!”


Do you bake with kids and do you have any tips on making it a fun and stress-free experience?




  1. Kim
    August 6, 2014 / 6:27 pm

    Ha ha ha ha! I bloody love this post – geeeeeenius (with my index finger firmly planted in the middle of my forehead). Xx

    • Alison Perry
      August 7, 2014 / 9:53 am

      Thanks bezzie.

  2. Rebecca phillips
    August 6, 2014 / 8:01 pm

    Hahaha! This is hilarious hence why we use the ‘just add an egg’ sachets 🙂

    • Alison Perry
      August 7, 2014 / 10:04 am

      I think that’s the secret to happy baking!

  3. August 6, 2014 / 8:49 pm

    I love this! My little ones love to help me bake but honestly? I’m a complete control freak in the kitchen and end up stressed to the max! Ha!

    • Alison Perry
      August 7, 2014 / 10:03 am

      I think the control freak thing is a big factor for me – that and I find it hard to communicate with words to a three year old how to do something properly. Basically, I’ve decided I’d be a rubbish teacher!

  4. August 7, 2014 / 8:18 am

    LOVED this! It’s SO me! I’m constantly beating myself up for the fact that I don’t bake more often with the kids, nor have a show home kitchen! And not the first clue where MY scales are either! Oh – and decided to do a quick bake yesterday so in desperation rooted around in the cupboard for my Betty Crocker pack – only to find it went off in April! *takes off apron

    • Alison Perry
      August 7, 2014 / 10:05 am

      Only April? That’s not bad going. I found self-raising flour that had the expiry date of June 2010 recently!

  5. August 7, 2014 / 1:44 pm

    True. Dat bab. True. Dat! I am a teacher. I get children A*s in their GCSEs but do you think I can get my kid to bake a cake and not nearly tip me over the edge??? No I bloody can not xxx

    • Alison Perry
      August 7, 2014 / 1:50 pm

      I feel better knowing even teachers struggle to bake with kids.

  6. August 7, 2014 / 2:58 pm

    You have just described my morning trying to bake with my twins (nearly 3).

    Fantasy, beautiful mini cupcakes to give to guests tomorrow.

    Reality, over filled cupcake cases with mixture that seems to spread around the kitchen. The kids are eating the mixture as fast as I’m trying to sort it out (given up worrying about raw eggs!!!) and bored kids that don’t want to wait to eat them. I gave up before we even got to decorating and have just spent 2 hours trying to clean the kitchen up.

    Head to hand, why do I think these things will be a good idea. Loved your post made me laugh out loud.

  7. August 7, 2014 / 7:21 pm

    I think I have been so OCD and stressy about baking with the boys they now no longer want to do it with me. I feel like I should be sad, but actually I see it as a major win!!!!

  8. August 8, 2014 / 1:12 pm

    Love this post, you had me chuckling at the mental image of you and G baking. I usually let Milin have a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon to himself. He helps himself to flour,baking soda, sugar, raisins etc and mixes them all up while I keep the real mixture to myself. He does help pour into cases, but with A LOT of assistance. We’ve not baked for a while though with all the sunny days we’ve been having. I might give it a go again soon. But actually, now you’ve reminded me about the chaos that it can become, maybe not! x

  9. August 11, 2014 / 12:14 pm

    Too funny and true! My 3 year old persuaded me to bake cupcakes the other day ” so we can teach daddy, he needs to know!” HAHA
    She is not keen on measuring , mixing, sifting etc, “that is hard and is for mummies only” all she is interested in is licking the icing bowl/ spoon!

  10. Tinks
    August 11, 2014 / 4:13 pm

    Enjoyed reading this, it made me smile. My 3 year old and me often forget the last baking experience ( which is as discribed in blog ) and try to produce something beautiful. It’s slowly getting better.

  11. August 12, 2014 / 12:48 am

    Great post! We had a baking day last week, we had five recipes all planned out and the kids were really looking forward to it. The kids were nowhere to be seen by recipe three.

  12. August 12, 2014 / 10:27 pm

    I LOVE baking (sorry), but it’s not the same with the kids, it’s bloody hard work! I much prefer solo baking, in the evening, listening to some good tunes or catching up on my telly progs. Don’t get me started on decorating cakes with kids, and all those hundreds and thousand balls all over the floor! *grits teeth*

  13. Caroline Semmens
    August 17, 2014 / 11:00 pm

    Just found this blog post and have laughed all the way through. Currently sporting a fetching burn on my arm from baking gingerbread men with my 3yo son last week. Every single step you have mentioned above happened to us, but with the added mum throws the baking into the oven at top speed and then burns arm taking it out after a constant 18 minutes of “is it ready yet?”

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