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 reality: “OH GOD YOU’RE POURING IT ALL OVER THE KITCHEN TABLE. NO, IN THE CUPCAKE CASE. WAIT – STOP. HANG ON. YES THAT’S BETTER. STOP!”
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?