Creative Family Living

Kids in the Kitchen :: Baking up a Mystery Chocolate Dessert


Kids in the Kitchen -- Baking up a Mystery Chocolate Dessert

My kids have always enjoyed helping me in the kitchen—measuring, pouring, mixing, tasting. But in the past year, Maia (now 8) graduated herself to cooking on her own. 

She started with familiar dishes from her much-used copy of Pretend Soup, such as popovers, strawberry surprise muffins, number salad, and blueberry pancakes. Then she moved on to recipes from my cooking bible, The Best Recipe. She's made cookies, cake, pie, french toast, more pancakes….

Sometimes she has a sous chef in the kitchen (Daphne) and sometimes a collaborator (a friend).

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She asks for help if she doesn't understand an instruction or wants clarification. When making meringues yesterday, she said, "Mom, it says I need to beat these egg whites until they are like shaving cream. Can you squirt out some shaving cream for me?" Me: "No." "Okay, well, do you think these are like shaving cream?" Me: "Not yet. Keep mixing until they are thicker."

She also asks for help with fractions. If a recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon of something, she needs a reminder that she can use a 1/2 teaspoon plus a 1/4 teaspoon to get the correct amount. Or if she's tripling a batch of pancakes (as she is at this very moment), she might ask for help tripling 3/4 of a cup. Although this time, she answered her own question and decided to use the 1/4 cup measure 9 times.

But overall, she's pretty self sufficient in the kitchen.

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And about a month ago she surprised me by making up her own recipe, writing it down, and then cooking it the next day.

I'm constantly tweaking recipes myself, or combining ideas from 2 or 3 recipes, and she sees me write down what I did that time or make variations of a recipe three days in a row. And she knows I put my recipes in the eBooks. 

So the idea of concocting something new in the kitchen is familiar to her.

She talked about what she wanted to make—a chocolate dessert—and thought through ingredients and format out loud. Then she got out paper and pen and wrote down the recipe for her "mystery chocolate dessert."

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Recipe for Mystery Chocolate Dessert

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 of cup or 1 cup of sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix together milk, egg, and vanilla. Then stir and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees…. [Etc. I guess the rest was in her head.]

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I was impressed that she was familiar enough with ingredients and proportions that her recipe sounded doable.

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And even more impressed the next day when she and her friend Kara cooked it (after pajama day at school) to find that it was quite edible.

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Tasty even. (Especially with the addition of cream cheese icing and sprinkles.)

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Daphne and her friend Gigi, who had been playing in the other room, materialized as soon as the little chocolate cakes were ready to sample.

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The kids all loved it. And Maia was so proud of herself. So pleased with the results. She even told me I could share her recipe with you. 

She gave Kara a plate full of the little cupcake-like desserts to take home and delivered the rest to a neighbor, saying she could always make more since she had the recipe.

Do your kids like to cook? If so, do you have a favorite children's cookbook? I'm looking for a good one for Maia and have my eye on Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up (also by Mollie Katzen, author of Pretend Soup) as a possible Christmas gift. 


  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    This is great for her! She’s using her reading and math skills. I still have issues with doubling some fractions so I just use the measuring cup twice. ;c) My girls are too little to cook on their own but love watching/helping me when they can. I’ll have to continue to keep them involved.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I LOVE this. E is always asking if she can make up a recipe – I should get her to write it out and then she can try it. I remember doing this with a friend in high school and we made a gigantic chocolate/mint mess that did NOT taste good. Good for Maia for knowing proportions and having the confidence to give it a go.
    (And, good for you for letting her!)

  • Reply
    November 12, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Fantastic! My little chefs are still making indigestibles.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Honest Pretzels is THE BEST! I used it when I was a little older than Maia is now, but I think it is definitely age appropriate for her. Molly Katzen also has another preschool-age cookbook out to go with Pretend Soup. I think it is called Salad People. Some of Emeril’s kid-oriented cookbooks are good too. Not as sweet as Molly’s, but still geared for kids.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I love, love, love this post. My kids, especially my daughter, love cooking and baking. My mom wants to give my kids “the gift of experience” this year for Chanukah. I was telling her about Honest Pretzels and Pretend Soup. She decided that as one of the experiences, she’s getting them each a cookbook along with coupons to “Make a Fancy Dinner for Mom and Dad” and “Make a Fancy Dinner for Baba” (their great grandmother). Thanks for the great idea!
    If you’re wondering, she’s also taking them to see Fred Penner (Do you guys know him in the US? He’s a Canadian legend, from our city!), giving them coupons to visit five different libraries, making bird feeders, and going on a winter nature walk.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    she is one amazing kid… allow her to learn in the most natural ways….I’m inspired to write a recipe of my own this weekend.

  • Reply
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    November 15, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Looks delicious !

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