How to Bake with a Toddler: Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Before Jake was born, several of my well-meaning friends told me to say goodbye to homemade cookies and from-scratch dinners. Wish my kitchen well and move on.

I both scoffed and worried about that advice. Was it really true that I wouldn’t be able to spend time cooking and baking the way I really like to?

While it’s certainly true that having a kid turned my world upside-down, I have discovered that we can do almost anything together if I am patient. Including baking!

Here’s the thing: baking/cooking together is not only a great way to build culinary confidence into a toddler, and a great way to make a fun activity out of something you were going to do anyway, but it also has a lot of developmental benefits for a little tyke! From early math (let’s count the eggs as we add them to the bowl!) to dumping in the ingredients into the bowl, baking is full of magical learning for little kids. (And guess what, folks!? Toddlers are super capable! I even let Jake help me make this wedding cake I’ve been going on and on about, and it turned out just grand.)

This Christmas season, during a time when family and togetherness are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, I thought I would share with you a few tips that may encourage you to spend time in the kitchen with even your littlest ones. Jake and I have been baking together since he was old enough to stand on his own—he can’t wait to help or watch with even the most mundane kitchen tasks, like making coffee! And it is my sincere hope that he will grow into a confident chef as we continue to cook together!

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Hazelnut Meringues

Hazelnut Meringues

December is baking month. It’s the month when I abandon any pretense of eating healthily and just enjoy cookies!

Which is exactly why I joined the SRC Cookie Carnival this year. Because what could be better than a blog exchange devoted to cookies during a month when that’s all I do in my kitchen anyway?

I was so happy to find a recipe for hazelnut meringues over at Chit Chat Chomp.

Here’s why: I really enjoy making cookies and treats to share during this holiday season. I have been known to host parties specifically devoted to sharing cookies I have baked. This year I packed a dozen cookies into little boxes and brought them around to my new neighbors. Hey, it’s a season of giving! But I also have a growing contingent of friends and family with food allergies, wonderful folks who just can’t eat cookies made with butter or wheat.

Meringues are a perfect solution for me! Meringues are delicious and easy. You can fill them with anything or nothing—though I must admit that I am partial to toasted hazelnuts! You can bake several batches in a day, or “forget” them overnight. Meringue cookies are just lovely!

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Chocolate Mint Butter Cookies

Chocolate Mint Butter Cookies

Here’s some big news: We are expecting our second baby this coming spring! A little girl!

Jake is very excited to become a big brother. It’s so cute to see the things that stand out to him: he is sure that “Baby Nugget” spends all her time swimming (and she may or may not also be inside his tummy, too); some of his toys have now been earmarked to share with the baby; and he is very concerned that his sister may have to sleep in the same room as the vacuum cleaner.

Here’s some more big news: We just moved to a new house!

This is a super crazy season of life. For months (and maybe you noticed by my conspicuous absence…) I was too exhausted and grossed out to cook anything, and we subsisted largely on Taco Bell (let’s blame that on the baby) and pancakes. Then, at last, I recovered some of my energy and poured it all into making a wedding cake and packing up everything I own to move to a wonderful, amazing, beautiful new house!

It’s been hectic and quite emotional, and I don’t think that’s just the hormones talking.

Now, in the middle of unpacking Christmas has reared its dear sweet head, and it’s definitely time to break out all the delicious cookie recipes and get baking.

I love chocolate and mint together during the holiday season, and these buttery, minty icebox cookies are fairly easy to make. Not only that, but they are cute and festive!

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Turtle Bars

Turtle Bars

I have to admit that the last two months have been the busiest, most stressful two months I can remember.

I really am going to tell you all about that sooner or later…but for now I want to focus on the fact that the Christmas season is a horrendously busy, often unpleasantly stressful time of year for almost everyone! Between the decorating and the gifting, the planning and the gathering, who really has time to bake 12 different batches of cookies?

Baking Christmas cookies is a huge part of my Christmas memories. It’s actually more important to me than decorating the tree (*gasp!*). My mother used to bake a dozen different kinds of cookies to give away to family and friends, and it’s a tradition I just love to carry on.

But this year I am trying to be realistic. I am slowly realizing that, like most people in the world, I do not actually have the time to make six different recipes that require chilling, rolling, shaping, frosting…. What I need is simplicity!

And that is exactly why we must make turtle bars and we must make them now.

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How to Make a Wedding Cake: Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting

Textured Frosting

Woo-hoo, it’s time to frost a wedding cake!

You guys, this step is totally daunting. I’m not going to lie to you. The frosting is the part everyone sees! Everyone is going to judge your delicious wedding cake by its cover. So we had better make sure it’s a beautiful one!

What you see on this wedding cake is purely frosting. No fondant here! (I was very pleased that the bride asked me not to use fondant, because I think buttercreams and cream cheese frostings are way tastier than fondant…but I must admit that fondant is easier to smooth than frosting, so I had to bring my A-game.)

And let me tell you, this cream cheese frosting infused with a splash of Baileys Irish cream was divine!

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How to Make a Wedding Cake: Pumpkin Spice Cake

Triple the Flavor

So…it’s been a while since I started sharing the process of making a wedding cake with you. A lot has been going on around our house, and I will tell you all about it soon, hopefully amid oodles of Christmas recipes.

But for now, let’s get back to a very important job: making a wedding cake. It’s cake baking day!

Just to refresh your memory, we are smack dab in the middle of making a wedding cake: three tiers consisting of pumpkin cake filled with cheesecake and frosted with Baileys cream cheese frosting.

Baking the actual cake is obviously a big deal. But I found this to be the easiest and least stressful step!

The cake recipe I used was originally meant for cupcakes. Often, cupcake recipes don’t translate well into larger layer cakes, because they aren’t always leavened properly to rise well in different size pans. But this recipe, kept moist by the pumpkin even under long baking times, always came out perfectly!

This cake is probably the simplest from-scratch cake I’ve ever baked. It’s not fussy at all! There is no creaming, no sifting, and no alternating of wet and dry ingredients. It’s basically a dream cake…and I think we should take this recipe and turn it into a dream wedding cake!

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