Think the only place to experiment for kids is a science lab? Well…try baking with kids! Baking is full on science experiment for kids that results (well, mostly!) in lip smacking treats.
From enhancing your kid’s motor control to giving a hands-on lesson on math and science concepts of measurement, proportions, molecular gastronomy – the rewards of exploring the science of baking with kids are plentiful!
Table of Contents
- The Science of Baking for Kids
- Properties & Purpose of Cake Ingredients
- Why Does a Cake Rise?
- How Does an Oven Work in Baking the Cake?
- Why Do Cakes Taste Yummy?
- Benefits of Baking With Kids
- Cake Recipes to Try With Kids
- Baking Books for Kids
- Baking Sets for Kid
Besides, a little time spent in the kitchen with kids can lead to a lifelong treasure trove of memories along with nurturing an array of life skills.
The Science of Baking for Kids
Baking is a great example of a chemical process! You mix different dry ingredients with wet ingredients, heat the concoction and puff…you get a nice, fluffy cake.
You start with solid ingredients, convert them into a liquid batter and finally get a solid cake! These changes are a great live demonstration of different states of matter and a perfect starting point to discuss the cool, intriguing Science of Matter.
Baking is an endothermic reaction wherein the reacting materials (cake ingredients) absorb heat from the oven and form a new product (the cake).
Like any other chemical reaction, this reaction too is governed by it’s ingredients. Here is what each element does…
Properties & Purpose of Cake Ingredients
Purpose of Flour in Cake
Flour is responsible for the structure of the cake. The flour reacts with water to form gluten – an elastic protein that gives cake its structure. This elasticity helps the cake rise, thus, making it less dense and fluffy.
Purpose of Sugar in Cake
While the obvious purpose of sugar is to add the indispensable sweetness to the cake, sugar also adds a lovely colour to the cake. As sugar is heated, it caramelizes, giving cake it’s characteristic yellow-brown colour.
Another thing sugar does is that it helps in keeping the cake moist and soft. Sugar is hygroscopic in nature, meaning it holds onto the moisture present around it.
This moisture holding property of sugar helps cake retain some moisture while baking and thus stay soft.
Purpose of Oil & Butter in Cake
Oils and butter add to the moistness of the cake by proving the quintessential fats to the recipe. Without these fats, cake would lack the tenderness and have a dry feel to it.
Purpose of Baking Soda & Baking Powder in Cake
These two ingredients help the cake rise. Without these ingredients, your cake would be hard and dense.
Purpose of Eggs in Cake
Eggs have two main parts – albumin and yolk. Albumin or Egg white is primarily composed of water and protein while the yolk is rich in nutrients and fats. These two components together add water, protein and fat to the cake.
Eggs act as an excellent binder for binding all the dry and wet ingredients together. Besides this, eggs also give cake a rich structure, leavening, colour and flavour.
Purpose of Milk in Cake
Milk gives moisture to the cake while acting as a softening agent. It also gives cake dough better structure and flavour.
Why Does a Cake Rise?
There are many things at work to make the cake rise! While the flour and leavening make up a good dough that is apt for expanding, 90% of the expansion in the cake is caused by water and carbon dioxide.
While we do know the sources of water (moisture) in the cake batter, ingredients responsible for releasing carbon dioxide are somewhat hidden.
Baking Soda and Baking powder are two ingredients that release all required CO2 to make the cake grow bigger. They react with alkaline and acidic ingredients present in the dough to release Carbon Dioxide – the same gas that is present in your cola. And just the way it rises up in your drink, carbon dioxide rises up in the dough while adding bubbles to the batter. These bubbles make the cake rise, giving it a light fluffy structure.
How Does an Oven Work in Baking the Cake?
Like mentioned before, baking is an endothermic reaction that absorbs heat. An oven provides this heat that is needed for baking the cake.
Oven ensures an evenly heated atmosphere to bake the cake. This allows cake to be cooked from all sides at the same time, thus, balancing the chemical changes taking place in the batter.
To understand this better, ask your kids what they think would happen if we cook a cake on a stove in a pan?
The result would be a cooked bottom layer with a runny center and top part. To bake a perfect cake, you need uniform temperature along all the sides of your cake pan for the entire batter to be evenly cooked at the same time.
And for this reason, ovens have grills on the top and bottom so it could be evenly heated. Also, the cake is always put in the center of the oven so it could get equal heat from all the sides.
To really help your children understand this, try baking a three mini cakes, but with the following differences:
Cake 1: Bake it with only the top grill on.
Cake 2: Bake it with only the bottom grill on.
Cake 3: Bake it with both top and bottom grills on.
Set them for equal duration and once these cakes are baked, check if they differ in the way they are cooked. Taste them to check for the softness and texture of each cake. Which one you think tastes the best?
This easy-peasy baking experiment for kids will help your little ones understand why ovens are so important in baking and why it needs to be just the right temperature to bake a cake.
Once your kids get a hang of baking, let their love for baking bloom by adding cute baking equipment and baking books for kids. These will keep the excitement around baking alive and kicking and help them explore baking beyond simple cakes.
Why Do Cakes Taste Yummy?
Blame it on the primitive instinct and the evolution! We, humans, have evolved from primates, who till date rummage the forest for ripe fruits.
Ripe fruits, often sweet, are better sources of energy than vegetables and thus, most primates preferred them over other sources of food. Also, the extra calories gave them a better chance of survival should there be any scarcity of food.
Over the evolution process, human taste buds have learned to detect four primary flavours – Salty, Bitter, Sweet and Sour.
With the inherent preference for sweet foods for the reasons mentioned above, we still crave for these high-energy foods. And a cake fits both in terms of sweetness and fat!
It is a great combination of sugars and fats that sate our palate and respond to our body’s cravings, making it delicious and hard to say no to!
Benefits of Baking With Kids
1. Promotes Hand-Eye Coordination & Motor Skills
Spooning the batter, pouring ingredients, icing cakes and cookies – all offer excellent opportunities for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The best part, you don’t have to urge kids to do these activities, they are more than willing to lend a helping hand!
2. Builds Math Skills
Math is the hidden ingredient of all baking and cooking activities. Baking with kids helps them put their math skills into practical use. Kids, who regularly help out in the kitchen or baking, naturally get pro at measuring and understanding proportions.
3. Aids Listening & Comprehension Skills
Cooking with kids does wonders for listening and comprehension skills. Following a recipe requires children to listen (or read) carefully and comprehend the information correctly and sequentially.
4. Great for Bilateral Coordination
Sifting flour, mixing eggs, rolling dough, cutting out a cookie – all require children to use both their hands in a coordinated manner. This aids bilateral coordination – an important motor skill that is still developing in children and needs lots of practice.
5. Nurtures Bonding
Baking offers the necessary and much-needed break from the pressures of academic life. It helps kids bond with their parents beyond the mundane things of life and make heart-felt connect.
With so much to offer, baking is one family activity you must indulge kids in. Besides, children of all ages simply love cakes!
These sweet treats delight them like no other dessert. That brings us to an interesting question kids often ask, “ Why do cakes taste so yummy?”
6. Promotes Healthy Food Habits
Cooking together has a positive effect on children’s food consumption pattern. According to Cambridge University Press, involving kids in making their own food aids their self confidence, helps them make better food choices, be more welcoming to healthier options.
Cake Recipes to Try With Kids
Now that we have established why your kids (and you) need to indulge in baking every once in a while, here is a quick cake recipe to try with kids.
Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 4 Large Eggs
- 1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
- 1+1/4 cup Castor Sugar
- 1 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1+1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- Pinch of Baking Soda
- 3/4 cup Oil
- 1+1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
- Dark Chocolate chips
- White Chocolate chips
Instructions to follow:
- Mix eggs and sugar. Beat the mixture till it becomes fluffy and almost 4 times in volume.
- Sift all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and coco powder in a large dish and keep aside.
- Add oil to the egg-sugar mixture while beating the mixture slowly. Add vanilla essence to the mix.
- Set the oven at 180 Degree Celsius and turn it ON to preheat it.
- Fold in flour, gently adding small portions, into the wet ingredients using upward and downward motion. Mix in all the flour to get smooth, lump free cake dough.
- Add chocolate chips and walnuts to the mixture and fold it inside.
- Grease the cake tin/mould and transfer the cake dough into it.
- Place the mould in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
- Check if the cake is baked well by inserting a wooden skewer in the center of the cake. If it comes clean, your cake is well cooked.
Let the cake sit in the oven for another 5 minutes after the oven has turned off. Take out the cake mould and let the cake cool before you take it out of the mould to prevent it from breaking.
Once you set the cake in the oven, ask your kids to observe it after every two minutes and record their observations. Soon, your kids will be jumping with excitement as the cake rises.
This is a good time to transform this delightful activity into a STEM session. Quiz them and let them come with their explanations to why the cake rises before you divulge the science of baking.
Baking Books for Kids
A great book to get your kids baking in no time! With pictures for every recipe and bold texts, it makes a perfect buy for a kid keen on baking. Includes delicious and healthy baking recipes.
This is a fun bake book for kids 8years and above. Packed with mouth watering recipes, beautiful pictures and easy to follow instructions, this book will certainly get your child’s baking basics right.
This cookbook for kids features 100 recipes from MasterChef Junior contestants. All the recipes are kid friendly and have supporting pictures to make baking easier.
Move past simple baking with this complete baking guide especially designed for young, budding chefs. A fantastic cookbook for kids, it comes with clear instructions to demystify the science of baking. Perfect for kids 9years and above.
Get your little ones started with baking with this cookbook for kids. This might be your first cookbook together. Easy to follow instructions, coupled with simple text and big pictures, makes it a hit with kids.
Kid friendly, this book packs-in 30 sinful recipes to try with children. It’s fun dessert decorating ideas are sure to get your children excited.
This wonderful cookbook for kids comes with handy easy recipes for making muffins and quick breads, brownies and bars, cookies, cupcakes, sheet cakes, and much more. Triple tested by chefs, these recipes are sure to tickle your taste buds.
Get ready to bake desserts and savouries with your kids with this fantastic bake book for kids. Fancy a cookie pizza? This one has got a perfect recipe to make the best cookie pizza ever!
Baking Sets for Kids
This is a perfect gift for your MasterChef in making. Kid friendly tools and dishwasher safe – this baking set packs in everything your young baker would need.
This brightly coloured baking set for kids comes with 12 silicone baking cups, 6-Cup cupcake pan, 1 spatula, 1 pastry brush, 5 measuring spoon, 1 whisk, piping bag, 6 piping nozzles, coupler and 4 recipe cards. It is a complete package for any young baker to get started.
This 7 piece baking set for kids comes with a mixing bowl, liquid measuring cup, a rolling pin, spatula, 4 silicone baking cups and 4 dusting guards. The tools are just the right size for little hands making it a great baking kit for kids.
You can’t get enough of this cake decorating kit! This 38 pc kit includes everything your kids would need to decorate a cake. This one is real delight for kids to own.
Let the Fun Begin…
Armed with the baking kit, perfect recipes and a deep understanding of the science of baking, your little one is all set to begin his cooking adventure.