A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Birthday Cake for the President August 5, 2010

Lately Zach has been very into the idea of birthdays. The trouble is that our whole family has winter birthdays. Well, Pete’s may technically be spring, but March is still winter in my book! Last night Zach wished me a Happy Birthday. I explained to him that it wasn’t my birthday, but it was the president’s birthday and if he wanted, the next day we could make him a cake. Zach thought that was a good idea. Of course he did!

We had to go to the grocery store today for typical staples like bread and milk. I decided to keep this cake activity simple today and do store-bought. We walked down the cake aisle to pick out a mix. Hmmm. What kind of cake would the president like? Funfetti. Definitely Funfetti.

Yum. Funfetti.

Zach has done the cooking and baking thing a bunch of times. He really likes to help. So, I thought I’d try talking about some simple math with him today. I didn’t expect him to really understand at this point, but talking about it can’t hurt. So, rather than just counting the 3 eggs we put in, I asked him how many eggs we had left after each addition. So, after the first egg was added I said, “OK. We put in 1 egg. How many more do we need to make 3 eggs?” He said 2. Now, I think that was just a fluke, but hey, I congratulated him on the right answer! That’s how he learns.

Other things I talked about as we baked: where we live, the country, the leader of our country is the president, the president’s name is Barack Obama, it was Barack Obama’s birthday and that’s why we made this cake. By the end of the night if you asked him who the president was, he could say, “Brack Oh Mama!” Pretty close!

Cracking eggs, he's gotten good at this


Nothing says "Presidential Birthday" like Funfetti cake

Once the cakes were baked is when the “Torture of the 2 1/2 Year Old” officially commenced. He wanted to eat it right away. But first, the layers had to cool completely. And then I had to frost them. And then we had to add sprinkles. And then he had to eat his dinner first before he could be allowed to eat any dessert. You’d have thought we were pulling his little fingernails out one by one they way he acted. But FINALLY it was time to eat.

I cut us each a slice and put a candle in Zach’s. And just like every birthday party he’s ever had, he began to cry hysterically. At first I thought it was because he was impatient and just wanted his cake. But now I think he might be scared of the candle! I’m not sure. We did manage to sing Happy Birthday to Barack Obama though.

What's a birthday cake without a candle?

Sobbing during the birthday song

Digging in

Now we're happy!

What did Zach learn today? Some simple math (or, at least I introduced him to the questions of simple addition and subtraction). He also learned who the president is. And patience. Oh patience. Waiting for cake is HARD. And tasting cake in all it’s stages is sensory learning (powder vs. batter vs. dry baked vs. frosted baked).

What did Mommy learn? Toddler patience is a hard-fought battle. He did surprisingly well, considering! Also, we need to figure out this birthday candle thing before his 3rd birthday!


Day 39: Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes May 27, 2010

Filed under: baking,cooking,counting,friends — Erin Brambilla @ 10:35 pm
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On my last trip to the grocery store I decided to add a few different fruits to our usual list. Apples, bananas and grapes get kind of old! So, in addition to apples and bananas, I added cherries and pineapple. YUM. Both are a lot of work, all that pitting and coring and tough skin removal, but worth it! The downside though, is that there are A LOT of cherries in that bag. Like, a lot a lot, ya know? And we have no hope of eating all of them before they spoil. Today I came up with a solution–bake with them. Duh!

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I went to the park for a playdate with some friends. As we were leaving today, I was discussing our weekend BBQ plans with one of them. Upon asking, she suggested that I might bring a dessert or a side dish. Her 3-year-old piped up that I should definitely bring a dessert. How could I argue with that? After promising that I would bring some cupcakes, we all went home.

After Zach finished a marathon of a nap and we had dinner, we baked some Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes together. I’ve never made them before, so prior to feeding them to other people, I decided to test the recipe.

I used THIS recipe.

First of all, look at all of these cherries! Cherries for the cake. Cherries for the frosting. And cherries for the garnish. Cherries. There. I just wanted to say cherries one more time.

Lots of cherries

Then we dumped the ingredients.

Dumping the flour, we counted 8 "dumps" (or 2 cups by 1/4 cup scoops)

Then we stirred them.

He always says, "Stir, stir, stir" as he does this

Then we lick the beater.

Pretty much the entire reason he is so excited to bake with me

Don’t worry. We were done with the beater. Toddler spit will not be an ingredient in these cakes.

Then, we bake. Then, we eat.


What did Zach learn today? Nothing new really. Though as always we like to count, count, count while we bake.

What did Mommy learn? Pitting up 30 some cherries is a lot of work.

Verdict on the recipe? It was good. Though I decided not to make the icing. Basically, to me, they were more muffin-like than cake-like. Probably because they are dubbed a “healthy” cupcake recipe. I will more than likely make a more traditional vanilla cupcake batter and just fold in cherries for the real deal. Though, these do make delicious “muffin-cakes”. You know what that means, right?? I’ll be eating one for breakfast tomorrow!


Day 1 (0-1440m): Baking Cupcakes April 20, 2010

Filed under: baking — Erin Brambilla @ 2:43 pm
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Peanut Butter Blossom Cupcake

Chocolate cake, peanut butter icing, Hershey Kiss. What could be bad about that?

What’s a mother to do? When your 2 year old comes up to you unexpectedly and sweetly says, “Want. Cupcakes. Mommy??”, there’s only 1 thing to be done: bake some cupcakes! Baking and cooking are something that Zach loves to do! I know, I know, sugary, fat laden sweets are probably not the best thing for him, but that’s what shipping them off to Daddy’s office is for!!

Besides, baking teaches him things like counting, following directions, patience and reward for hard work. Since we had a surplus of Hershey Kisses in the house, I decided to incorporate them into our baking plan. After googling “Hershey Kiss Cupcakes”, I found THIS blog, with a picture of a peanut butter blossom cupcake. Perfect. I love me some peanut butter blossoms, so this idea was great.

Here are the recipes we used, both are so simple (which is perfect when you have a 2 year old assistant to count, dump and stir):

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Peanut Butter Frosting

After the cupcakes cooled completely, we frosted them. I don’t have any fancy frosting bags, so I just slathered it on with a butter knife. I actually thought it made the frosting look like cookie dough on top of my cupcake, which was sort of appropriate. Then I sprinkled a tiny bit of granulated sugar over the top, to give them that sugar-coated peanut butter cookie look, and then I had Zach place an unwrapped Hershey Kiss on top. That part was a bit dangerous, as Zach would have preferred to eat the kisses, instead of leaving them on the cupcakes.


The reward: eating them!

Tips for the 2 year old assistant: I use a small measuring cup, to maximize on the “dumping” he gets to do. I also make him count how many scoops/dumps go into the bowl. So with the 1/4 measuring cup, you have to count 7 “dumps” to get the 1 3/4 C of flour called for. Dumping is great fun for a 2 year old. I also let him stir the dry ingredients. He had to stir until the mixture turned all brown. Once the batter was complete and measured into cake pans (at this point in time he had started to get a little bored and was busy loading dog food into his Tonka trucks ::sigh::, so I did all of that), I put them in the oven. Zach had now noticed that we weren’t immediately getting to eat the goodies he just dumped and stirred. So I explained to him we had to let them cook first and turned on the oven light so he could see inside while they baked. You would think watching cupcakes bake would be like watching the paint dry, but no. Watching cupcakes puff up and get bigger creates wild anticipation and excitement for a 2 year old. After the cakes came out of the oven and cooled enough to remove from the pan, we split one to taste (and then each had another 1/2 when they were frosted).
Tip for Mommies: Yes, baking with your toddler can be a messy venture. You will most likely end up with flour and some other things all over your counter, your Kitchen Aid stand, your 2 year old, etc. It’s OK. It all cleans up.
Bonus Lesson Learned: Today Zach learned what a mustache is. As in, the chocolate mustache on his face from eating a spoonful of batter. Yes, it had raw egg in it. Yes, I let him lick the spoon anyway. No, he did not get sick.
Chocolate Mustache

A glimpse into the facial hair future? Chocolatey mustache.