There’s something irresistible about cupcakes, both to parents and children alike. Sweet, creamy, and portable, they make a delightful addition to any picnic table. Well any kind of table, for that matter.
And if you’ve got a curious kid at home, cupcakes also happen to be a great chance to expand upon skills he's learning at school while you’re baking and decorating! After all, recipes call for reading, measurement, and number calculation. This Fourth of July, bake some festive cupcakes with your third grader to celebrate the holiday and keep his mind active during those long summer days. The results will be fruitful and delicious!
What You Do:
- Star by preheating your oven to 350°, and have your child place paper or foil cupcake liners into a muffin tin (usually 12 muffins per tin—while you’re working, you can remind remind your child that 12 equals a dozen!).
- Using a wire whisk or an egg beater, beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are light yellow and slightly thick. (Note: you can use electric mixers, but for building kids’ dexterity, as well as for honoring our colonial ancestors, there’s nothing like doing the mixing by hand!)
- Add the sugar, vanilla, oil, and baking powder and blend thoroughly.
- Help your child slowly add the flour and milk, alternating between the two, making sure to completely mix in each addition before adding the next, until the mixture is smooth.
- Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 full, and bake about 12-15 minutes, or until the cake tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch. Be careful not to overcook your cupcakes!
- Cool the muffins completely, and then get ready to decorate! Start by helping your child cover each cupcake with a layer of white frosting, spread as smoothly as possible.
- Now pull out your index card, and have your child use the scissors to cut a rectangle in the center, 1/3”x1/2”. This will be your sugar “stencil.” Hold the hole over the top left side of your cupcake, close to the frosting, and then sprinkle on a layer of the blue sugar. Pull the stencil off, and you should see a nice, crisp blue sugar rectangle!
- Now finish your “flag” by laying on strips of red licorice in the rest of the space on top of the cupcake, following the model in our photograph.
Note: this activity is great for young minds learning fractions and measurement, and for little hands building coordination so you can try making this recipe with younger children as well. Either way, you'll end up with some deliciously festive treats to serve at your next Fourth of July get together!
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.