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Baking with the Boys, and Empowering Helping Hands

Mixing Pancake Batter

Kids want to help.

Kids LOVE to help.

Kids need to be given opportunities to help and feel a sense of empowerment and accomplishment.

My advice on kids and helping:

  1. It’s okay to let the kids help, even if that means making a mess.
  2. Something that might seem insignificant to you, like holding the mail or closing their own door, could mean the world to your child.
  3. Cake tastes better when your kids were involved in making it. (awesome recipe down below)

I believe in always trying to find a way for them to help, or at least feel like their helping. My oldest son, who is two, always has the biggest smile after he gets to help me mail my Etsy orders of the day, even if this means he gets to hold the packages in his lap, count them, then hand them to me as I drop them in the closest USPS blue box.

Where best to find ways for the little ones to help than in the kitchen?

Baking in the kitchen is one of his favorite things to do (and mine!), and he can often be found standing by on a dining chair that he has pushed twenty feet to stand by my side and help add and mix ingredients. His brother often follows.

Time to "mix it" with the boys

L and B love doing what mama is doing, especially in the kitchen. Here they are supervising unbaked pretzels.

Last week I celebrated my 32nd birthday, and it got me thinking. Numbers are something I enjoy pondering about and FOUR was one that popped through my head.

This was the fourth birthday of mine since kids have become a reality in my world.

Three years ago, I was pregnant with my first boy.

Two years ago, I was nursing him.

One year ago, I was nursing my second boy, and this year I am pregnant with my third.

Celebrating birthdays with children has been different than without, and I really love having them around. It brings joy to everyone in the room to have a little kid running around sticking his fingers in the frosting, singing the birthday song before the meal has even been served, and helping the birthday adult blow out their candles. Two toddlers running around has been even more entertaining.

Get the kids involved.

This year my husband included all of us in the preparation of my birthday cake, and this experience really “takes the cake” in my book of memorable times in the kitchen with the boys. He secretly consulted with Paula Dean’s videos and recipes to find an incredible strawberry cake and frosting recipe from scratch and then gathered all of the required ingredients without me knowing. When it was time to make the cake, he let me in on the secret hoping for my assistance since it was going to be a family affair.

Our Little Helpers Our Little Helpers 

Our boys love being in the kitchen, and my two-year-old  loves to “mix it” as he calls it. He pushed his dining chair over in excitement at the realization that we were about to “mix” a cake! The one-year-old followed suit. Cue the mayhem.

Our Little Helpers

Our Little Helpers The next couple of hours consisted of my two-year-old taking charge of his mixing bowl,  finding a way to help with each step. Meanwhile my one-year old swiped a handful of cake flour with his hand twice and stuffed it promptly in his mouth. My husband and I were juggling ingredients, cabinet doors, chairs, toddlers, and spatulas trying to keep correct ingredients in the bowls and extraneous ingredients out of the bowls.

When the batter was finally in the pans and on deck for the oven, my two-year-old took it upon himself to open the vegetable oil and add about a cup to one of the poured batters.  Extra moisture? Perhaps. In the end, my family had baked the most precious Simply Delicious strawberry cake from scratch with heavenly frosting that was creamy and finger-licking good. Note the hand prints by the birthday candles.

A Birthday Made with Love

This cake was made with love by three special guys.


Best of all, the boys once again had a chance to help, take part, and feel a sense of accomplishment and inclusion.

How do you empower your kids? What is your favorite activity to do together? How do they “help out” in your home? Share a favorite recipe you like to cook or bake together!


Here’s the Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake recipe:

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
1 (15-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Strawberry cream cheese frosting, recipe follows
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners’ sugar
Freshly sliced strawberries, for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting:

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The rest of the puree is leftover but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.

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2 Responses to Baking with the Boys, and Empowering Helping Hands

  1. Deborah March 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    I love that it was all your husband’s idea to bake an actual cake from a recipe instead of a box! My kids enjoy baking with me, but I usually give my youngest his own bowl, and I just put assorted ingredients in (flour, water, sugar, etc), and he mixes – and makes messes! – to his heart’s content. 🙂 The kids keep their rooms clean and help with general household stuff, too – setting the table, taking out the trash, etc. I just read an article that said that a study was done of happy adults, and one thing they had in common as children was that they were assigned chores. Learning to work and contribute to a family and a home is part of growing into a successful, happy adult. 🙂

  2. Anastasia Rodriguez Perez
    Anastasia Rodriguez Perez March 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Deborah, giving your son his own bowl is a great idea! Putting toys away is another area we work on already to some extent. Thanks for sharing!

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