You may have seen a pin or two on Pinterest illustrating the “marble in the muffin tin trick” to making heart-shaped cupcakes last Valentine’s Day. Welllll…we tried it. And here’s what I have to say about that: a picture is sometimes NOT worth a thousand words. So here’s a word to the wise for all you Pinterest junkies out there. If you want to try something, take 2 minutes to follow the pin to its source in order to get full instructions.
But in this case, it seemed pretty self-explanatory. Stick a marble between the cupcake liner and muffin tin, and voila! Heart-shaped cupcakes to delight the youngsters! I didn’t have marbles so we balled up tin foil instead. Then I filled the cups too full so that when they baked, the heart shape was totally lost. I didn’t even take a picture because why bother staging the photo and worrying over lighting for a total flop? (Afterwards, I Googled the idea again and came across this site that gave some helpful hints. So if you’re so inclined to try the idea despite my mishap, here ya go. The picture is from the same source.)
So I got to thinking, as I am wont to do after making a misstep, and I figured there are some great lessons to be learned from baking. I know, this wasn’t a crisis of epic proportions…we only wasted ingredients and were disappointed they didn’t look like hearts, but it could still be categorized as a mistake. So what lessons are my kids learning from baking?
- Clean as you go. My mom taught me this and it’s so helpful. Wipe up spills as they happen, put away ingredients when you’re done with them, and put dirty things in the sink. It just makes things easier in the end. Not a bad tactic for keeping a clean home and just generally staying organized, either. Put away games when you’re done with them, put books on the shelf, socks in the hamper, shoes in the basket, etc. Applied in life, the girls may be less likely to misplace their car keys or lose something valuable because they’ve been taught this lesson. But more importantly, I hope they’ll understand it’s better to clean up life’s messes right away instead of letting them get worse.
- Mistakes happen. In the kitchen, and in life. Learn from them, as we did. The Valentine cupcake experience, for example, showed the girls that it’s important to read the instructions before trying something new.
- Look on the bright side. The girls and I were bummed that our cupcakes didn’t look like hearts but we had a good time icing them anyway, and they tasted good. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
- Fractions. Ok, my kids are too little for this yet, but eventually I’m sure the point will be driven home that math does have application in practical everyday life. I sound like a total nerd, I know, but I’m actually serious. I remember how embarrassed I was in high school when the cash registers at my part-time job malfunctioned and I had trouble counting back change because I was so used to relying on the machine to do it for me. Some old codger totally shamed me and I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t want my kids to ever feel stupid! Baking requires mad math skills when it comes to doubling recipes and working with that ever-tricky metric system. Might as well bone up.
- Following instructions. Baking is a science. It’s exact. And it can be unforgiving if you decide to deviate too far from the recipe, so it’s really important to read the instructions and follow them (mostly) to the letter. It’s pretty self-explanatory why this will serve them well in life.
- Sharing. We hardly ever bake a batch of bread or scones without taking some to someone. We once wanted to try a new recipe and decided to give the spoils to our lonely neighbor. Food is a great way to express love, neighborliness, friendship, and compassion through the act of sharing it.
- Appreciation and Awareness. It’s amazing what your kids teach you with their questions. The other day, our oldest asked, “Does God make cookies?” At first I simply said, “No. People make cookies.” But then she replied, “But God makes people.” So we started thinking a bit more. God helps grow the wheat that’s made into flour…God helps the farmer harvest the wheat…God created the chickens which lay the eggs. Pretty soon, this conversation turned into one about how many people and how much hard work goes into the food we eat and how it’s important to be thankful for it. From the mouths of babes…
- Accomplishment. It’s good for the human spirit to work for something you eat. I know what you’re thinking! Grocery shopping with kids in tow is hard work enough. Good try, that’s not what I’m talking about. There’s just something satisfying about eating something your hands have made from real ingredients that you’ve maybe even grown yourself. Nothing better, in fact.
- Patience. Baking with our girls almost always entails a discussion about how yes, they can link the beaters, but they have to wait until I’m done using them. Bread has to rise, cookies need to chill, the pudding needs to set…all good things come to those who wait.
Life lessons in a cupcake? Yep. They may not “get it” yet, but I hope the time we spend baking together equates to sowing seeds.