Cooking with children – I survived!

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I remember being pregnant with my first daughter, Ruby, and thinking about the type of mum I was going to be.

Lots of romantic notions filled my head and by the end of my little daydream I was determined to be a cross between Nigella Lawson and Linda Barker – although without the constant massaging of foods and annoying nasal accent.

In my head, visions of me baking, drawing and play dough shaping with children were aplenty.

Of course, I soon found reality a lot different.

With two young girls, only a year apart, trying to take part in any ‘fun’ activity normally descended into chaos and me leaving the room in floods of tears because our ‘fun’ didn’t live up to the perfect picture in my head.

So I stopped doing it. Stopped baking with them, resisted all creative activities – Charlie takes those on – and concentrated on keeping my temper, and my marbles.

The added extra pressure of part-time working, looking after a house, a husband constantly in a desert or an exercise also meant it wasn’t practical and I was too exhausted to do these types of activities with a three and a two-year-old.

But the other day, I had a flash of my perfect mum vision and reasoned that now they were five-and -a-half and four-and-a-half, it might be a little different.

We decided on cupcake decorating. The girls have been watching, yes watching, me baking for the last few years and were desperate to have a go. Ruby thought she might have Mummy’s baking bug and Isabelle wanted to eat the icing.

After leaving them at the table to design a cupcake on paper, I knocked together a quick batch of chocolate cupcakes and prepare all the icings.

After dinner, we took over the table and I’m delighted to tell you it was great fun! I resisted the urge to wipe up any spillages as soon as they happened and make them perfect an icing swirl a baker would be proud of.

I can’t confess to doing this on a regular basis with them but the next time they ask, I won’t be so quick to say no straight away.

They had fun and my perfect mum vision came one step closer – a real achievement and it’s only taken five years!

Isabelle loved the sprinkles - and ate more than she decorated with

Ruby's swirl - done by herself - and she was so proud.

The end results.

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Sprinkle a little magic

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Cupcakes are cuteness personified, aren’t they? They appeal to everyone just because they look so darn good.

But the thing that attracts me most to a cupcake? It’s the sprinkles on the top.

All right, all right I’ll admit it – I’m a sprinkle magpie. The bright and gaudier the better, as far as I am concerned.

My obsession harks back to being five-years-old and becoming transfixed in the local sweetshop by its wares.

Lemon sherberts, rhubard and custards, chocolate limes – you name it, just the look of them in the jars was enough to make me smile.

Now I’m older and those old-fashioned sweetshops have dried up (although a few do still exist, I found one in a street off Reading’s main shopping area just before Christmas) I’ve turned my attention to sprinkles.

I love baking and decorating cupcakes but I don’t particularly like eating them – although my waistline will disprove this theory – and now can’t pass a baking aisle or website without eyeing up the different sprinkles on offer.

I mean, what’s not to love about brightly-coloured bits of sugar?

This morning my latest guilty pleasure arrived in the post – some tiny silver dragrees, red hearts (well, it’s nearly Valentine’s), some tiny confetti and pink and white butterflies.

They look fabulous in among my other toppings.

As you’ll see I keep mine in glass jars, another nod to the old sweetshop and just looking at them all makes me smile.

I use them on cupcakes and larger cakes. I even used them to decorate the skirt of the birthday Barbie cake.

There are literally hundreds of websites out there selling sprinkles – some of the best-priced and speediest service I have experienced are from http://www.cakescookiesandcraftshop.co.uk and http://www.mumswhobake.co.uk.

But, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have recently expanded their selections. I’m planning a trip to Waitrose soon to check out its offerings. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Sprinkle magpies everywhere – rejoice!