SINGAPORE - Baking is not just for adults.
Kids can have fun making cookies and cakes while picking up academic concepts and life skills.
"A lot of my friends think that kids just make a big mess and they don't learn anything. That is really a big misconception," says Dr Susanne Ng, 40, a former scientist popular on social media for her chiffon cakes, which take the shape of cartoon characters like Hello Kitty, Pusheen and BT21.
Baking is a regular home activity she enjoys with her daughters Christine, nine, and Charissa, six, who love making cookies and macarons. Her 11-year-old son Caleb joins in occasionally.
"Kids learn really fast and they also can understand well if you explain every step to them," says Dr Ng, who holds a PhD in biomedical engineering and previously worked at research agency A*Star.
As baking requires precise measurements ("like a researcher doing a laboratory test"), it became a fun way for Dr Ng to teach her children math concepts such as adding and subtracting or dividing.
It helps kids understand sequencing and planning as "none of the steps can be skipped", says Dr Ng, who has written four recipe books.
Kids also learn important life skills such as patience. While it can take as little as 30 minutes to make cookies, cakes can take hours while bread may require up to a day.
Then there is perseverance. "It takes practice to achieve the desired outcome. The kids must be ready to face a few failures," she says.
This year, she is working with Japanese company Sanrio to teach online classes on making cakes in the shape of My Melody, Little Twin Stars and the most famous Sanrio character of them all, Hello Kitty.
She says: "It was borne out of Covid-19 times to spread joy and promote family bonding through baking while staying at home."
She shares suggestions on how you can introduce baking to your little ones:
For toddlers: Make some cupcakes and let the kids decorate them with colourful sprinkles and fruit toppings. They can get creative with it and have lots of fun.
For pre-schoolers: Try no-bake recipes such as those for snowskin mooncakes. Let them knead, pull and shape the dough. This makes for a good sensory experience.
For primary schoolers: Start with simple recipes so they can be involved from start to end. They can measure the ingredients, do simple mixing and decorate their work. When they are more confident at baking, teach them advanced techniques such as folding the right way so the batter will not be deflated.
Try these recipes with your kids:
VANILLA CHIFFON CAKE
2 egg yolks
13g castor sugar
28g vegetable or corn oil
4g vanilla extract
40g cake flour, sifted
3 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
30g castor sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 140 deg C using top and bottom heat. Prepare a 15-cm round chiffon tube pan.
2. Prepare egg yolk batter: Beat egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl using a whisk. Add oil and mix well, followed by water and vanilla extract. Mix evenly. Add sifted cake flour and mix till no lumps are found.
3. Prepare meringue: Whisk egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar using an electric mixer, then add castor sugar gradually and whisk till firm peaks.
4. Gently fold meringue into egg yolk batter one-third at a time.
5. Fill cake batter into chiffon tube pan until batter is 2cm from rim of pan. Gently tap pan on counter top to release any air bubbles.
6. Transfer pan to oven and bake for 52 to 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean.
7. Invert pan on a wire rack and let cool completely before unmoulding by hand or knife.
Makes a 15cm-diameter cake.
• Recipe by Susanne Ng (@susanne.decochiffon).
65g melted butter or corn oil
½ tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of salt
140g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
25g cocoa powder
For the ganache
200g dark couverture chocolate
150g dairy cream
15g unsalted butter
1. Stir the sugar, egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl until most of the sugar is dissolved.
2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder directly into the mixing bowl.
3. Use a hand whisk to stir till smooth, but do not overmix.
4. Pour into the baking containers. Bake at 180 deg C in a preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes till cooked.
5. Let it cool down before decorating it.
6. Prepare ganache: Place the chocolate and dairy cream in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
7. Add the butter and stir through to make a smooth and shiny ganache.
8. Leave to cool and thicken slightly before pouring over the cake.
9. Decorate with fresh fruits and chocolate curls.
Makes two loaf tins measuring 4 by 8 inch.
• Recipe by Judy Koh from Creative Culinaire The School