I learnt my lesson last year. Long after the Boyfriend's neice had lost interest I was still stuck at the kitchen table gluing layers of newsprint to what was meant to be a paper maché pig. Despite my slaving well into the evening it didn't dry in time for us to paint it with her. Not the best plan we ever had.
As they live in Killarney and our time with them is limited I decided that baking would be a much more appropriate activity for our recent visit and I knew just the project that might appeal to a 5 year old and her 3 year old brother, Cookie Monster Cupcakes!
I'm not sure who to credit with the original idea for these cupcakes as they have been repeated many times across the internet. I knew I could use tried and tested recipes for the three major elements; basic vanilla cupcakes, vanilla buttercream and chocolate chip cookies, but I was unsure of the method of assembly. I watched a few youtube videos that assured me it was all incredibly easy and, while I think ours turned out looking pretty awesome, I wanted to share with you how we did it, how I adapted some things to suit small hands and what parts went a little bit wrong!
The recipes I used all came from Lilly Higgins' book Make Bake Love, which I do indeed love. I omitted the nuts from her hazelnut and chocolate chip cookie recipe and mixed the cookie dough together and rolled it into two short logs the day before our trip to Kerry.
Cookies: We found it much easier to slice the cookies while they were still in the cling film. Some of ours were too large and a little thick which meant they were too heavy for the cupcake to support. I think a 1cm thick cookie with a diameter of between 4-5cm works best when it comes to assembly.
Cupcakes: It is best to overfill your cases slightly so that your cupcakes rise above the wrapper. It is important to have a proper bun tin to hold the paper cases upright. We didn't have this and so we got a lot of sideways, rather than upwards, expansion as our cakes cooked.
Icing: Reserve about two tablespoons of white icing before you dye the rest blue. The videos suggested dipping the cupcakes into the icing. As we didn't have properly formed cakes and it is awkward for small hands to grasp a cupcake by the base we used a spoon to spread the icing instead.
Coconut: We used LOADS of blue colouring* and the coconut was still only mottled blue. I'm not sure how much colouring the other pictures on the internet had to use to get their uniformly blue coconut, we decided not to risk a Willy Wonka, Violet Beauregard style incident and went with what we had.
Eyes: It was recommended to use melted dark chocolate to draw 'pupils' on white chocolate drops but I thought this might be too technical for small hands. We used some white buttercream that I had reserved to glue milk chocolate drops to the white buttons instead and while it didn't look quite as good it was possible for the 5yo to do them all with very little assistance.
Assembly: Cut the slice out for the mouth at least a third of the way across the cupcake or there will not be enough cake beneath the cookie to support it. It looks better to stick the eyes vertically into the cake but we would have risked knocking off our chocolate drops, buttercream is not the strongest of glues! We stuck ours down flat with more of the reserved white icing.
While the 3yo got a bit distracted (by his Dad who was outside on the ride-on mower) the 5yo loved this activity and it was a great project for the miserably grey Irish summer's day. I particularly enjoyed it as, not only was I not stuck finishing off a craft project all evening but, I even had time to take a restorative nap before dinner.
*If the small people are not your own I would recommend checking in advance, as we did, that their parents are okay with them having blue food colouring.