Yes, recipes help teach fractions and measurements. And teaching kids how to use and follow them is undeniably super. But try letting go completely and let the kids experiment with proportions and flavors!
There is a lot to learn from spectacular mistakes. Each weekend, the kids have a little bake-fest at the kitchen table and mix up a new cake invention. I drink my coffee, provide moral support, handle the hot stuff, and read the morning news.
The kids spent the first years of their life helping me with my baking, so they do know a few things, like blending the sugar and butter first and mixing up the dry ingredients separately. But once they learned how to crack eggs, use the microwave, and measure ingredients out, they started to ask to do their “own” baking. When I gave permission, they became obsessed! At first, I asked them to keep things on the small side, so that we didn’t waste a ton of expensive ingredients. They can each make just one cake a week and I also had to institute a no-frosting rule because I don’t want them to eat that much butter and sugar every weekend. If they need to use the stand mixer, I do supervise, but they usually prefer to mix by hand.
There have been some ugly, bitter, flat and very eggy cakes. One small cake was microwaved, to only moderate success. A poorly greased and floured pan resulted in a tasty but very stuck cake. Ginger, bananas, apples, honey, peaches and sour cherries have all joined chocolate chips. As the children have made mistakes, they have become infinitely more knowledgeable about the role of various ingredients and flavors. And now, most Sunday mornings, I finish my coffee with something absolutely delicious while the kids beam with pride and pleasure!
A ginger and peach yellow cake with a dusting of confectioner sugar, made entirely by a six-year old, recipe-free: