Eyeball Cupcakes: a Preschool Baking Project

         I love doing cooking projects with kids.  It can incorporate everything, from color mixing (frosting/food coloring) to math (measuring), to thinking about the senses (what does vanilla extract smell like? what does mixing flour feel like? etc.).  

         The kiddos I teach are 4 and 5. In the early spring, we do a "body unit", where we learn about our bodies. We start with emotions, then go into learning about our five senses, then germs, and then finally muscles, nerves, bones, etc. It's always my favorite unit of the year.... And of course, we needed to make cupcakes themed with the body (see Valentines Day cookies, Eric Carle cupcakes for environmental awareness/learning about our world unit). I thought about it, and realized that cupcakes lend their shape perfectly to EYEBALLS. We got to talk about why our eyes are different colors (genes="messages" from our moms and dads), what the different parts of the eyeballs are (iris, pupil, etc.), as well as remembering how our eyes help us see!

         The cupcakes are the same, reliable Lauren Chattman Vanilla Birthday Cake recipe (see Eric Carle Cupcakes). I made them with the kids, letting them do the adding and the stirring (and the reading of the recipe, if they were able to). I helped them spread on the white frosting, and we piped the irises and pupils on together.
Here is my (very minimal) adaptation of her recipe, from Mom's Big Book of Baking (a much loved cookbook, I highly recommend it!).

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c cake flour (though I use regular all-purpose sometimes and it's fine...)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
         Preheat the oven to 350 and line cupcake tins.  Cream the butter and the sugar, and then add in the eggs.  In a separate bowl, mix the other dry ingredients together.  Add the dry ingredients slowly to the wet ones, and then fill cupcake tins to 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Buttercream Frosting:
  • 2 sticks butter (I used salted butter for the frosting this last time and it was AWESOME.)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash lemon extract (this keeps it from being too sweet--around 1/8 to 1/4 of a tsp)
  • 1 16 oz. box confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
         Blend butter, vanilla, and milk in large bowl with a mixer; mix on medium high until fluffy.  Add the confectioner's sugar a little at a time until frosting is light and fluffy. Add more milk and/or powdered sugar to adjust the consistency. For a very cheap, workable way to pipe the frosting, cut the corner off of a ziplock bag and spoon the frosting into it.

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