• Ali

An easy cake to make with toddlers

Toddlers and cake decorating...what could go wrong?!

Is that an audible and unconvinced intake of breath I hear? Admittedly, it's not exactly the best scenario for a birthday - cake decorating can be a sticky mess at the best of times - but add in a pair of tiny hands and you can welcome carnage to the kitchen.

That said, I have a solution. It's pretty foolproof, provided you set some ground rules, and even better, it's super quick. Plus it looks like a beautiful little fish, which I reckon is a winner in any child's book.

Children's fish cake

You'll need one layer of chocolate cake to start with (I baked a 6" sponge which provides about 10 portions), some chocolate icing and a bag of M&Ms.

And that's it.

Seriously. Just 3 ingredients! (And if you're wondering how to skip the part where you make the sponge, you can always order from The Bakehouse.)

(N.B. If you'd prefer a different type of sweet, just bear in mind that Smarties contain wheat and therefore aren't suitable for coeliacs. If you need a dairy-free or vegan alternative, you could always make a brown & white fish by using dairy-free milk, dark & white chocolate buttons, which should be available in the freefrom aisle.)

First things first... Cut out a wedge of cake to create the fish's mouth and lift it to the opposite side to form the tail. Smother in chocolate icing (Betty Crocker's ready-made icing is gluten-free and great if you need to be quick) and then it's time to call in the kid(s).

Chocolate fish ready for M&Ms!

Now set out 6 bowls. Tip the M&Ms into 2 bowls (one for you and one for your little one) and start a game called 'sort the button colours'. (If you call them buttons, you may have a fighting chance of the children actually sorting them into bowls and not their mouths. Well, maybe.)

Sorting M&Ms into single colours

I'm sure there must be child experts out there who'd tell you this helps with cognitive development. All I know is it'll give you a quiet and studious child for ten minutes (and what a wonderful small win this is!).

Colours sorted!

Once you've done the colour sorting, start adding M&Ms to the cake and invite your child to follow. My 4 year old just about grasped the concept of placing a chocolate onto the cake without shoving his finger all the way through but needed a little guidance on where to set it down. I found the best way to do it was to get him to put a colour next to the one I'd just done and then let him put whatever design he wanted around the sides.

Keep going until the cake is covered and then the cake is complete. Easy-peasy!

If you're wondering about candles, I managed to acquire a rocket to put in the fish tail. It certainly creates an impressed child!

A rocket candle makes a great little indoor firework!

Have you tried making a fish cake? Do share your experience below!

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