Julia Busuttil Nishimura's tips for baking with children (and a chocolate cake to make together)

Busuttil Nishimura says her son's favourite thing to make is 'anything that's chocolate'.
Busuttil Nishimura says her son's favourite thing to make is 'anything that's chocolate'. Photo: Supplied

Nostalgic bakes and simple cakes have been big quarantine baking hits here at Good Food during the pandemic. We asked cookbook author Julia Busuttil Nishimura to share her tips for home bakers, especially those who are keen to get their kids involved during lockdown and/or the school holidays.

Tips for baking with kids

The former Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program teacher is a natural with children (case in point: her quarantine cooking Instagram videos). Her eldest son, Haruki, 5, has been helping in the kitchen to varying degrees since he was 3. Here are her tips.

Be organised

Baking with children can be stressful, but here's one way to minimise the inevitable mess. Busuttil Nishimura's biggest tip is to have the ingredients all measured out and ready to go.

"Get it all organised, even if you do it the night before, and in the morning you call them over and it's time to bake. Organisation is a really key thing when you're baking with kids, because they don't have a lot of patience, and [short] attention spans."

Keep it simple

Julia Busuttil Nishimura baking with her son Haruki, 5.
Julia Busuttil Nishimura baking with her son Haruki, 5. Photo: Supplied

Busuttil Nishimura has noticed a return to classic "mum"-style afternoon tea treats, with her followers flocking to her banana cake and chocolate cake recipes.

She describes her mother as a one-bowl kind of baker, who made an often-requested chocolate cake or simple apple teacake.

"Those kind of recipes where it is just mix and bake, with a hand, are really good, especially in the beginning. I think it's nice to not overcomplicate things with machines, and it gives them full control over what they're doing."

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She suggests making simple cakes, biscuits and cinnamon buns to start, as "it's all about the stirring and the mixing".

Introduce skills

Children are "really capable", insists Busuttil Nishimura. Prepare any ingredients that are difficult for the children to handle themselves, but don't be afraid to get them involved in other steps, such as grating or mixing.

"Giving them a little bit of control in the kitchen is a positive thing because it gives them some sort of autonomy and ownership of what they've made,

"Rather than just watching me make it, [Haruki] actually feels really proud at the end that we've made it together and he's created this thing that everyone's enjoying."

"My mum was one to always let us in the kitchen and I have such good memories of helping her, so I've thought I'd do that with Haruki, too."

Let it go

"Baking is inherently messy but it's so fun, and Haruki really loves dipping his fingers in – you just have to put all of your own reservations aside, of having a clean kitchen; putting in the exact right amount."

Leeway and lessons

"If you're making cookies, for example, and they want to add more chocolate, that's not going to affect it. But [if it's] 'Let's add an extra cup of flour', you might have to correct a little bit.

"But there is leeway and it's a good opportunity to talk about how baking works – 'We could add more walnuts; we probably can't add more eggs because it'll make it too wet'. Kids are really intuitive as well. If you ask them, 'Why can't we do that?', they'll know."

Busuttil Nishimura encourages parents to involve their kids in the whole process, from buying the ingredients through to cleaning up.

"That's basically my home-schooling – we're just cooking a lot!"

In the pantry

Baking basics

"I always have on hand a variety of flours, self-raising and plain; unsalted butter; I use quite a lot of olive oil in my cakes; different sugars like brown, castor, demerara; always cocoa powder, always chocolate, always eggs – we actually eat a lot of eggs."

Special extras to elevate baked goods

Busuttil Nishimura splurges on fresh nuts, such as walnuts or slivered pistachios, for cake toppings and vanilla pods which allow you to "make anything that bit nicer".

Citrus, especially lemon, is a go-to for poaching fruit and baking. "If you've only got basic butter, sugar, eggs, flour – add some lemon zest into it or you can make a syrup cake or lemon drizzle," she suggests.

Julia Busuttil Nishimura fallen chocolate cake recipe. Images supplied to Good Food online by Australian Eggs. Single use only. September 2020.

Busuttil Nishimura's fallen chocolate cake. Photo: Supplied

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Fallen chocolate cake

A family favourite, this fallen chocolate cake is incredibly light and rich all at the same time. I love how it rises then falls and cracks upon cooling. Instead of just whipped cream, often I whip equal amounts of cream and creme fraiche together for a tangy addition to the luscious cake.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 whole eggs plus 5 eggs, separated
  • 180g (70 per cent) chocolate
  • 150g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g castor sugar
  • 60g cocoa powder, plus extra to dust
  • whipped cream, to serve
  • raspberries, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Grease and line a 25cm springform tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Allow to cool and whisk in the two whole eggs, 5 egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the 5 egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well between each addition until the mixture is stiff and glossy. (This is best done in a stand mixture.)
  4. Fold the chocolate into the egg white mixture in two additions, being careful not to knock out the air. Sieve the cocoa powder into the mixture and gently incorporate.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is cracked, risen and just set in the centre, it should still wobble slightly. Allow to cool briefly then remove from the tin to complete cooling. It will fall and continue to crack. Dust the cake with cocoa powder and serve with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Serves 8-10

Julia Busuttil Nishimura is an ambassador for Australian Eggs' Meal to Remember campaign.